Technologist Arrrogance … Are We Are 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.

Michael Martineau
Check out my blog at

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