Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Doctor, Doctor, Give Me the News

Here is a stunning example of how not to implement a program:

Today, more than a year later, it's fair to say that the Maine Medicaid Claims System project has been a disaster of major proportions. Since the new system went live, it has cost the state of Maine close to $30 million. The fallout has been broad and deep. In December 2005, Jack Nicholas, the commissioner of the DHS who oversaw the project, resigned.

As of press time, Maine is the only state in the union not in compliance with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA)—a striking irony given that the new system was designed to facilitate that compliance. Although federal authorities have said they will work with the state in extending the deadline, the failure has been a black eye on Maine's ability to manage the health of hundreds of thousands of its residents. And it has become an issue in this year's race for governor.

As always, there are lessons to be learned from the failure of others--- we can add to the standard "...classic blunders! The most famous is never get involved in a land war in Asia, but only slightly less well-known is this: never go in against a Sicilian when death is on the line!", this new one: if you only get two bids for your new end-to-end system, and they are radically different, maybe you have conceptual issues to iron out before you proceed.

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