Why do Avon sales reps deserve better usability than hospital physicians?

I was watching the Super Bowl last night and lost interest after Bruno Mars’ very nice halftime concert so I started picking up some “Read it Later” articles I saved late last year; one specifically caught my eye. In December the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) reported that Avon is pulling the plug on a $125 million software system rollout which “has been in the works for four years after a test of the system in Canada drove away many of the salespeople who fuel the door-to-door cosmetics company’s revenue”. Read the following excerpt from the WSJ article and imagine any EHR company company in place of “SAP”, switch “representatives” for “care givers” and replace the word “sales” with “patient care”:

While the new system based on software supplied by SAP AG worked as planned, it was so burdensome and disruptive to the representatives’ daily routine that they left in meaningful numbers. Avon relies on a direct sales model where its representatives aren’t employees, which makes it difficult to add new tasks associated with the software system.

After four years and $125 million dollars in investment, which is commonplace for large software rollouts and certainly on the low end for large EHR rollouts, some courageous Avon executives said “enough is enough” and chose their sales people (the revenue generators) over the vendors.

While most physicians working at hospitals could also be considered “independent representatives,” could we imagine many CIOs or CEOs in large health systems doing the same after spending millions of dollars? How about tens of millions? How about hundreds of millions? Is there enough courage in large health system C-suites to go against the billion dollar EHR vendors and choose the well being of patients and productivity of providers?

I know that there are just as many non-healthcare CIOs who are not courageous enough to go up against large software vendors but their employees don’t have much choice and aren’t independent physicians that drive large amounts of revenue. I guess usability of EHRs will only get significant attention when independent physicians are willing to leave hospitals in large enough numbers.

One could say that the only reason Avon killed the project was that the sales reps had a choice to switch to their competitors, but it’s worth wondering if sales reps selling makeup deserve better usability than healthcare providers saving lives.