I was hanging out with David Shaywitz of Forbes the other day and he told me about a piece he wrote some time back about the buzzwords associated with the “innovation” culture that has emerged by name in Silicon Valley and Beyond.  In the story, which can be found HERE, David mentions that Genentech used to penalize its employees for relying on such trite terms, requiring them to self-report such transgressions on gBuzz Bingo cards.

David and I were joking about how easy it is to fall into this buzzword trap, where real thought is diluted and disguised by words that lose their meaning through overuse.  Every industry has its jargon, but healthcare and technology are particularly major offenders and the combination thereof could make both Merriam’s and Webster’s heads explode.

My discussion with David, amplified by my constant frustration with this very topic, inspired me to develop an homage to David’s article (and Genentech’s ideal) in the form of a Healthcare IT Bingo board.  And thus I plopped myself down on the couch and set out to make myself a healthcare IT Bingo card figuring that would keep me occupied for the evening while I watched the SF Giants game while pretending to watch the Democratic Convention.  It took me all of 5 minutes to fill the squares in the bingo card before I ran out of room.  I didn’t even have the space left to populate the categories of people who might play such a game, those people being Stakeholders, Caregivers, CMIOs, Entrepreneurs and, worst of all, Venture Capitalists.

I don’t mean to be impolite, but as someone who sees literally hundreds of business plans each year in the healthcare IT area, it is very easy to get jaded when everything starts to sound alike.  It is not uncommon for me to read a multi-page plan chock full of buzzwords and at the end of it think, “yeah, but what does this company actually DO?”  By the time someone has told me, “it’s a care coordination platform for sharing clinical analytics in the cloud and distributing them through a social network for patient engagement” about 10,000 times, it starts to sound very much like that famous Far Side cartoon where the person is talking to the dog but all the dog hears is “blah blah blah Ginger blah blah blah blah Ginger.”  In my office it sounds like this, “cloud cloud EMR EMR ACO ACO Lisa.”  I may as well change my name to Ginger because I probably have that same look on my face after a day of back-to back pitch meetings.

I note that my HIT Bingo board could, in fact, be used as a Random HIT Business Plan Generator.  Just work your way down, across or on the diagonal and you could design your next start-up.  To wit (going diagonally down from the upper left):  it’s a big data platform that enables bundled payments for mhealth services delivered through Medical Homes in a HIPAA compliant manner.  Say what?  Beats me, but somewhere in the 415 area code this deal is now being pitched by a 25-year old Ph.D. engineer and funded by one of my VC colleagues.


Lisa Suennen is Managing Member of Psilos Group. She blogs regularly at Venture Valkyrie.