Not everyone’s opinion should count

Contrary to what your mom told you as a kid, not everyone’s opinion should count.

There are several definitions for the word opinion. The one I like comes from Merriam-Webster and reads “belief stronger than impression and less strong than positive knowledge”. Opinions are beliefs; something you think. They are not rooted in fact – although facts can play a roll in forming an opinion – nor are they required to be acknowledged by anyone other than the one giving the opinion. You have your opinion and I have mine. What if they’re different? No matter because they’re opinions.

Where we get ourselves in trouble is when we start thinking of one’s opinion as fact, or something close enough to fact that is must be acted upon. I frequently see this when someone with “expert” stamped on the end of their name says something like “you should …” or “why don’t you …”. Instead of evaluating statements like these and thinking them through many people will simply accept  them as fact and act on them. This is a bad thing. Why? Because everyone has an opinion and they don’t often line up with each other. This is especially true in healthcare; pharmacy in particular.

crazyknifeWe have a habit of taking an idea, passing it around the table, collecting opinions and making every attempt to act on them all. I see this a lot with automation and technology. Hey, I’m all about functionality, but not at the expense of common sense. When you try to incorporate everyone’s opinion into a product you get the object to the right. I’m sure someone thought this was a good idea; someone must have requested all that functionality, right? Sure. It’s the most functional piece of utility equipment in the history of mankind, but practical it is not. Try putting it in your pocket. This is what many pieces of pharmacy automation and technology turn into once everyone’s opinion is taken into account.

This goes doubly when people start suggesting that something needs to be added secondary to safety; “that should be added because it’s a safety issue”. Ah, the battle cry of those that know their opinion can’t stand up to close scrutiny. I get this one all the time. I suppose walking around in a suite of chainmail armor and driving 25MPH on the freeway would be safer than the way we do things now, but I just don’t see that happening anytime soon. It’s just not practical. And at the most basic level we give up the marginal difference in safety for the efficiency and practicality of wearing jeans and t-shirts while driving 70MPH. It’s a matter of compromise between form, function and usability combined with taking a little responsibility for our actions.

You simply can’t replace human responsibility and accountability with automation and technology. We need people to be responsible for their actions. It’s the only thing that keeps us honest. Without it everyone’s life will be like Phil Connor’s (Bill Murray) in Groundhog Day before he figured it all out.

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