Patriots’ Coach Bill Belichick : Surface Tablets :: Some Doctors : EMR Systems


I saw this article the other day on Deadspin, one of my favorite non-Lean blogs/sites.

Bill Belichick, head coach of the New England Patriots, got really frustrated with an NFL-provided Microsoft Surface tablet. As with many technology issues, it wasn't the first time he experienced a problem.

If you click through to the Deadspin article, you'll see an animated GIF of Belichick throwing the tablet down in frustration. He says he's not going to use them anymore. Ah, wait, I found a video (but the NFL won't allow embedding):


“Belichick told reporters that the team's IT guy had done all he could, and any issues beyond that were on the NFL. “I don't know how much urgency there is on the other part from the league standpoint,” he said.”

From his press conference comments (also reported on by the New York Times):

“They're just too undependable,” Bill Belichick, the Patriots‘ chronically unimpressed coach, said.

“It's basically a problem every week,” he added.

“I just can't take it anymore,” he said at a news conference Tuesday.

Principle #8 of The Toyota Way management system says:

“Use only reliable, thoroughly-tested technology that serves your people and process.”

Does the use of tablets on NFL sidelines during games pass this test? It sounds like Belichick thinks not. Microsoft has a $400 million deal with the NFL to provide tablets (and people often mistake them for iPads or refer to them that way… or referred to as “knockoff iPads“).

Maybe it's more about money and marketing than effectiveness?

From Deadspin:

“Belichick isn't the only one to complain about the result of the league's multi-year, $400 million deal with Microsoft. As Kevin Clark of The Ringer wrote in August, the NFL's players and coaches have had mixed reactions to the prevalent tablets on the sidelines. Many of them preferred binders to look at plays and formations, since those don't require batteries.”

Belichick also said:

“I'm going to stick with pictures, which several of our other coaches do as well, because there just isn't enough consistency in the performance of the tablets,” he said at a news conference that sounded more like a CNET review.

That's the way it used to be done. Photos (prints of plays and formations would be sent to the sideline.

Would we label Belichick as being “resistant to change?” I wouldn't. He's trying to do his job — and it's a high-stakes job — and he wants tools that help instead of getting in the way.

I posted his full remarks as a comment to this post.

We hear similar things from some doctors about Electronic Medical Record systems and how they are frustrating and slow down their work. It shouldn't be that way. I'd even suggest it doesn't have to be that way.

And, systems might introduce new types of errors even as they solve some.

As the WSJ reported recently:

Medical Record Mix-Ups a Common Problem, Study Finds

The opportunities for the mistakes, which can be deadly, are increasing as health care becomes more complex

From the article:

“A patient in cardiac arrest was mistakenly not resuscitated because clinicians confused him with a patient who had a do-not-resuscitate order on file.

Another patient was given an okay to undergo surgery based on a different patient's records and was found dead in his hospital room the next day.

Such patient-identification mix-ups are common and can have deadly consequences, according to a report from the ECRI Institute, a nonprofit research group that studies patient safety.”

And there was this editorial:

Turn Off the Computer and Listen to the Patient

The practice of medicine is a subtle art. Doctors need to give patients their undivided attention.

I agree with them that avoiding technology altogether isn't the answer:

“The answer isn't to resist technology. Information systems are central to the future of good doctoring, and industry professionals should continue designing electronic systems to enhance medical care and facilitate the connection between patients and physicians. Meanwhile, however, medical practices should be allowed to turn off the “meaningful use” software prompts and return to the job of taking care of real people. Doctors have an obligation to act as stewards of the medical profession and with humanity toward patients and should insist upon the undivided attention necessary to do so.”

The articles prompted letters from MDs who say they don't want to use EMR:


I've heard doctors talk about a health system that advertised “no EMR” as a job perk.

Everybody complains about their EMR, everyplace I go.

What can we do about that? How can we ensure technologies support those who do the work, if they are saving lives or even just doing something as silly as coaching football?

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Mark Graban
Mark Graban is an internationally-recognized consultant, author, and professional speaker, and podcaster with experience in healthcare, manufacturing, and startups. Mark's new book is The Mistakes That Make Us: Cultivating a Culture of Learning and Innovation. He is also the author of Measures of Success: React Less, Lead Better, Improve More, the Shingo Award-winning books Lean Hospitals and Healthcare Kaizen, and the anthology Practicing Lean. Mark is also a Senior Advisor to the technology company KaiNexus.


  1. Belichick’s full comments:

    BB: Yeah, well, first of all thank you for your comment there. As you know Phil [Perry], there are multiple communication systems on the sideline. As you probably noticed, I’m done with the tablets. I’ve given them as much time as I can give them. They’re just too undependable for me. I’m going to stick with pictures as several of our other coaches do as well because there just isn’t enough consistency in the performance of the tablets, so I just can’t take it anymore. The other communication systems involve the press box to the coaches on the field, and then the coach on the field, the signal caller, or the coach-to-quarterback, coach-to-signal caller system. Those fail on a regular basis. There are very few games that we play, home or away, day, night, cold, hot, preseason, regular season, postseason, it doesn’t make any difference; there are very few games where there aren’t issues in some form or fashion with that equipment. And again, there’s a lot of equipment involved, too. There are headsets in the helmets, there’s the belt pack, that communication, there’s a hookup or connection to internet service or that process and so forth with the coaches and the press box. So, there are a number of pieces of equipment, there is a number of connections that are on different frequencies. Again, not that I know anything about this but as it has been explained to me there are a lot of things involved and inevitably something goes wrong somewhere at some point in time. I would say weekly we have to deal with something. Dan Famosi is our IT person and he does a great job of handling those things. This is all league equipment so we don’t have it. I mean we use it but it isn’t like we have the equipment during the week and we can work with it and ‘OK, this is a problem. Let’s fix this.’ That’s not how it works. We get the equipment the day of the game, or I’d say not the day of the game but a few hours before the game and we test it and sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. Usually by game time it is working but I would say not always. And then during the game sometimes something happens and it has to be fixed, and first of all, you have to figure out what the problem is. Is it a battery? Is it the helmet? Is it the coaches’ pack? Is it the battery on the coaches’ pack? I mean you know, again, it could be one of 15 different things. So, I would just say there are problems in every game. There were problems last week but there were problems the week before that, too. Some are worse than others. Sometimes both teams have them, sometimes one team has them and the other doesn’t have them. There’s an equity rule that’s involved there on certain aspects of the communication system but not on all aspects meaning what happens on one side then the other team has to have the same. If ours are down then theirs has to be down and vice versa, but it’s only true in certain aspects of the communication system; not everything. Overall there is a lot of complexity to the technology. There is complexity to multiple systems and there are a lot of failures, and so I know on our end Dan does a great job to fix those as quickly as possible. He has very limited access. I don’t know how much urgency there is on the other part from the league standpoint. However much urgency there is for them to have everything right, I don’t know, I’m not involved with that. But yeah, it was a problem last week. It’s basically a problem every week. The degrees aren’t always the same but we’re usually dealing with something. But as far as the tablet goes, I mean there was an experiment in a couple of the preseason games. It was one preseason game. We actually had two because it was our home game and Carolina’s home game where we had video on the tablets. But for me personally, it’s a personal decision, I’m done with the tablets. I’ll use the paper pictures from here on because I’ve given it my best shot. I’ve tried to work through the process but it just doesn’t work for me and that’s because there’s no consistency to it. Long answer to a short question; sorry.


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