EHR–the five stages of grief

The Kübler-Ross model, commonly known as the five stages of grief, was first introduced by Elisabeth Kübler-Ross in her 1969 book, On Death and Dying.  I heard a story about this on NPR, and it made me think about other scenarios where these stages might apply.

My first powered form of transport was a green Suzuki 250cc motorcycle.  My girlfriend knitted me a green scarf to match the bike.  One afternoon my mother walked into the family room, saw me, and burst into tears.  When I asked her what was wrong, she told me that one her way home she saw a green motorcycle lying on the road surrounded by police cars and an ambulance—she thought I had crashed.  I asked her why, if she thought that was me lying on the road, she did not stop.

My girlfriend’s mother, didn’t like my motorcycle—nor did she like me.  Hence, my first car; a 1969 Corvair.  Three hundred and fifty dollars.  Bench seats, AM radio.  Maroon—ish.  It reminded me a lot of Fred Flintstone’s car in that in several places one could view the street through the floor.  Twenty miles per gallon of gas, fifty miles per quart of oil.

Buyer’s remorse.  We’ve all had it.  There is a lot of buyer’s remorse going around with EHR, a lot of the five stages of grief.  I see it something like this:

  • Denial—the inability to grasp that you spent a hundred million dollars or more on EHR the wrong EHR, one that will never meet your needs
  • Anger—the EHR sales person received a six-figure bonus, and you got a commemorative coffee mug.  The vendor’s VP of Ruin MY life, took you off his speed dial, unfriended you in Facebook, and has blocked your Tweets. You phone calls to the vendor executive go unanswered, and are returned by a junior sales rep who thinks the issue may be that you need to purchase additional training.
  • Bargaining—when you have to answer to your boss, likely the same person who told you which system to purchase, as to why productivity is below what it was when the physicians charted in crayon.
  • Depression—you come in at least fifteen minutes late, and use the side door, taking the stairs so you won’t see anyone.  You just stare at your desk; but it looks like you are working. You do that for probably another hour after lunch, too. You estimate that in a given week you probably only do about fifteen minutes of real, actual, work. (Borrowed from the movie, Office Space.)
  • Acceptance—the EHR does not work, it will never work, you won’t be around to see it if it ever does.  Your hospital won’t see a nickel of the ARRA money.  You realize the lake house you were building will never be yours, but the mortgage will be.

The five stages of EHR grief.  Where are you in the grieving process?

True, there are a handful of EHR successes.  Not nearly as many as the vendors would have you believe.  More than half of hospital EHR implementations are considered to have failed.

If you are just starting the process, or are knee-deep in vendor apathy you have two options.  You can bring in the A-team, people who know how to run big ugly projects, or you prepare to grieve.

If it was me, I’d be checking my list of friends on Facebook to see if I was still on my vendor’s list of friends.

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