Craig Joseph, MD
By: Craig Joseph, MD
Date: June 12, 2017

I was recently sitting in a business meeting with some of my company’s leadership, discussing our financial performance and our future. I heard things like:

  • How are we doing with respect to EBITDA?
  • What’s our margin for this product?
  • Is that gross or net profit?
  • Sounds like that’s a FOMO issue.

Now, I’m not one of those fancy MBA-trained physicians. I’m a simple country pediatrician (and yes, I define “country pediatrician” as a doctor who practices in the suburbs!) I know a lot about ear infections, and vaccines, and how to get a baby to sleep through the night. But a financial guru I am not. EBITDA? Sure, it has something to do with measuring a company’s operating performance. Net versus gross? Yeah, I know that. But FOMO? Is that an acronym for Financial Optimization of Multinational Organizations? Or could it be Fiscal Orientation Management Opportunities? Who dropped that phrase in our meeting, anyway? One of our VPs? A CFO type? Nah. It was just the CEO.

I looked at the CEO and asked, “What do you mean by a FOMO issue?” His reply: “You know, FOMO. Fear of missing out. I don’t want to get into this line of business just because others are doing it. I need to hear the business case.”

FOMO. Fear of missing out. Defined by some as “anxiety that an exciting or interesting event may currently be happening elsewhere, often aroused by posts seen on social media.” People who are not millennials (aka old people) ascribe this horrible disease to… millennials. Those people are always worried that there may be something else better out there. Sure, I’m having a good time now, but maybe I could be having an even better time if only I was doing x or hanging out at y.

There’s clearly a business perspective of FOMO. Since our competitors over there are doing this thing, maybe we should be doing it as well.  What do they know that we don’t know? Why are we missing out?

Now that I think about FOMO, I realize that I’ve seen it in the business world. Do these conversations sound familiar to you?

We should consider moving to this new secure messaging vendor.

But why? Doesn’t our current vendor meet all of our needs?

Well, maybe, but everyone seems to be switching to these new guys. They must be doing something right.

The internists want to start dropping charges like the cardiologists are doing.

That doesn’t make a lot of sense to me. Their workflows are totally different. The internists don’t do procedures like most of the cardiologists. It’ll be over-engineered for them. Lots of work; little reward.

All good points. But Dr. Z was bragging about how happy his cardiology colleagues are, so . . . the internists want in!

FOMO is a seductress, both personally and professionally. We should try to avoid falling into the FOMO trap because most of the time, we’re actually not missing out on a single thing.

We live in the healthcare IT world. My colleagues and I choose to keep our heads down, and try to focus on the business that we’re in: enabling clinicians to take care of patients. We help design workflows and processes that meet the clinical and operational needs of our users. Instead of worrying about the fear of missing out, we concentrate on usability and user-centered design. We try to focus on physician productivity and nurse happiness, and try to improve patient engagement and a population’s overall health. There’s no time for FOMO!

Craig Joseph, MD, is Chief Medical Officer at Avaap where he works with healthcare leaders to implement and optimize EHRs in order to increase physician satisfaction, improve efficiency, and ensure full value of the technology.

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