A recent article I wrote for ADVANCE for IT Executives on-line magazine (http://health-care-it.advanceweb.com) dealt with the challenges unique to the health care industry because of their unfortunate position in the cross hairs— their routine communications employ similar terminology to the purveyors of smut and spam. Common industry words, in their context benign, such as “breast” or “Viagra,” pose particular problems for filtering mechanisms, which can’t distinguish the difference between purveyors of smut and patient communications or correspondence from health care colleagues. Think about how costly, time-consuming and distracting that misjudgment can be. In a reflection of how tightly intertwined spam and the health care industry are, in October 2008, a U.S. District Court shut down what had been called the largest “spam gang” in the world after amassing more than three million complaints about the operation’s attempt to sell prescription drugs, weight-loss pills and male-enhancement products.
So while the health care community is particularly hampered by the inherent flaws of traditional spam filtering mechanisms which were designed to only guess at the safety of the message by screening for “suspect” words, that industry isn’t alone in feeling acute pain. If we randomly selected IT Administrators from any range of industries and forced them into a group session, every one of them could fill hours on the couch with stories about how their resource allocations were haywire dealing with spam.
To reuse a very recently overused cliché, if the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over in anticipation of a different outcome, then we might all need group therapy or more. Leaves me wondering why so many are still using filter technology in ever increasing variations, getting the same failed results, and trying yet another variation.