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Tuesday, December 1, 2015

The Tinker Tax

This weekend I replaced the leaky radiator in my truck.  I know from past experience that this is about a half day job.  A shop would probably charge me 2-3 hours of labor for it.  It took me two days.  I saved about $150 on the labor, but in the process, broke my transmission fluid line, and did so in a way that I couldn't fix it myself.  It cost me about $400 to have that repaired professionally (because that's not a job I would take on not having the tools, and having already screwed it up once). The end result is that I paid about $400 to save $150, so a $250 educational experience.

A friend of mine (Gila Pyke) calls that the tinker tax.  It's a useful measure of the value of a learning experience. In this case, I actually did learn how to do something, just a bit too late for it to pay off THIS time. Next time I'll know better and be able to save myself the hardship of having to take my broken repair job to a pro to fix the fix.

How does this apply to Health IT?  Well, the first time you do something you've never done before, you need to be ready to pay the tinker tax.  The tinker tax isn't always measured in dollars. Sometimes it is measured in time.  Either way, you should budget for it.  I knew when I undertook my radiator repair job that if I failed I could afford to take it somewhere else, and quite honestly, the additional work that was done wasn't wasted (I didn't badly break something that wouldn't have needed repair soon anyway).  But often, Health IT projects are undertaken without any cushion, without any contingency, and with the assumption that everything will work the first time.

Really?  When's the last time that happened for you in any other undertaking that you did for the first time?  Be prepared to pay the tinker tax.

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