What We Can Health IT Learn From Dancing with the Stars

Posted on March 18, 2014 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

A lot of my readers probably don’t know that along with creating the Healthcare Scene blog network, I also have a network of talent reality TV blogs. For some reason, people don’t understand how a techguy could start a health IT blog network and also cover shows like Dancing with the Stars and So You Think You Can Dance. There’s so much synergy between the two networks. Ok, not really, but I’m always surprised how many people in healthcare IT watch these shows as well.

Since last night was the premiere of Dancing with the Stars, I thought I’d apply some of the things I’ve seen in Dancing with the Stars (DWTS) to healthcare. For those not that familiar with the show, this is the 18th season of DWTS and that’s a great run for any show. However, the ratings have slowly started to dip for the show. DWTS has always done well when it came to total viewers (10+ million), but has always had issues attracting the viewers advertisers want to pay for (adults 18–49). The past couple seasons they’ve made some tweaks to the show, but this season they’ve made quite a few major changes to the show to try and engage a new audience and reach that special adults 18–49 demographic.

Now let’s compare this to healthcare IT. How many healthcare organizations are found doing a balancing act between the younger tech savvy crowd and the more risk averse older crowd? I think a lot of them are and more will be doing so in the future. On the one hand you have the doctor who is ready to retire early because she doesn’t want anything to do with EHR and health IT. On the other hand you have the resident who hates going to a practice that doesn’t have an EHR because he can type faster than he writes.

Much like in DWTS, if you cater to the one, you alienate the other. It’s a tough balance. Last night on the premiere of DWTS the show made a number of major changes to try and cater to the younger demographic. I have dozens of emails from the older demographic complaining about the changes. Most are crying for the good old days when they had something that was familiar and the way they liked the show to be. Many of them felt alienated and wondered if the show cared about them.

Does this sound a bit like what some of the health IT therapists (sometimes called CMIOs) feel when they’re talking with some of their older colleagues? They feel alienated by the new technology and long for the good old days. I’ll never forget the nurse who told me she hated EMR because she couldn’t draw the male and female gender symbols. For some reason it was so much better than the Male/Female drop down box (which is ironic because I’m not sure how she drew Male to Female Transgender, but the dropbox handled it just fine).

Much like Dancing with the Stars, there comes a point where you have to do some things that will alienate some of your most ardent fans in order to grow and continue to be viable. Finding the balance between too much alienation and too much catering to the new crowd is a very tough challenge. However, every organization needs to take these risks.

The key to all these changes is creating a culture around change at your organization. Most organizations try the big bang style of healthcare IT implementation. Sometimes it’s necessary, but it’s not the best way. The better way is to create a culture where the organization takes a thoughtful approach to implementing great technology as part of the normal business method. Make sure that whatever changes are implemented have a purpose and it’s communicated well. The combination of multiple small changes made in your organization can accomplish far more in your organization than the big bang IT implementation. Plus, all those small changes add up to a big change for your organization without the same end user alienation.