What do you tell the Steering Committee about EHR?

Success and failure are often separated by the slimmest of margins. To succeed, sometimes you have to be prepared to think on your feet.  You have to outthink unfavorable circumstances. Often, success or failure hinges on how you present an idea.

Permit me to illustrate with frozen chicken. Several hours before dinner I threw some frozen chicken breasts into the sink, choosing to thaw them with water instead of the microwave. Some twenty minutes later while checking emails I wondered what we were having for dinner. Not to be outdone by own inadequacies, I remembered we were having chicken. I remembered that we were having chicken because I remembered turning on the hot water. The only thing I couldn’t remember was turning off the hot water.

I raced to the kitchen. My memory was correct. Noah would already have been building an ark.  Grabbing every towel I could find, I sopped the puddles from the hardwood floor.  While mopping I thought about how I might answer my wife if she returned to a kitchen that looked like Water World.  My first instinct, admittedly poor, was to tell her I thought the countertop wasn’t level and that the only way to know for sure was to see which direction the water ran. Telling her the truth never entered my mind.

Once the major puddles were removed, and believing the major threat from her had passed, my wits slowly returned.  I worked on version two of the story—how do I explain all the wet towels.  I arrived quickly at a more believable version of the truth—I would tell her I decided to wash the towels—all of them.  Why not get bonus points instead of getting in trouble?

Version three sounded even better. Since I’d wiped the floor with the towels, instead of simply telling her I washed the towels, why not double the bonus points? I’d tell her I washed the floor, and washed the towels. Husband of the year can’t be far off.

A few hours have passed since the indoor flood. The floor is dry—and clean, the towels are neatly folded and back in the linen closet, and the chicken is on the grill. All the bases covered. A difficult and embarrassing situation turned into a positive by quick thinking and deft presentation.

Back to healthcare.  A few of you have written and asked, how do you propose we turn around our EHR implementation, turn the focus to solving business problems, not simply implementing an unwieldy system simply to collect the ARRA ransom money?

All kidding aside, it comes down to presentation. Clearly you can’t walk into a steering committee meeting with a just a slide deck showing that the current EHR implementation strategy will decrease productivity.  If there are problems with what you are doing, or the support you are receiving, or the immediacy with which the committee wants to the project to end, present the consequences of the action.  Then present what could be accomplished and what you need to make it happen.  EHR is not done just because the vendor is no longer in the building.  All you can conclude from that is that there are a few freed up parking spaces.  Your goose may be cooked.

So, what happened with my chicken dinner? I was confident I had sidestepped to worst of the threat. Overconfident, as it turned out.  My son hollered from the basement, “Dad, why is all this water down here?”

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