It doesn’t take a political junkie to be captivated by the current presidential campaign. Like a great novel, the storyline has included numerous unexpected twists and turns; some of the characters are bigger than life; and, the final outcome is somewhat unpredictable.
If you’ve been in healthcare IT world awhile, you might have observed a few similarities between this presidential election and the world of HIT. Consider some of the parallels:
Being mainstream doesn’t guarantee success.
A year ago the pundits predicted the 2016 campaign would end in a face-off between Jeb Bush and Hilary Clinton. Their nominations seemed inevitable given their political dynasties and established histories in political circles. Despite his success outside of the political arena, few people anticipated that Donald Trump would become so popular and achieve such staying power. At best, most experts believed Trump would create a fun side show, earn a third or fourth place finish in one of the early states, and then make an exit. Obviously just about everyone got it wrong.
Compare that to the selection of a hospital IT solution 20+ years ago. The likely short list included Cerner, McKesson, and Meditech. Others that might have been considered included SMS, Eclipsys, and IDX.
Then along came Epic, a company that had done well in the ambulatory world, but didn’t have an in-patient solution until 1999. Before they knew what hit them, the established players were losing deals to the new kid on the block. Soon major health systems like Cleveland Clinic and Sutter Health were selecting Epic and the good ole boys were left licking their wounds.
Side note: history, of course, tends to repeat itself. Despite being health IT’s reigning top dog, last year Epic was beat out by Cerner for the Defense Department’s massive EHR contract.
Disruption can be fun – and even effective.
Love him or hate him, Trump has disrupted the political landscape and broken every rule when it comes to political niceties. He lacks the typical credentials for being a world leader and he says what he thinks, critics be damned. While his style annoys many, it has arguably contributed to both his business and political success.
Athenahealth CEO and co-founder Jonathan Bush is one of our industry’s most renowned disruptors. Ever since athenahealth joined the healthcare IT scene around the year 2000, Bush has been both adored and chided for his often zany behavior and outlandish comments. His entertainment value is high, but so is his ability to create and execute on his company’s cloud-based business model, even before the masses had embraced the cloud for healthcare applications. He has smartly surrounded himself with a leadership team that has been highly effective, innovative, and loyal. Today athenahealth is a KLAS darling that is worth over $5 billion. Not bad for a company that 10 years ago was once nothing more than a thorn in the side of established vendors like Allscripts and Nextgen.
Side note: if Trump indeed wins out, let’s hope he shares JB’s ability to select a strong team and execute effectively.
Watch out for curve balls.
In the political realm, strategists consider every detail of the campaign, from the timing of policy announcements, the agenda for election rallies, and the key messaging for select audiences. Despite their best efforts, however, plans sometimes get derailed when unexpected curve balls come their way.
For example, when Supreme Court Justice Anthony Scalia suddenly passed away, the candidates wasted no time shifting the discussion away from immigration and economics and towards the appropriateness of appointing a new justice when you are a lame duck president. When Flint, Michigan’s water contamination issue came to light, candidates quickly brushed up on the topic and formulate their messaging.
In health IT, vendors must be on the ready to address a constant stream of breaking balls, which could be in the form of the latest data breach, the unexpected down time at a major health system, or a Tweet announcing the death of the Meaningful Use program. In a matter of hours, these type events can change discussions at the negotiable table or force a vendor to shift its product roadmap. Health IT vendors are experts at hitting curve balls.
Side note: curve balls happen. The ability to react and adapt quickly is essential for success, whether you are a politician or a health IT vendor.
Unlike a novel, you can’t skip ahead to the last chapter and find out who our next president will be, nor which vendor will rule the healthcare IT world in another five years. Stay tuned!
Michelle Ronan Noteboom
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- Health IT and the parallels of presidential politics - March 29, 2016
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