The Wall Street Journal has a front-page story today following the path of an e-mail message by a 22-year old Kaiser employee criticizing the technology being rolled out by Kaiser for patient records. The article isn’t so much about the pros or cons of Kaiser’s Health Connect system. Instead, it’s a sobering reminder to reflect before pushing the Send button, because information can spread further than you might guess.

The Kaiser employee had reviewed publicly available information about the Health Connect technology and accumulated a large list of internal e-mail addresses to receive his message. He wrote 2,000 words about why he thought the project was wasteful and reflected poorly on Kaiser leadership, and sent it out on a Friday afternoon. Kaiser’s IT department attempted unsuccessfully to remove it from people’s mailboxes, but it was nonetheless received by a large number of Kaiser employees on Monday morning, as well as being leaked online. That led to official responses by Kaiser execs, the (possibly unrelated) departure of Kaiser’s chief information officer, negative press, internal investigations, state agency review, and a huge online buzz. The 22-year old was called a hero by some bloggers, but wound up being fired by Kaiser.

(It’s worth making clear that although the message caused much excitement, Health Connect was not tarnished – investigations largely confirmed that it was well-designed and effective at keeping Kaiser in the forefront of the move to electronic medical records.)

Information wants to be free. If you don’t want something to be public, don’t write it down!