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Un-complicating Healthcare IT

Is Strategy Guiding Your Hospital’s Technology Budget?

Aug 24, 2015 11:35:00 AM Posted by Jim Green | Senior Healthcare IT Consultant

hospital-technology-budgetHave you ever burned through your hospital’s annual technology budget – and wondered why?

Ideally, the money you spend on your EHR and other HCIS should provide a noticeable, measurable return. You should never spend precious capital on a system. You should spend it on value.

The best way to do that is to ensure that your hospital’s information technology budget is guided by strategy, not compliance dates, vendor suggestions or new software versions.

Here’s how you start.

Focus On Long-Term Planning

If your hospital thinks about information technology in one- or two-year chunks, it’s operating reactively. Your IT budget must align to long-term operational objectives. Otherwise, you’ll change course erratically, spending your time putting out fires instead of realizing return on investment.

Operational objectives might include financial goals (think: billing time or billing completeness), employee satisfaction goals (clinician satisfaction or user adoption) and patient care goals (we’ll get to that in a second).

If your goal is to reduce billing time, for instance, you could proactively budget for ongoing optimization of EHR interfaces and periodic user training. That way, you avoid data-entry errors and billing-completion delays over the long term.

Think Like A Retailer

Patient care will always be your hospital’s main goal. But, there’s no denying the facts: Today’s healthcare landscape is more competitive than ever.

To compete, you must invest in technology that delivers patient value. Your hospital is already providing quality care. Now, use IT to create a remarkable patient experience.

For instance, your hospital could:

  • Conduct a lean EHR assessment to identify areas where technology (or lack of technology) negatively impacts your patient experience
  • Speed up patient registration using an iPad (or other mobile device) with information dropdowns and prepopulated fields 
  • Invest in an enhanced patient portal, letting patients access registration and test results at their convenience

Once your IT spend is aligned to patient value, track the success of your efforts so you can adjust your plan accordingly. Use a combination of patient satisfaction surveys, clinician satisfaction surveys and hard metrics (such as average patient processing time) to find out if your hospital’s technology budget is delivering desired results.

Bring Clinicians Into The Fold

Make clinicians a core part of your IT planning process – right from the beginning.

Your IT experts know technology. But, technology is only one part of the IT equation. Your technology, processes and users must all sync up to facilitate operational success. And nobody is closer to the processes than your physicians and nurses.

As you develop your hospital’s IT budget, lean on your clinicians to find out how IT can support and enhance existing processes, deliver increased patient value and, of course, make their jobs easier (and more rewarding).

Beware Of Good Intentions

Finally, make sure you listen to vendor advice with a critical ear.

If you’re talking to a hammer, every problem looks like a nail. If you’re talking to an EHR vendor, every problem has a technology solution – even when process or user behavior is the problem. Following vendor advice wholesale can lead to painful, six-figure budget overspends.

Instead, work with a third-party expert. A non-biased consultant can analyze your hospital’s operations in detail, breaking down the role of people, processes and technology and suggesting fixes that are aligned with actual value and ROI.

No, It Can’t Wait!

You must make strategy and planning the driving forces behind your budget now, not later. The longer you wait, the more you’ll overspend on reactive, short-term projects and throw away precious capital.

Plan ahead, consider patient value and make physicians key stakeholders, and you’ll take your dollar further in no time.

Learn how to measure the effectiveness of your hospital’s IT.

Measuring-IT-Effectiveness-Your-Community-Hospitals-First-Step-To-Operational-Excellence

Jim Green | Senior Healthcare IT Consultant

Jim has over 20 years of experience in developing, managing, and implementing IT projects and solutions in healthcare, publishing, and insurance industries. Jim is currently serving hospitals and clinics in a CIO role, specializing in EHR optimization, process improvement, IT planning, and leading IT teams.