Healthcare IT Blog

Pause Before You Press

Published on 12/13/2017 by Mike Donahue
Category: Blog, Healthcare IT

As I mentioned in my last blog article “What is a IT Health Check?”, IT systems are as critical to patient safety as medical devices and caregivers depend on the availability of their tools at all times.  Understanding and maintaining the health of your infrastructure is only one aspect of being a healthcare IT professional.


Before my move into management, I was a technical consultant and spent the majority of my time assessing, optimizing and installing systems in hospitals. Even before that, I worked at 3 different MEDITECH hospitals as a system administrator. Being a “techy”, I used to love to tinker. However, in healthcare IT there really isn’t a place for that, and sadly it’s a lesson that’s learned the hard way. I coined the phrase “pause before you press” years ago while working as a system admin after I accidently hit “OK” while I was testing a new config and caused unnecessary downtime for the Med Surg floor. This is something I think everyone in IT has faced at one point on other in their career. The OH NO feeling after hitting a button.


This somewhat cheesy phrase has followed me through my career and is something that I constantly go back to. Understanding the impact of hitting “OK” before you do it. In a lot of other industries IT is viewed as critical, but in a healthcare organization it can have life and death implications. It’s a hassle if Amazon is down because you can’t order that new Snuggie, or stream your Amazon music but it certainly doesn’t cause patient safety issues. We should all have procedures and change controls in place to avoid these problems, but I still don’t think these offer enough protection. What really protects organizations is a complete culture and mindset change. Challenging the IT staff to really think, if it was my mother, or child, lying on the table, would I still click the button?


We need to change the mindset that we are either technical staff or clinical staff. We are all healthcare professionals. ITs job is to provide sustainable, optimized systems to enable clinical staff to focus on delivering patient care. One doesn’t work without the other. Andrew Carnegie said “Teamwork is the ability to work together toward a common vision. The ability to direct individual accomplishments toward organizational objectives. It is the fuel that allows common people to attain uncommon results.” Though each organization has a different mission statement, and each team within an organization has different responsibilities in helping to drive the mission, we are all working towards the same thing - saving lives.


So, I would challenge everyone that reads this. Pause before you press. 


-Mike Donahue

Managing Director, Technical Consulting