Satirical Sites Take Aim at Health IT Industry

by George Lauer, iHealthBeat Features Editor

This story has a prerequisite: If you haven't already seen and, you might save yourself confusion and frustration by checking them out before reading further.

For those already familiar with the two satirical sites spoofing the health IT industry in general and electronic health records in particular, this story will shed a little light on the motivation behind them. Emphasis on "little." We won't tell you who's behind the sites. They're not ready to go public yet.

But they did agree to answer a few questions from iHealthBeat. Two "executives" -- Extormity CEO Brantley Whittington and SEEDIE Executive Director Sal Obfuscato -- take turns answering in character.

And then site creators do it for real ... sort of.

Q&A, Tongue Firmly Planted in Cheek

SEEDIE/Extormity creators answered a request for an interview like this:

"As you might imagine, a slow-moving behemoth cannot respond at a moment's notice. After crafting a response, comparing that response to our policy adherence process, submitting it for legal review, and taking into account our need for vacations and management retreats, we are able to deliver the following responses to your questions. Note that we have provided responses from the Extormity CEO, the SEEDIE executive director, and even the creators of Extormity and SEEDIE."

iHealthBeat: Who are you?

Brantley Whittington: I come from a proud lineage known for amassing wealth over many generations. Unfortunately, I was born with a plastic spoon in my mouth, as my father made some questionable investments and squandered much of the family fortune in a failed attempt to distill liquor from the pulp of figs and persimmons. I have focused on recapitalizing the family fortune, starting as a hedge-fund manager and recognizing the opportunity to generate significant revenues in the health care IT market.

Sal Obfuscato: On the advice of legal counsel, I should refrain from elaborating on my past. Suffice it to say, in another life and under a former identity, I was head of a lucrative family business. Today, I am leveraging my rather forceful management skills to benefit SEEDIE vendors.

Extormity and SEEDIE creators: We are a band of like-minded health care IT evangelists, who believe you only sell what you can actually deliver, then deliver it, building strong relationships along the way. We poke fun at our industry because we know the jabs are well-deserved. We also recognize our own imperfections, and Extormity reminds us what we must avoid at all costs. We are real people, who do our best to deliver one of the most flexible and cost-effective EHR platforms available. While we take the business of health care seriously, we like to exercise our less-than-serious sides now and then.

iHealthBeat: Where are you physically, but probably more importantly, where in the pantheon of Health IT do you toil?

Brantley Whittington: I consider myself a citizen of Richistan (near the Hamptons), wholly outside the physical or financial boundaries that confine most people. I operate from our corporate offices as well as the road -- if you call 30,000 feet above flyover country in a Gulfstream "the road" -- devoting much of my time to management retreats, executive conferences and strategic planning sessions in the Caymans, Bermuda, Aspen, Monte Carlo and most recently, Bahrain. I can say with confidence that I operate at the pinnacle of the aforementioned pantheon.

Sal Obfuscato: I'm from back East. Today, my toiling is done at an undisclosed location selected by federal agents. As for the pantheon, I saw it once when I toured Greece on my way to the old country. I suggested sending some union guys over to do some plaster work.

Extormity and SEEDIE creators: Our little garden spot is one of the last places you'd expect to find excellence in health care IT. While our competitors were marketing products that have largely disappointed the marketplace, we were quietly crafting an alternative approach based on guiding principles like interoperability and affordability. While we understand the word pantheon, we rarely use the term in mixed company.

iHealthBeat: What do you do? Do you, in fact, toil?

Brantley Whittington: I, sir, have never toiled. I have strategized. I have schemed. I have profited. I have merged. I have acquired. I have subscribed to questionable accounting practices. I have made empty promises to gullible clients. And I have golfed. Oh, have I golfed. But make no mistake, I have never, not once, toiled.

Sal Obfuscato: I've done my share of hard time, and I continue to toil each and every day to make certain that SEEDIE vendors realize profits -- enabling them to continue funding our lobbying efforts, our certification process, and our frequent fact-finding missions to uncover best practices in locations such as Bangkok and Amsterdam.

Extormity and SEEDIE creators: Toil is an understatement. We work each and every day to move health care IT adoption forward, driving our industry to develop and implement practical, sensible solutions that make sense for patients, health care practitioners and payers. We break the monotony and restore our sanity by having fun with Extormity and SEEDIE. We also drink single-malt scotch, sometimes in copious quantities -- yet another coping mechanism.

iHealthBeat: When did you come up with SEEDIE/Extormity and when might it come to fruition?

Brantley Whittington: I formed Extormity along with an investment banking firm a few years ago, by merging and acquiring a number of emerging health care IT companies -- purchasing them at a significant discount while they were vulnerable, and emerging with a combined entity at premium valuation. While integration of all their respective platforms is a challenge that frankly, we are not up to, we certainly itemize costly "integration" work on client invoices as part of our solution.

Sal Obfuscato: SEEDIE was created by Extormity and other like-minded health care IT vendors looking to extract maximum revenues from customers while minimizing the need to achieve affordable, plug-and-play integration. While I have no idea what any of that means, I enforce it with an iron fist.

Extormity and SEEDIE Creators: The idea was conceived in late 2007, as we cast about for an innovative way to call attention to the very real barriers to EHR adoption. Like so many great ideas, the idea of creating a fake EHR company was a late-night, sleep deprived eureka moment of inspiration. After some preliminary discussion and idea generation, the Extormity and SEEDIE sites were written in a two-day frenzy. Thanks to some bloggers and industry insiders who caught wind of the sites, they started to generate attention in May of this year.

As for bringing this to fruition and revealing who we are, we envision coming clean in the fall. We did this as a grand experiment, and even we are surprised at the chord we have struck. We have tapped a rich vein of discontent, and the Extormity and SEEDIE sites have generated tens of thousands of visits, unbelievably encouraging comments and an avalanche of sign-ups for alerts. We are now putting out regular updates via e-mail to all who have shown interest. Once we reveal who we are, we plan to continue the effort until health care IT adoption and customer satisfaction levels are where they should be. We also plan to fight for truth, justice and the American way.

iHealthBeat: And most importantly -- Why?

Brantley Whittington: We created Extormity to generate shareholder wealth. We believe that by combining extortion in the form of exorbitant pricing, and conformity in the form of inflexible software platforms that perform no better than competitive products, we can generate that wealth on a massive scale. Wealth for us, to be perfectly clear.

Sal Obfuscato: I serve at the pleasure of Brantley Whittington and other large, difficult to do business with health care IT vendors. If they want my help in generating shareholder wealth, I will make that happen.

Extormity and SEEDIE Creators: It had to be done, and we were just the people to do it. We elected to take a humorous approach to underscore some very serious issues. The response to Extormity and SEEDIE is the real answer to your question -- we are simply employing comedic license to illuminate the current perceptions of physicians and administrators in practices, hospitals, clinics, health systems, corporations and other settings as they struggle to improve clinical outcomes and contain escalating costs.

We also like to poke fun at the status quo, foster discourse, drive health care IT adoption and take a break from our real jobs now and then. This is really just a short-term gig until the people at The Daily Show or The Onion recognize our astounding talent and offer us lucrative comedy-writing jobs replete with signing bonuses and masseuses.

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