Digital Transformation Key Words and Tricky Phrases

by Todd Fisher, Thursday, September 30, 2021

In Becker’s Hospital Review July 27, 2021 post, 19 hospital execs name the health IT terms that make them cringe healthcare executives were given a venue to “vent” their frustration with various technology and relationship terms - the ones they perceive as over- and/or misused. This “airing of grievances,” to borrow from an episode of Seinfeld, offers a larger message and advice with which I strongly agree.

Full disclosure: I have spent the last three decades as an information technology entrepreneur developing products and offering services tailored to healthcare provider organizations and the communities they serve. I would be remiss if I failed to acknowledge that earlier in my career I certainly imparted my share of consultant speak. By leaning on buzzwords, and tech speak, that were, at times, used out of context and lacked precision, I displayed my lack of appreciation for and understanding of the audience I was trying to reach.

In all candor, I took issue with some of the executives’ comments. Some appeared defensive and others suggested alternative phrasing more fluffy and confusing than the original language. That said, many of the comments made were spot on and I share in the frustration. Artificial Intelligence (AI) was a recurring term, which I agree is far too often tossed around, like it is a widget fresh off of the widget conveyor belt. It’s not. Einstein once said, “Keep things as simple as possible and no simpler”. My experience mirrors the experience of many of the executives in the piece - more often than not vendors toss out references to AI and other technologies and strategic considerations (e.g., disruption, digital transformation) with no context (“use-case” was mentioned in the piece with respect to AI) and an utter lack of an appropriately deep and healthcare domain relevant understanding. My point here is to suggest that many of the troublesome terms and phrases are annoying because they are inappropriately used. Let’s be careful not to delegitimize valuable emerging technologies and trends capable, in the right hands, to shape solutions to real HIT challenges (e.g., interoperability and data exchange between various systems designed to support the delivery of care).

Back to the larger message I genuinely hope readers will take away from this piece. In my “full disclosure” statement above, my mistake was one of speaking at an audience without listening first to understand their specific experience. I lacked relevant precision and context, and worst of all, I lacked an empathetic perspective. Prentice Tom, MD, Chief Futurist at Vituity, makes a closely related closing point, when he discusses how the word “partner” is often misused as a verb. The point: say what you mean and mean what you say. In the end, actions and outcomes will serve as the proof that you meant what you said and said what you meant.

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