The guide to cringeworthy health IT conversations: 10 leaders on the terms they dread most

In health IT, "innovation" and "uberization" are all the rage. Once representative of new, creative endeavors in the industry, these words are now little more than white noise. Despite the powerful potential of language, overused, outdated or misused terms start to fall on deaf — and irritated — ears, diminishing any sincere intent behind the buzz.     

From overzealous acronyms to "user-friendly," 10 health IT thought leaders share with Becker's Hospital Review terms and phrases that make their skin crawl.

Editor's note: Submissions have been lightly edited for clarity and concision.

1. Acronyms

Neil Smiley, Founder and CEO of Loopback Analytics (Dallas): Health IT is awash in acronyms. I'm generally okay with three-letter acronyms. However, when health IT acronyms are four letters or more, they should either form some catchy word that is suggestive of its meaning, such as HITECH or FHIR, or be scaled back to a more manageable acronym. Thankfully, some unwieldy four-plus letter acronyms we use every day have already been chopped. Do you remember the early days of the PPACA?  Mercifully, we now can just say ACA!
 
However, we still have too many complicated acronyms in need of reform. The all-time worst: Certification Commission for Health Information Technology (CCHIT).  Not only does this acronym fail the three letter test, when it is pronounced as a word, it suggests a different meaning altogether.

2. Analytics, big data and population health

Sean Benson, Vice President & General Manager of POC Advisor, Clinical Software Solutions, Wolters Kluwer (Philadelphia): These amorphous terms [analytics, big data and population health] are used too frequently as marketing buzzwords in too many different contexts. As a result, many vendors ultimately mislead providers by giving them the impression that they are providing a complete solution, which, in most cases, is completely untrue.

3. Big data

Rich Berner, President of Allscripts Global (Chicago): Its an ambiguous term that doesn't do justice to the size or scope of information available today. What people actually care about is finding trends and insights within this enormous resource. Identifying insights about patients or populations is not enough if you cannot meaningfully turn those insights into behavioral change at the point of care.

4. Biomedical engineering

Pamela Arora, CIO of Children's Health (Dallas): A term in need of update: "biomedical engineering." Given a significant percentage of biomedical equipment has a technology component, Children's feels that "health technology management" is far more accurate. In 2011, Children's Health System of Texas (formerly Children's Medical Center of Dallas) made the decision to integrate the biomedical team with the information services team. This decision has proven to be a benefit to the organization. The combined team applies IT security practices and concepts to biomedical equipment, helping to reduce device vulnerability to security attack. This HTM partnership has also allowed Children's Health to integrate biomedical equipment more effectively and efficiently into our EHR, thus improving care delivery to pediatric patients.

5. Disruptive, next-generation, mobile, cloud-dased, big data enabled and patient-centric

Rasu Shrestha, MD, Chief Innovation Officer of UPMC (Pittsburgh): There was a particular regional conference where a vendor was touting a "disruptive, next generation, mobile, cloud-based, big data enabled, patient-centric platform." It turned out to be an app.

Some of my favorite ones also include "new health economy," "platform" and "paradigm shift." But perhaps the most confusing one currently is "population health" since everyone seems to be getting on this bus to a point where it's quite cringeworthy!

6. Enterprise software

Jonathan Bush, CEO of athenahealth (Watertown, Mass.): The concept of selling — or buying — software rather than services in healthcare today is complete anathema when you consider the way we purchase technology in the rest of our lives. Software's fixed costs — annual maintenance, hardware upgrades and personnel — add significant overhead to our health systems, but offer very little return on investment. Cloud services convert these fixed costs in variable operating costs and are directly tied to results. I cringe when I hear CXOs talk about purchasing software. How about purchasing results, instead?

7. Leakage

Rob Grant, Cofounder and Executive Vice President of Evariant (Farmington, Conn.): "Leakage" is often considered a "dirty" word in hospital and health system business development. Attempts to soften the term, for example "keepage," aren't much better. With the evolving nature of healthcare contracting and care delivery, the term is out of date. "Physician (or provider) network activity" is more encompassing. Network activity can relate to the physician's own rendering of care at various sites of service. within a defined organization/affiliation; or the network of other providers and facilities a particular physician sends patients to for follow-on care. Networks are being developed around specific services, disease management protocols, contracting configurations, etc. Understanding "network activity" is clearly important. Labeling activity leaving the health system as "leakage" is no longer always appropriate.

8. Uberization

Bill Balderaz, President and Founder of Futurety (Columbus): The term "disruptive" is so overused it no longer has any meaning. The only thing it disrupts is the flow of the conversation. Second, "the Uber (or Google, or LinkedIn or Facebook) of healthcare." Analogies are helpful, but most of the technology I hear described as the "Uber of healthcare" is nothing like Uber, and sometimes not really about healthcare.

Kristin Darby, CIO of Cancer Treatment Centers of America (Boca Raton, Fla.): The term "uberize" coined from the successful ride-sharing company Uber is quickly becoming trendy in the technology world. As a CIO, I am hearing this term with increasing frequency, and my counterparts and I are frequently approached to solve issues through "uberization." Uber's business model has been indisputably successful in the transport industry because the company addressed an unmet consumer need. In the healthcare industry, however, where creating high-quality processes and IT platforms for our clinicians and patients is paramount, the complexity of matching this approach with a viable opportunity is often underestimated.

9. User-friendly

Jon Elion, MD, Founder and President of ChartWise Medical Systems (Wakefield, R.I.): This term, of course, conveys no information whatsoever about functionality. What vendor is going to admit that their software is hard-to-use or unfriendly to users?

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