City Geek, Country Geek
I’m a pretty lucky guy. Every once in an azure moon, I get the pleasure of hosting someone from “The Big City” here in little Nowhere, Ohio. From big deal technology folks to EHR C-suiters to other IT and healthcare muckety mucks, I’ve had the good fortune of getting to chat with some top shelf folks here in our de-city-fied environ.
The visits are almost always fun and the conversations enlightening. Whether it’s the ambience and atmosphere of the nearby “Red Brick Tavern” (dubbed the “biker bar” by one of my more enjoyable visitors) or the local flavor of “Ronetti’s” which has perhaps the best cheeseburger, fried bologna sandwich, and “Super Sub” this side of Cholesterol County, the friendly chats and shared insights seem to flow with ease when “big” folks take time to share of themselves here in Smallville.
I was graced with another such visit this past week from a longtime pal. We’d given a talk together several years ago where we looked at EMR myths; it was the MOST fun talk I’ve ever enjoyed giving. He came by to spend the day talking all things geek and just getting away from his day to day.
The latter was actually the main inspiration for his visit; he’s the CMIO for one of the nation’s top specialty hospitals and seemed to feel that a day “in the trenches” might be a nice getaway from his multi-problem, multi-committee, multi-pressure work life. He thought it might be good for his psyche to step outside of his institutional realm, to spend some time in the small-practice-make-a-decision-implement-decide-and-move-on world of a solo practice.
I was happy to have him come, though not just because he’s one of the most genuine, friendly, funny, and intelligent people I know; also because it’s fun for me to hear about the large scale side of HIT, from an insider’s perspective – but relaxed, sans board meetings or convention halls. No sales pitches. No corporate protectionism. Just HIT nerds sharing nerdian experiences.
Despite the bad weather and accumulated snow, he made the trip and we spent a wonderful day with only limited interruptions from phone calls or urgent texts. We talked all kinds of geek – from building electronics as kids to dealing with the politics and pressures in our very different domains of healthcare and HIT to comparing the issues of Extormity EHR with those of “Minormity” EMR. We discussed the goods and bads of EHR vendors we’ve known as well as the struggles they face. We discussed family pressures and how they impact on our HIT decisions. We discussed mobile tech and wearable devices. We discussed HIT past and HIT future. It was pure digital doctor geekdom and it was a blast!
I’m not going to expose any of the scandalous nor even the more mundane comments we shared. That isn’t my focus in writing (though some of them might be well worth a headline or three!) What I really want to share is how enlightening it can be to step across the digital and healthcare divides, how spending some time away from your healthcare or IT constructs can be both broadening and restorative.
It’s almost like Neo leaving his Matrixian, computer-generated reality. (At one point I swear I heard Morpheus saying, “Welcome… to the real world.”) Hearing how someone else deals with the same issues of your everyday domain that are similar, but oh so different, is just fascinating, especially when it’s an agenda-free discussion seeking nothing but insight and a little camaraderie across the divide.
I can’t say for sure what my friend took away from our visit, but I can say that it was soulfully reinvigorating for me. While I still prefer my entrepreneurial trench with its day-to-day survival challenges, my view of the world received a shot of bigger picture re-clarification.
We all have our little cubicles. Some are much bigger than others, but they’re all confining, particularly upon our perceptions. If you have a friend or colleague who sits in a different cubby than you, I highly recommend taking time for such a viewpoint renovation visit. It’ll do your HIT spirit good.
From the trenches…
“Better beans and bacon in peace than cakes and ale in fear.” – Aesop
Dr. Gregg Alexander, a grunt in the trenches pediatrician at Madison Pediatrics, is Chief Medical Officer for Health Nuts Media, an HIT and marketing consultant, and sits on the board of directors of the Ohio Health Information Partnership (OHIP).