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Un-complicating Healthcare IT

Is Your Community Hospital’s IT Stuck In A Break-Fix Mentality?

Feb 1, 2016 10:38:13 AM Posted by Phil Stravers | Partner, V.P. Strategy & Development

Free your community hospital IT from a break-fix mentality.At many community hospitals, IT operates without a routine upgrade path or standard refresh cycle for desktops, servers and other IT essentials. If you’re constantly thinking, “If I can just get another year out of that desktop ... ” that’s a telltale sign that you’re stuck in a break-fix cycle.

Replacing this break-fix mentality with a more strategic approach is essential to making your community hospital’s IT department more effective and more economical.

What Causes A Break-Fix Cycle?

A break-fix mentality has a catastrophic impact on your hospital IT budget and personnel. Instead of the manageable task of replacing 25 percent of your infrastructure every year, for example, you end up taking a huge hit every six years or so, when you have to scramble to fund and implement a large IT investment.

Here are three factors that contribute to a break-fix mentality:

1. Unfinished Projects

An underlying cause for break-fix is that a project was never actually finished: The IT team had to move onto the next squeaky wheel before fully completing the project. Afterward, you continue throwing band-aids on the old problem rather than really fixing it.

2. Approaching IT Problems As Purely Technical

Many healthcare facilities replace their primary IT vendor every five years or so because they think the problems they’re experiencing come from the vendor level. Approaching IT problems as purely technical prevents you from making the necessary investments in better processes and the people you need for effective IT.

3. Resistance To Outsourcing

Too often, healthcare IT directors try to do it all in-house instead of outsourcing installation or migration tasks. This contributes to the unfinished projects mentioned earlier, perpetuating the break-fix mentality. IT directors worry that they won’t be able to fix the system if they don’t know how it was built, but they’re better off investing their time in learning how to best manage it once it’s installed.

Breaking The Cycle: Strategic Healthcare IT Solutions

If your community hospital finds itself in this break-fix cycle, you need three things to break free: standardization, project management and a focus on value.

Adopting enterprise IT standards, like Cisco’s, and using reliable third parties to implement them sets the stage for more effective, successful IT. For first-time VMware installation or Exchange migration, for example, it makes sense to bring in experts to ensure the project gets done right the first time. These experts are also a support resource, lowering resolution time and giving IT directors the information they need to be successful.

To accomplish this standardization on a community hospital IT budget, you need to be creative and work the discount programs. But, if you manage the contracts effectively and keep a few spares in stock, you could significantly reduce your maintenance fees.

In addition to standardization, healthcare IT organizations need to inject project management disciplines into their execution. True project management starts with planning. Overworked IT directors often fall short in this regard, failing to define clear objectives or a definition of success at the project’s outset.

Imagine you’re building a new healthcare facility: You’d never break ground without a general contractor looking at the plan and reviewing it with all the subcontractors. Healthcare IT needs to be approached with the same mentality, but community hospitals just don’t have the IT equivalent of a general contractor in-house.

This project management function could be brought in from outside as IT management services, or an IT operations consulting firm could mentor your IT director to take on the role. Either way, the IT director has to get out of the day-to-day tasks and take on a more strategic role.

Bringing Stakeholders Together Around Value

Too often, the IT director takes on a “budget police” mentality, focusing on financial savings when talking with the hospital’s CFO. Faced with a tight hospital IT budget, a director might decide to invest in a less expensive wireless network provider instead of an industry standard like Cisco.

The economy wireless provider might be cheaper, but it puts an additional burden on your IT staff. Cisco’s support might be more expensive than the other provider, but you’re getting a known quantity with a proven track record of compatibility, performance and extended life. Once you have Cisco set up properly, it just works.

Even though you’re a community hospital, you’re running an enterprise IT function that works best with standardization. Instead of focusing on one-time costs, IT directors should bring stakeholders together in conversations about value.

Yes, standardization and project management services cost money. But, consider the risk-reward equation: What does it cost to have none of your projects properly implemented – and to remain stuck in the break-fix cycle?

Ready to make your IT department more effective and more economical? Download our free whitepaper, Measuring IT Effectiveness: Your Community Hospital’s First Step To Operational Excellence.


Phil Stravers | Partner, V.P. Strategy & Development

Phil Stravers, Partner and EVP of Strategy & Market Development at ICE Technologies, Inc. has been in consulting and management roles within the information technology industry for over 25 years and has spent more than 20 years helping hospitals and clinics “make IT work better”. Phil has had the opportunity to act as an Interim CIO for numerous hospitals which gives him a unique perspective on their challenges and associated solutions. Phil really enjoys sharing lessons learned and frequently presents at various hospital associations, HIMSS events and healthcare board rooms all over the country. In addition to his passion for improving Health IT, he loves baseball (die hard Cubs fan) and has spent more than 15 years coaching young baseball players. Phil lives in Pella, IA and often shares concepts learned from his background in coaching along with the Dutch farm culture and work ethic that his home town is known for.