Monday, February 8, 2010

These are the Good Old Days

How do you think about your past?

If you're like me, I remember the good, but forget the bad. My High School memories are of a simpler time, with fewer responsibilities, and the boundless energy of youth. I've forgotten the worry about college admissions, the ambiguity of the future, and adolescent relationship angst.

College was a time that I courted my wife, saw endless possibilities for the future, and reveled in the joy of unbounded learning. I've forgotten the anxiety of medical school applications, the struggle to build a self supported household, and the burden of entering the real world.

Each year, month and day that goes by brings its joys and sorrows, its victories and defeats, its anticipation and disappointments. However, I look back and only remember the trajectory, not the day to day position on the journey.

It's 2010 and everyone in healthcare IT is complaining. Meaningful Use is too hard. Too many grants have simultaneous deadlines. There are more policy and technology changes than ever before in history.

So how will you remember this stressful time?

Let's consider the past.

In 1981-82, Kathy, my wife to be, and I lived with Frederick E. Terman, former Provost of Stanford University and Silicon Valley pioneer, son of Lewis Terman, inventor of the IQ Test. In his final year of his life, Terman told me of his wartime experiences - innovative radar jammers, tunable receivers to detect radar signals, and anti-radar aluminum chaff, all created at an accelerated pace by his 850 person team at the Harvard Radio Research Laboratory. It was his version of the Stimulus Bill work we're doing today. Did he remember the stress, the wartime rationing, or emotional cost? No, he remembered only the incredible achievements created in unreasonable timeframes and motivated by the world environment around him.

2010 will be a turning point in our industry. There will never again be a time when $46 billion in funding for Healthcare IT is aligned with government/industry/academia momentum for change.

The sleepless nights, grant fatigue, policy arguments, and standards debates will all be forgotten.

We'll be telling our grandchildren about 2010 and how we transformed healthcare from a cottage industry of information silos into a connected ecosystem for coordination of care, public health, and patient engagement.

Of course our grandchildren will claim it's always been that way.

These are the Good Old Days. Trust me.


Ahier said...

You have made me feel absolutely wonderful today! Thanks for the encouragement and I think your insight is spot on...

Carly Simon "Anticipation":

Dan Diamond said...

Well-considered post - hopeful and reflective.

Stephen Drain said...

Thanks for a great blog - I see the future as an erupting thing of beauty - it only gets better as new understandings of what and where I fit in. Right now I'm going through what is usually a stressful time with a deadline approaching. This time I have refused to wind back anything - in fact I've taking to more and longer runs (my recreation), more reading and personal events. Has it changed anything? Yes! I'm relaxed, it will happen and, hell if it doesn't, at least I've enjoyed myself! Stephen

Richard Atkinson said...

I couldn't agree more. So many people are downbeat about Healthcare IT right now, but there are really bright spots pointing towards some sort of tipping point. For example, we've just opened CircleBath (, which is probably the most connected hospital in the UK, where the systems have been jointly designed by clinicians and IT professionals. If you are passing through the UK, I'd be happy to show anyone around.

Bob Mac said...

Thanks for the positive post! I like to reverse old aphorisms - for example, "if it's busted, FIX IT!" The one that comes to mind from this post is: "what's the use of giving up?" I'd rather go out trying like hell to change things than forever wonder "what if we had tried?"

Unknown said...

Well said. Working in the Military Health System, I've experienced a similar since of urgency and frustration with the governmental bureaucracy that you spoke of. Thank you for the WWII Radar anecdote as really gave me some perspective.

Unknown said...

There may be much truth to this commentary but it strikes me as very one sided. Not mentioned at all is the sacrifices that ordinary physicians across the country will have to make in order to fund HIT at their level. ARRA funds will not cover those costs fully and those physicians know that HIT is not a money maker for them now and possibly never will be. It would be nice to show some sensitivity to this.

Rick Cnossen said...

Thanks for your positive enthusiasm- very refreshing and contagious.