I’ve regularly talked about how in healthcare there’s always a reason available not to do something. Basically, if there’s something you don’t want to do, you can come up with a reason not to do it. If all else fails, just call out the word HIPAA and everything grinds to a halt. It’s sad, but true and often takes a real leader to overcome these false excuses for why people don’t want to do something and dive into the real core of why they don’t want to adopt some new technology.
Turns out, there’s a related topic when it comes to the failure of any IT system and that’s finger pointing.
Finger pointing happens in every industry, but in healthcare technology it’s so easy to point fingers at someone else. This starts with how healthcare selects, purchases, and implements new technology. If you’re in healthcare, you’re all too familiar with the committee based decision making that happens in every healthcare organization of any reasonable size. There are no impulse buys in healthcare and everything that’s purchased is governed by at least one and often many committees.
In many ways, this is a good thing. The committee can bring together multiple stakeholders to ensure that you have appropriate buy in for a new IT project from throughout the organization. At least that’s how it should work. I won’t dive into all the ways committees can go sideways. Instead, in this article, I want to highlight how this group decision making process leads to plenty of finger pointing.
If no one person is making a decision, then there’s no one person to point the finger at when something goes wrong (or right as the case may be). Add in that most health IT implementations will include multiple vendors and often outside consultants and finger pointing is easy in healthcare.
Given these facts, I was intrigued by the partnership I saw at the Pure Storage user conference between Nvidia and Pure Storage. It’s easy to see how a healthcare AI project could lead to a lot of finger pointing between the storage, the network, and the processor. Most healthcare AI projects require the right hardware infrastructure that has quick access to storage, quick network speeds between the storage and the processor, and quick processing speeds. If any one of these falls short, then it starves the other and your healthcare AI processing time suffers.
The problem is that it’s often hard for the data scientist that’s running the AI algorithms to know which vendor is falling short. That’s why it’s so valuable to have Nvidia and Pure Storage working together. If they’re working together and the AI infrastructure falls short then they have no one to point at but themselves. That’s a powerful outcome for an end user and will become even more important as we work to shrink time and distance between the data and the compute power needed to run an algorithm on that data.
In many ways, this is why we’ve seen so many hospitals and health systems opt for a monolithic EHR implementation as opposed to some sort of best of breed implementation. If your EHR supports your clinical documentation, lab, pharmacy, check-in, billing, etc, then there’s only one place to point the finger when there’s a problem.
I recently was talking to a CMIO who was working to implement the secure text messaging solution from their EHR vendor. In the process, they were going to sunset multiple secure text messaging companies. I’m sure that more went into the decision, but having one solution across the enterprise and one vendor for it all was a big driving factor in his decision. I’ll be interested to check in with him later to see if he regrets that decision or not. One thing he won’t have to worry about is finger pointing between his EHR vendor and secure messaging company.
The reality in healthcare IT is that is never simple. Complexity makes it easy to point fingers at someone else. At the end of the day, that’s why great leaders are so important to an organization. A great leader will build a culture of accountability and collaboration rather than finger pointing and blame. That’s much easier said than done because finger pointing in health IT is easy.