Labor (Intensive) Day

Gary Baldwin, for HealthLeaders News , September 4, 2007

I can't think of a better guy to salute during Labor Day week than George Holtz. He's the New Jersey teenager who cracked the code on his iPhone, enabling it to work on wireless carriers other than AT&T. According to reports, Holtz toiled for 500 hours figuring out how to "unlock" his phone. The task apparently required considerable programming ability--plus dexterity with a soldering gun. Replicating this feat is said to take two hours.

I don't know about you, but I'm not about to spend two hours getting my phone or my computer to cooperate. I usually give up after a few minutes and e-mail tech support. But you've got to admire Holtz for his tenacity. It's almost as if Apple were issuing a challenge to the hacker community when it wedded its highly touted iPhone to AT&T.

Holtz demonstrated a fundamental principle about problematic IT, however. The customer will either find a work-around, or abandon the product altogether. Vendors tout their software as the latest and greatest, using all sorts of jargon that absolutely makes the mind numb over. But when it comes to making IT work.well, that is another question.

Last week I was at Sampson Regional Medical Center, a rural facility in Clinton, NC, visiting CIO Dave Ziolkowski and meeting with his crew. They are embarking on a several-year journey in a joint EMR development effort with a European company.

This is a major undertaking, and will require countless hours on the details of systems interface, screen design, and system navigation. And that's working with a cooperative vendor!

Similar stories are unfolding all across the country, as hospitals and medical groups struggle to enter the modern era of electronic documentation. The vendors may show smiling physicians and nurses pointing to monitors, but getting there requires the vision of a Dave Ziolkowski. It also requires the work ethic of a George Holtz.

Gary Baldwin is technology editor of HealthLeaders magazine. He can be reached at




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