When in doubt, consult a crystal ball

February 21, 2001

While in New Orleans for the HIMSS meeting, one of our colleagues had his palm read by a fortune-teller near Jackson Square. Not surprisingly, much of the discussion centered on his love life and career—the former full of many more ups and downs

While in New Orleans for the HIMSS meeting, one of our colleagues had his palm read by a fortune-teller near Jackson Square. Not surprisingly, much of the discussion centered on his love life and career—the former full of many more ups and downs than the latter, in this case. Our friend found the experience enlightening as well as entertaining, and he took great delight in the fact that the palm reader had correctly assessed whole parts of his personality and his life merely by tracing the lines on his hand.

In a similar vein (no pun intended), a mutual friend likes to read his horoscope, particularly on dark, gloomy days. If you go to Yahoo, search on “horoscope,” and click on your sign, you can find more than 20 ’scopes dedicated to your life, loves, passions, business endeavors—even technology and beauty. While most of us are enlightened, modern people who scoff at the influence of the stars, even skeptics can draw some small comfort from the light at the end of the tunnel that a really satisfying horoscope can give—especially when that prediction aligns with our inner desires for personal or professional success.

Analysts have become the modern-day equivalent of fortune-tellers and astrologers. High-tech businesses are relying increasingly on entities such as the Gartner Group and Jupiter and IDC and Harris and the like to tell them what’s hot, what’s not, and what the next new new thing will be.

They are not alone. So much of life is a crapshoot, we all look for reassurances that things will turn out all right in the long run. No matter how well informed you are, how many market studies and focus groups you conduct, or how many years’ experience your gut instinct possesses, you always bump into that exception to the rule, that missing link, that unanticipated turn of events.

But it’s more than just that. Oddly enough, people have always liked to hear some self-proclaimed expert spout wisdom. Is there any other explanation for Dr. Laura’s success? Whether you get your courage from outside sources or inner conviction, everyone out there who’s willing to mix it up can be a winner. That’s why the unanticipated events are so important. How else do we separate the wheat from the chaff?

Indeed, those bold enough to take positions and place their bets in this industry can play a leading role in shaping it. It’s a safe bet that the first healthcare company to adopt “ASP” as a marketing tool is reveling in being right—if it’s still in business, that is. And the vendors out there doing the merger mambo are crossing their fingers that the partners they take home won’t turn out to be dogs in the light of day.

What we brought home from the HIMSS show (besides an extra four pounds each—and not in Mardi Gras beads!) was the sense that the clinical IT industry is still very much in its infancy, trying out business models just like a teenager tries on new jeans. And that, folks, is what it’s all about. Be the climate bull or bear, market survival (and, ultimately, success) is the key. You don’t have to toss a coin or read your tea leaves before embarking on every risky business decision. Those who opt to play it safe will still have a role in healthcare’s future. But they will never be the market leaders.