EHR: the wisdom of crowds

According to National Geographic, a single ant or bee isn’t smart, but their colonies are. The study of swarm intelligence is providing insights that can help humans manage complex systems. The ability of animal groups—such as this flock of starlings—to shift shape as one, even when they have no leader, reflects the genius of collective behavior—something scientists are now tapping to solve human problems.  Two monumental achievements happened this week; someone from MIT developed a mathematical model that mimics the seemingly random behavior of a flight of starlings, and I reached the halfway point in counting backwards from infinity–the number–infinity/2.

Swarm theory. The wisdom of crowds. Contrast that with the ignorance of many to listen to those crowds. In the eighties it took Coca-Cola many months before they heard what the crowd was saying about New Coke. Where does healthcare EHR fit with all of this? I’ll argue that the authors of the public option felt that wisdom.  If you remember the movie Network, towards the end of the movie the anchorman–in this case it was a man, not an anchor person–besides, in the eighties, nobody felt the need it add he/she or it as some morphed politically correct collection of pronouns.  Whoops, I digress.  Where were we?  Oh yes, the anchor-person.  He/she or it went to the window and exhorted everyone to yell, “I’m mad as hell, and I’m not going to take it anymore.”  Pretty soon, his entire audience had followed his lead.

So, starting today, I begin my search for starlings.  A group whose collective wisdom may be able to help shape the healthcare EHR debate.  The requirements for membership is a willingness to leave the path shaped by so few and trodden by so many, to come to a fork in the road and take it. Fly in a new flock.  A flock that says before we get five years down the road and discover that we have created such an unbelievable mess that not only can we not use it, but that we have to write-off the entire effort and redo it, let us at least evaluate whether a strategic change is warranted.  The mess does not lie at the provider level.  It lies in the belief that hundreds of sets of different standards can be married to hundreds of different applications, and then to hundreds of different Rhios.

Where are the starlings headed?  Great question, as it is not sufficient simply to say, “you’re going the wrong way”.  I will write about some of my ideas on that later today.  Please share yours.

Now, when somebody asks you why you strayed from the pack, it would be good to offer a reasoned response.  It’s important to be able to stay on message.  Reform couldn’t do that and look where it is. Here are bullet points you can write on a little card, print, laminate, and keep in your wallet if you are challenged.

  • Different standards
  • Different vendors
  • Different Rhios
  • No EHR Czar

Different Standards + Different Vendors + Different Rhios + No Decider = Failure

You know this, I know this.

To know whether your ready to fly in a new direction, ask yourself this question.  Do you believe that under the present framework you will be able to walk into any ER in the country and know with certainty that they can quickly and accurately retrieve all the medical information they need about you?  If you do, keep drinking the Kool Aid.  If your a starling, come fly with us and get the word out.  Now return your seat backs and tray tables to their upright and most uncomfortable positions.

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