Rip and Replace: Atlanta Thrasher Fans Feel Providers' Pain

By Jennifer Dennard
08:17 AM

I’ve never given much thought to the similarities between the National Hockey League and the painful process I’ve heard referred to in the healthcare IT world as “rip and replace,” whereby a healthcare facility completely rips out an entire IT system for any number of reasons to replace it – usually - with a more modern, efficient and cost-effective product.

But the similarities became all too clear earlier this week, when it was announced that my hometown of Atlanta’s NHL franchise, the Thrashers, had been sold and were moving to Winnipeg. Now I have never played hockey, been to a Thrashers game, used an electronic medical record, or been involved in any sort of healthcare IT implementation (or de-implementation), just so you know. I have, however, read quite a few news items about facilities that have invested millions of dollars in healthcare IT systems that never quite fit the bill, and ultimately were completely trashed.

In the wake of the Thrashers’ announcement, a blog from the Atlanta Journal Constitution’s Jeff Schultz caught my eye for the eerie similarities between the disappointed Thrashers fans (Schultz would have us believe they have been hoodwinked and are outraged as a result) and a healthcare staff faced with an expensive HIT system that never amounted to much.

Take, for example, the statement: “This is how it ends: With the weasel of a commissioner not stepping foot in the city, with another season passing without a playoff game, with a lying ownership group maintaining it did all it could to save a franchise that in reality it spent most of seven years wrecking.”

Who can’t see the comparison, based on some of the horror stories that are out there? Let’s try it this way: “This is how it ends: With the weasel of a healthcare vendor not stepping foot in the hospital, with another month (or year in some cases) passing without a successful go-live, with a lying ownership group maintaining it did all it could to save an implementation that in reality it spent most of seven years wrecking.”

How about this one? “It’s about greed and abandonment, plain and simple. It’s about a disingenuous ownership group, which had long lost any semblance of credibility, serving up fans swill and gruel and then wondering why the turnstiles sleep at night.” Swap physicians with fans, and servers with turnstiles, and I think you’ve got a sentiment not a few CIOs have had when it comes time to rip and replace.

But wait, there’s more: 
“They’ll tell you they care. They don’t. They’re walking away with a fat check.” Not much imagination needed there.

“Atlanta didn’t fail. The franchise failed.” The hospital didn’t fail. The vendor did.

“Is Atlanta an inferior market …? Or does product have something to do with it?” Is the hospital to blame? Or does product have something to do with it?

And finally: “There never was a commitment. There never was hope. There never was a plan – at least not one that worked.”

I realize I’m stretching things a bit here. I would hope that no rip and replace has ever been as bleak and dire as the picture these statements paint. I’m well aware that hospital leadership and culture has just as much to do with a successful HIT implementation as any assistance a vendor or consultant could provide to the process, and that all around teamwork is necessary to reaching that go-live goal.

Jennifer Dennard is Social Marketing Director for Atlanta-based Billian's HealthDATA and Porter Research.

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