In today’s healthcare IT environment, there are a number of competing demands that stretch your limited IT resources. You can’t afford any missteps in the deployment of technology, so developing an effective strategy to align IT assets and resources with the hospital’s strategic plan will go a long way to ensuring you have the right things in place to support future initiatives.
While each hospital’s goals and objectives will differ from one to another, there are some foundational items that every community hospital’s IT strategic plan, or HIT roadmap, as we like to call it, should encompass. Remember, look at your hospital IT strategic plan as a journey, not a destination, since IT is ever evolving, changing, and improving.
1. Establish An Infrastructure Refresh Plan
The hardware and software components that make up your community hospital's IT infrastructure is not a one-time acquisition where once you install and implement, you can then forget about it. While most network components will run for a number of years without any issues or downtime, they will eventually begin to fail. In addition, newer/faster/better devices will be developed along the way that could provide benefits and capabilities that you’ll want to take advantage of. The most effective HIT roadmaps will plan (and budget) for the routine replacement of infrastructure components.
A good rule of thumb is to replace 20% of the infrastructure each year. Some components, such as firewalls, may have a shorter replacement cycle (not that they wear out quicker, but newer generations of the devices will provide better protections), so plan accordingly. A refresh strategy accomplishes two key things for financial and operational value:
- Reduction of unexpected downtimes due to device failures
- Capital expenditures spread out evenly over time
2. Meet Rising EPHI Security Demands
As most all of us know, there is a tremendous amount of pressure today to keep Electronic Patient Health Information (EPHI) secure and confidential as the number of cyber-attacks against healthcare entities has skyrocketed. In 2015 alone, hackers have compromised more than 100 million patient records through advanced persistent threat attacks. It is really not a matter of if anymore, but when you will face a breach of patient records. The threat actors are constantly changing their methods to overcome the protections that have been put in place, so you must be diligent in keeping your network and systems safe from unauthorized access. Your roadmap should contain security-related initiatives (including workforce education and awareness) to keep up with the ever-changing threats and vulnerabilities that emerge.
3. Foster Interoperability
There is mounting pressure on healthcare to provide more value-based patient care. To do this, it will be necessary to have access to all of the patient’s data across the spectrum of care that has been provided to them by various entities. In order to accomplish this, you’ll need to be able to send and receive patient information effectively and efficiently. The ability for your systems to meet the interoperability demands that will be required to provide value-based care should be built into your HIT roadmap. Planning for system upgrades that contain needed functionality and for the addition of systems that enable the exchange of information will ensure you have the right tools in place to meet the interoperability challenge.
4. Integrate The Patient Experience
We are beginning to see a shift in patients from those who use technology sparingly to those who can’t seem to function without it. As this transition occurs, healthcare will be challenged to deliver as much access and functionality electronically to the patient as possible. This goes beyond just giving them access to their medical record. They want to be able to interact with their healthcare providers, make appointments, refill prescriptions, upload vitals and health indicators, and more… all of which will place new demands on technology and security. Establish your organization’s vision of what you want the patient experience to look like, and then build it into your HIT roadmap.
5. Training & Support For Physician/Clinician Technology Experience
When the push to electronic medical records began to take hold, most hospitals and clinics struggled with physician and clinician adoption (and many still are struggling with adoption). A lot of energy, training and support went into the rollouts of the EHR/EMR’s, and most had limited success in getting those on the front lines of patient care to effectively use the technology in a productive way. A lot of this is due to the way these systems were designed. The first generation of EHR/EMR’s didn’t really fit the way the physicians and clinicians did their job – it didn’t match the workflows and was not easy to use. Similar to the patient experience, we need to do the same here. Work with these key groups and craft the organization’s vision for physicians/clinicians and include this in your HIT roadmap to make sure it will support what will be needed.
Be sure to think through how your network, security, interoperability, patient experience, and physician/clinician experience will be affected – positively and negatively.
If you need some outside healthcare IT expert eyes on your HIT Roadmap or would like help developing one, we have HIT Consultants, or ‘HIT Guides,’ as we like to call them, who can help you with that. Here’s an example of a community hospital that has found added value through developing a robust HIT Roadmap.