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Intelligent Healthcare Information Integration 2/28/09

February 28, 2009 News No Comments

Chumming the Sharks

Did you happen to catch the Mythbusters episode where, off the coast of South Africa, they chummed a feeding ground for sharks at breakfast to see if a dolphin could deter these ravenous beasts from chowing on a helpless little seal? (Don’t fret, PETA people, both the seal and dolphin were man-made). The fake seal was always chomped within seconds without its mammalian mate, but whenever it was in the water nearby, the incredibly real-looking robo-dolphin was 100% effective keeping the sharks at bay.

Well, I waste your time discussing a TV show because I see an ominous analogy.

As you well know, Obama has now set his signature to the Grand Economic Stimulus Package promising over $19 billion to healthcare info tech (not to mention the 100-some billion for CMS, et al.) Even before the pen hit the paper, you could see the HIT waters churning with the frenzied maneuverings of all the “sharks” scurrying to see their version of healthcare digitization fed. Since the signing, the “seas” have been virtually bubbling with their voracious intrigues. (Imagine what’s happening behind the scenes if we can see this much commotion above the surface!)

Me? I feel like one of thousands of helpless little seals swimming along, looking for my buddy Flipper to keep my fur firmly affixed to my hide. The giants of this sea – big centers, big RHIOs, big HIEs, big insurance, big EHR/technology vendors, and big governmental groups – are all thrashing about, stirred by the perceived problem-solving chum of the Obama bucks.

Here I sit, in my little town, in our little community hospital, knowing full well that virtually all of the solutions the sharks are promoting are oriented toward the big boys in the big cities in the big centers. All the while, they ignore that nearly 70% of the NHIN will be comprised of small communities, their associated small hospitals, and their affiliated docs. We, the seals of the US healthcare information technology world, desperately need a dolphin to help us avoid becoming the aftertaste of the sharks.

Maybe Barry (did you know Barack was called ‘Barry’ in college?) and company could be our dolphin. We don’t need all the HIT bells and whistles the sharks are selling, just a little seal’s basic model. A truly end user-oriented, patient-centric, but community-driven solution — a little “HIT Mini Cooper,”  if you will — for the MAJORITY of us, instead of one of those sharky Rolls-Royce or Humvee HIE/RHIO/CHIN thingies.

I have a plan for such a system which, for a relatively small chunk of the Stimulus Stash, we could implement for some 70% of the country and …

Aw, crap…did I just sprout big teeth and a dorsal fin?

Dr. Gregg Alexander is a grunt-in-the-trenches physician and admitted geek. He runs an innovative, high-tech, rural pediatric practice in London, OH, and can be reached at

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