Technologist Arrogance. Are We Our Own Worst Enemy?

I have had the opportunity to participate in a variety of eHealth conferences, workshops, think tanks, etc in the past year. I have been privileged to meet some intelligent and passionate people who have great ideas.  While I  learned something new at each event, I also left the event with a feeling of unease.

I have been pondering this sense of unease quite a bit over the past few weeks and think I have finally put my finger on what is bothering me.  Lately, the conversations and discussions related to health IT have an increasing level of arrogance.  They have less to do with technology and more to do with what is wrong with the health system or the way that doctor’s practice medicine or the financial remuneration schemes or a myriad of other non-technical issues.  While I think that these issues are worth discussing and debating, I also believe that there is a fine line between offering our vast technological expertise to help drive change and telling healthcare professionals how to do their jobs.   I think if I hear the phrase “paving the cow paths” one more time I am going to scream!

I am beginning to wonder whether the IT community may be its own worst enemy when it comes to influencing the health IT / eHealth debate. Having spent many years in various sales roles I learned that it was very difficult to convince someone to consider your solution or technology  by telling them that the way they work is wrong.   I have found that the person you are criticizing quickly becomes defensive and stops listening. They need to come to the conclusion themselves that they need to change the way they work and the best thing you can do is gently lead them to that admission.

I contend that the health community, through their non-professional interaction with technology, is growing more aware of what is possible and more open to transforming the way they work by applying IT.  I respectively suggest that we need to change the tone of our conversations to be less critical and to demonstrate a greater willingness to work WITH the health community to tackle their challenges.  I think that if we do we’ll find a more receptive audience willing to share their challenges and listen to our thoughts on how technology can address these challenges.


4 responses to “Technologist Arrogance. Are We Our Own Worst Enemy?

  1. Pingback: ICMCC News Page » Technologist Arrogance. Are We Our Own Worst Enemy?

  2. This reminds me of similar situation I experienced in University. As part of an Urban Planning course our Professor asked the simple question of: Is it more efficient to walk on the straight paved paths on campus or to use the student created “cow paths”. Seeing as the bulk of the class was made up of 20 something know it alls, we gave him the simple surface answer of “the straight paths because the shortest distance between two points is a straight path”. Then to our horror he asked for a show of hands for those who used a student “cow path” to get to his class that morning. Almost everyone raised their hands.
    Our issue, and to some extent the issue of technologists in eHealth, is that we see a problem or challenge and go for the simple easy answer of straight path = good, and meandering = inefficient. The issue is then when you add the variable of the amount of physical energy required to climb over a hill, the straight path is less efficient.
    Until the technologist gets the benefit of walking a mile in the shoes of the average physician or nurse, they can never really provide the most efficient solution.


  3. “Until the technologist gets the benefit of walking a mile in the shoes of the average physician or nurse, they can never really provide the most efficient solution.”


    But here’s the problem. It’s very difficult for a non-clinician to understand how a clinician does their job. Unfortunately, most technologists will deny this.

    I’m both a clincian and a software developer and have been in the Healthcare IT field for over 14 years. The IT culture has not changed much during this time.

    It’s still an industry that believes that IT should drive how a clinician should do their job through the use of technology instead of providing useful tools to help make their jobs easier so that they can provide better and safer patient care.

  4. Thanks, KB, for your comments. I’m finding the tendency for people in the IT industry to state how healthcare provider should do their jobs has been increasing of late. I’m not sure what is driving this tendency but I find it a little disconcerting. I think that there is an opportunity for a more effective partnership that leverages each respective parties knowledge and insights. Any thoughts on how we can promote this partnership?


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