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Credibility for Sale

November 1, 1998
by root
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IF INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY were like household appliances it would be easier to spot the fakes among us. The washing machine you buy today is pretty much a washing machine; the manufacturer is older than you are and your neighbors all swear by the company that services it. No such buyer confidence for IT. You can’t poll your neighbors for consumer wisdom.

Or can you?

Several elite, exclusive organizations growing up around healthcare are quietly offering healthcare executives what they want most in an IT purchase: confidence. HISEA, the Scottsdale Institute, the Healthcare Advisory Board--membership in these groups can be thousands of dollars and hours of time from provider organizations’ management, the better to bring in the committed and screen out the pikers.

Theoretically at least, these clubs create a safe neighborhood for healthcare IT strategists to contribute their experiences and insight in exchange for that of their neighbors, in a forum predicated on honest evaluation of strategies and technologies--minus the smarmy sell. They’re evidently not finding it elsewhere.

Not from the vendors: The market is universally skeptical of IT vendors’ promises. Nearly everyone has learned this lesson the hard way.

Not from the industry news media: Years of subordinating thoughtful analysis to the mud wrestling of an extraordinarily competitive publishing environment have left all the media--like the vendors--fighting for credibility.

Not even from the consultants, who nonetheless are doing a brisk business in their version of industry insight. But with millions of dollars at stake, the spectre of doubt about their motivations can still haunt an executive’s sleep.

While the speed of change both stimulates and results from information technology advancements, it’s also what’s driving the conversation about healthcare to a squeaky, hysterical pitch. No wonder lame ideas get advanced when the pressure’s on to make a decision--any decision--before this budget cycle’s done or that money’s gone: It’s hard to weigh your options when everyone is screaming at you. Sometimes it’s a tossup whether it’s worse to make a bad decision or no decision at all. Either way, you’re fired.

So the proliferation of healthcare IT strategy clubs makes some sense. Who but the decision-makers themselves stand to gain so much by laying all their cards on the table? Truth is their price of admission; confidence is their ROI. So they walk in the door with credibility.

Such trustworthiness--even this personal kind--takes a long time to build and longer to repair. Correspondingly the value of information technologies, like journalism, is cumulative and only demonstrated over time. But in the end it’s all we have to sell, whether we’re an IT supplier, a healthcare provider--or a magazine.


Editorial Director