PHIRE Not Exactly Lighting Things Up
Last month we talked about a program for rapid messaging out of CDC called PHIRE. I was skeptical at the time, and remain so. In short, I think that it has no natural audience and unnecessarily duplicates already successful efforts. In preparedness and response situations duplication of messaging resources is a big no-no. That’s the idea behind a joint information center, or JIC – one stop shopping for the latest on the situation. Multiple messaging systems with different “speakers” can only serve to confuse the situation as different information comes out of each.
On a CDC blog that I recently came across (and promptly combed their archives for post ideas), it seems that the idea for PHIRE doesn’t seem to be something that some folks at CDC have bought into. Here’s the direct link, but since you guys aren’t the best “clickers” out there, I’ll pass along the juicy parts below.
The first thing that really scared me, which is echoed in the comments, is this:
PHIRE was conceived by a recently retired NCHM division director to be a “one stop shopping” resource for people to access information from CDC in times of public health emergency and would ultimately take the place of existing systems such as the Health Alert Network (HAN) and Clinician Outreach Updates (COCA).
Why would this take the place of those systems which have worked extremely well, I wonder. One of the commenters brought up the idea that Epi-X also does something similar – and does it well. What’s the purpose – and is there some movement to replace those older systems with PHIRE?
And, well, do we even want to do that:
My sources tell me that software that NCPHI [ed. note: National Center for Public Health Informatics] has developed is a sham and doesn’t work.
The software NCPHI has written can’t even send a message without messing up text and HTML formats. Plus, the part of PHIRE which is supposed to be a web-board-type two way communication area is an off the shelf product called Instant Forum and the development team tells my sources that they are unable to modify that software because they “didn’t write it.”
My sources say this is typical of the push-back from NCPHI any time they (NCHM) want to exert any control over the project.
So a million dollars+ of taxpayer dollars bought what? A non-functional email system and an off-the-shelf chat room?
Wait, what was that? A million dollars+? For a system with no easily defined audience or success metric, and duplicates not one or two, but three established reliable systems? Ladies and gentlemen, let me present preparedness funding run amok.
Photo credit: avorio