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Should We Believe the Hype?"How much is sincere, how much is hype?" A colleague who edits books recently e-mailed me that question about an IT vendor press release. Stripped down to its adjectives and larger-than-life claims, the release trumpets software that is "cutting-edge, easy-to-use, comprehensive, dependable, reliable, intuitively designed, full-suite and highly visual." Further, it "dramatically improves processes, increases customer satisfaction, increases patient safety, reduces wait times, maximizes charge capture, ensures real-time and real-life success, and offers unrivaled patient safety and financial efficiency."I won't name the vendor; it's merely following suit in an industry laden with over-the-top marketing claims. I'm not dismissing healthcare IT vendors. They sell what most hospitals and medical groups cannot afford to develop on their own. And their hype sometimes is rooted in reality. IT can facilitate improved safety and increased savings. But deliver "unrivaled financial efficiency"? Not even the New York Stock Exchange can do that.I am girding up for a massive dose of such breathless contentions later this month at the annual Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society Exhibition. Its massive exhibit hall is center stage for remarkable aggrandizement-if not trade show infrastructure. During last year's HIMSS keynote, David Brailer, M.D., Ph.D., the former national coordinator for healthcare IT, slipped in wry observations about both. Alluding to the hyperbole, Brailer quipped how the nation has nearly achieved EMR access for most citizens. Just add up the various claims, he was saying, and you will see. The two-story exhibitor booths would have impressed the Egyptians, he added.This distinctly American marketing excess may mirror vendors' sincere enthusiasm about their wares. Or it may be that, like many businesses, they peddle hype in lieu of doing the hard work of understanding real customer need. In the release I dissected, this information was buried at the bottom. Turns out the system does "patient tracking, clinical documentation and order entry."That may be dull to salespeople, but it can get the attention of chief information officers. They'll come to HIMSS hoping to hear about cost, implementation hurdles and platform compatibility. They want to know what software does, not how great it is. And many, no doubt, will be asking the same question my colleague did. -Gary Baldwin