EHR–One time at band camp…

Like many of you, I see two distinct groups who do not play well in the same sandbox—clinical and IT.  Having clinicians go to the HIT summer camp to pick up a few skills is not the same as pulling a few costly and hairy projects from the bowels of project hell any more than it would be to have an IT executive take an EMT course and then assume that person was qualified to perform surgery—this one time at band camp…

Before I get up on my stool and knock myself off, I know CMIOs and CIOs who have made HIT and EHR very successful.  To them I ask, do not rake me across the Twitter coals as I try to make a point.

There’s knowledge, and then there’s qualified.  Doctors do four years of medical school, they intern, and if they specialize, they throw in a few more years before they become the in-charge.  Years of training and practice before the doctor is allowed to run the show.  Why?  Because what they are about to undertake requires practice, tutelage, and expertise.  Most of the actual learning occurs outside the classroom.

There are those who suggest the skills needed to manage successfully something as foreboding as full-blown EHR can be picked up at HIT Camp.  This does a disservice to seasoned IT professionals.

Most large IT projects fail.  Large EHR projects fail at an even higher rate.  Most clinical procedures do not fail, even the risky ones.

What’s the spin line from this discussion?

  • Rule 1—large EHR projects fail at an alarming rate
  • Rule 2—sending a clinician to band camp probably won’t change rule one

Don’t believe me?  Ask friends in other industries how their implementation of an ERP or manufacturing system went.  There are consulting firms who make a bundle doing disaster recovery work on failed IT projects.  They line the halls like turkey vultures waiting for CIO or project manager carrion.

Back to Rule 1 for a moment.  How can I state that with such assurance?  Never before in the history of before—I know that’s not a proper phrase—has any single industry attempted to use IT to:

  • impart such radical charge (patients, doctors, employees)
  • impart it on a national basis
  • hit moving and poorly defined targets—interoperability, meaningful use, certification
  • take guidance from nobody—there is no EHR decider
  • implement a solution from amongst hundreds of vendors
  • implement a solution with no standards
  • move from an industry at 0.2 to 2.0 business practices
  • concurrently reform the entire industry

Just what should a CMIO be able to do?  What are the standards for a CMIO?  To me, they vary widely.  Is a CMIO considered an officer in the same sense as the other “O’s” in the organization, or is it simply a naming convention?  The answer to that question probably depends on the provider.

Here’s how I think it should work—I realize nobody has asked for my opinion, but this way I’ll at least provide good fodder for those who are so bold as to put their disagreement in writing.

I love the concept of the CMIO and think it is essential to move the provider’s organization from the 0.2 model to the 2.0 model.  Same with the CIO.  However, getting them to pool their efforts on something like EHR is likely to fail as soon as one is placed in a position of authority over the other.  It’s sort of like getting the Americans and French to like one another.

I liken the CMIO’s value-add to that of the person providing the color commentary on ESPN—it adds meaning and relevancy.  The CMIO owns and answers a lot of the “what” and the CIO owns and answers a lot of the “How”.

Still unanswered are the “Why” and “When”.  A resource is needed who can state with assurance, “Follow me.  Tomorrow we will do this because this is what needs to be done tomorrow.”  That skill comes from an experienced Project Management Officer, the PMO.  It does not come from someone who “we think can handle the job.”  Nobody will respect a PMO’s  ability if they do not have the requisite expertise.  EHR needs someone who can state from their experience, “One time at band camp…”   If the EHR can’t lead, or the team is not willing to follow the PMO, you can plan on doing the project over.

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