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Learning from Mistakes: The Minnesota Story

by John Moore | March 21, 2011

Chilmark rarely references other reports and articles as the foundation for a post on this site. Once in a great while we come across a story that is just too good to pass over.  Reporter Michael Krigsman, who writes the IT Failures column for ZDnet has just published such a story.

The story gives a detailed retelling of the failure of Minnesota’s HealthMatch, which Krigsman refers to as the “a perfect storm for IT failure.” This is a lengthy story by today’s Internet standards but well worth the read for several reasons:

1) The story gives a clear picture as to the many things that can, and in this case did go wrong in a major IT project.

2) There is a healthcare spin to this story as the project was funded through Minnesota’s Dept. of Human Services.

3) The country, via the HITECH Act, has embarked on a massive multi-billion dollar program to digitize healthcare. A significant portion of these federal funds are going directly to States to establish basic health exchange infrastructures (e.g., HIEs). There is the very real danger that this story could be repeated many times over across the US.

Hopefully, those reading Krigsman’s retelling of what went horribly wrong in Minnesota will take to heart the lessons learned and not repeat them in their own organizations.

One response to “Learning from Mistakes: The Minnesota Story”

  1. John,

    Appreciate the summary and link– hadn’t seen this, but it’s not surprising. There is an enormous amount of ignorance out there regarding not just HC specifically, but software programming and Web/Internet interface generally. There is this daily repeated media frenzy that claims that the cost of entry is low and that any state or community can do this well. Hype on seedlings with wild valuations started in a dorm room don’t help– what’s rarely reported is the vast sums of time and money to mature, and then entirely inadequate for some thing as important as the health care ecosystem.

    I’ve long driven a message home to entrepreneurs and others taking the kind of jump I took in 1995 when first spinning out one of the pioneers in the Internet era. With the low cost of entry comes the highest failure rates in human history. If anyone does a bit of hard research, they’ll soon discover what is actually a very complex challenge that doesn’t lend itself well at all to the bureaucratic cultures of government contracting.

    Almost daily now I run into yet another organization, entrepreneur, angel investor, etc. who is ready to take such a leap, but are obviously not anywhere near experienced enough to do so.

    At the end of the day, the successful model will almost certainly be adoption of systems built and operated by one of very few of the most advanced teams on the planet. The absolute best methods to ruin technology platforms I’ve observed over 30 years is with either well meaning philanthropic efforts from the unqualified, or politically charged cultures who are by definition unqualified. Then follows an Army of others to include almost everyone. This is much much more difficult than it appears to get right. .02–MM

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