IT Specialist and the job he wouldn’t take: hospital management’s health IT "plan" is a checklist for failure

Received unsolicited on June 14, 2013 from a computer professional whose identity I am redacting.  Posted with his permission:

Dr. Silverstein,

Thank you very much for the many insights and helpful references
provided on your “Contemporary Issues in Medical Informatics” ( web site! In performing my due diligence for a position as an IT Director
at a small rural hospital, I have come across your writings. 

I originally applied for this
position in the hopes of leveraging my IT, project management,
compliance and security experience to gain new expertise in healthcare
IT. After my initial phone interview with the “CIO”
and HR Director, at which I discovered that I would have the
to implement a poorly conceived new EMR project, without the authority
or resources to make it successful, additional red flags were raised which required further research. This led me to you.  

I cannot help but chuckle at the
organizational, social and project management dysfunctions in medical
IT, as described in your “Ten Critical Rules for Applied Informatics…”  (   I have encountered
similar dysfunctions in the world of military and commercial IT.  With
a little tweaking, your lessons learned are applicable across a wide
range of IT disciplines and a good reminder of how to avoid IT project
and career
failures and achieve successes.

Yet, I
understand and have come to appreciate your thesis that medical IT is
fundamentally different from business IT. Even though I am convinced
that I could do better than most,
I have concluded that it is probably wiser for a competent healthcare
informaticist to lead HIT implementation projects. I wonder how many
such competent informaticists there can be! Unfortunately, since I have
no background in medicine, it is probably a little
late for me to become one. 

I certainly
will not engage in this particular opportunity. What I know of the
hospital management’s “plan” at this point is a checklist for failure.
 The reality of this rural hospital, and apparently
thousands of similar situations, is unnecessarily and depressingly tragic for patients and clinical professionals. I appreciate your crusade to raise the bar for healthcare IT, and therefore
IT in general. Thank you for saving me from jumping in to an untenable situation.

Ironically, and sadly, this letter is similar to others I have received dating to 1999.  Little has changed in nearly 15 years, except that with the rush to implement this unregulated, experimental technology thanks to the HITECH Act, there’s likely going to be a lot more patient harm, especially at smaller hospitals new to this endeavor.

— SS