The Devil You Know

Posted on November 25, 2014 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of and John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

I’d recently heard a practice manager talking about their EHR and Practice Management system. We talked about the EHR they’d selected and what they thought of the setup, and then I asked which practice management (PM) system they were using. They responded that they’d been using the same PM system for so long, they didn’t have any desire to change it. Then they dropped the bomb:

“There are a lot of things we hate about our PM system, but we kind of look at it as the devil we know.”

I see this happen really often when it comes to EHR and PM systems. In fact, it happens everywhere in the world of technology. Sometimes we don’t have any desire to change because we know the system we have and it works. Does it have its pain points? Yes. Do they drive us nuts? Yes! But at least we know about them and know how to deal with them.

There’s a real fear by many to switch to a new software where they have to learn about new “devils” for which they don’t know how to handle. I’m often reminded of the concept that “change isn’t always better.” So, in many situations, it’s better to not change. Maybe what you have isn’t very good, but if you’re not careful you could change to something even worse. That’s a real healthy fear.

That said, the fear can go too far. I’m reminded of when I had my first Android phone. I’d gone pretty cheap and gotten this really inexpensive phone. It worked, but was really slow. Plus, the battery barely lasted and it had plenty of devils I had to deal with whenever I used it. Luckily, I didn’t use it that much since I mostly work from home. However, when I was stuck in the depths of a massive exhibit hall at HIMSS and couldn’t get connectivity or I was waiting on the phone to do something, it was absolutely annoying.

The devils of that phone finally got to me and I upgraded to the Samsung S3. It was night and day difference. I must admit that I really didn’t know what I was missing. In many ways that was good, because it helped me to appreciate the upgrade. However, I’d kind of gotten complacent and was fine dealing with the “devils” I knew. (Side Note: Thanks to a few cracked screens from my wife and children, I’m now on the Samsung S5 and it’s awesome. The battery life itself is so compelling.)

Unfortunately, there’s no science to when to stick with the devils you know and when to upgrade. Without incentives, penalties or other regulations, there’s almost never a financial justification to upgrade software. It’s almost always cheaper to limp along with the old technology. However, there’s an extremely important sanity portion of the upgrade decision that is key.

I’ve personally found the time to upgrade and switch is when you know that the upgrade will solve the “sanity” issues you’re experiencing. If the upgrade won’t solve those issues, then it’s better to stick with the devil you know.