Last but not least, here is our third simple health IT strategy for CEO’s in 2017. The first strategy was “Implement Security As A Service,” and the second strategy was, “Create your enterprise healthcare IT data sharing plan by conducting an Interoperability Assessment.”
3. Modernize your health IT operation
When was the last time that you seriously considered your overall approach to IT? I’m not talking about which EHR you use but rather, your operating approach for IT. There is a ton of potential to optimize and create efficiencies while improving end user satisfaction and on-time project completion, but you can’t keep doing things the same way you always have. It isn’t enough just to hold the line on costs by telling your staff to do more with less; you have to consider alternative methods. It is time to take a deep dive into analyzing things like:
- IT Staffing models – You must re-think what it looks like to have the right people in the right amounts with the right skillset. We have been seeing some great success using shared service models to get the fractional expertise needed at a fraction of the cost of “going it alone” and you don’t have to “sell out” to the large health system to get there. As a key part of this, it’s very important to re-think the emphasis of IT leadership in healthcare. Clinical and business understanding has never been more needed to create an effective IT function, but you can’t just shift the entire focus to a clinical leader because the underlying technology has become so complex and interdependent. It will take a healthy balance of both.
- Vendor contracts – In my experience, this is a goldmine of opportunity that is almost completely ignored. It’s time to look at the contract for the EHR, the switch gear, biomed equipment, phones, telecommunication lines, internet, Microsoft, VMWare, Cisco, backup software, etc., etc. The buying groups don’t apply here. If you want to improve your bottom line, you have to acknowledge that IT buying isn’t even in the same zip code as tongue depressors or health insurance.
- Create Focus – We are a culture in dire need of focus and nowhere is that more pronounced than in your healthcare IT department. It’s critical that proactive IT management disciplines be separated from help desk and disciplined help desk separated from project tasks if we are ever going to have a chance at getting a return on our IT investments. There are templates to follow for this (like ITIL™), but finding the practical application of those industry best practices is critical to success.
- Cloud technologies for healthcare – You are most likely using the cloud for some of your IT operation already whether you know it or not. You (meaning you the CEO) should know how and where you are best leveraging these services to your benefit and where these technologies may pose unnecessary risk. Cloud services can be a game changer for good or bad, so make sure you are on the good side by evaluating how these technologies will help or hurt your business objectives. Don’t fall into the trap of doing it just because “it’s the wave of the future.” There are good reasons to leverage cloud for healthcare, but that isn’t one of them.
- E-mail and workgroup productivity tools – The days of managing your own e-mail server really are in the past and paying for MS Office for everyone may be too.
- Desktops – Same thing as above. Huge health IT efficiency gains are achievable by leveraging some of the new desktop deployment tools available today. This is also an opportunity to get your on-site IT staff more focused on moving end user initiatives forward instead of just keeping machines running. Running head long into a completely virtualized environment might just start a mutiny among your end users if not deployed properly. Deployed properly, it might just be the thing that removes the workstation as a distraction to making real progress with IT.
- Authentication tools – It should seem completely nuts to us all that we actually have to type a user name and password in this day and age but for some reason we have all just accepted this as the norm even though our clinicians are dying to eliminate that step. Start adding up the time that is consumed by simply signing in and out of our technology each day and you literally can account for person-years of wasted.
We have come through an era of massive emphasis on EHR’s and regulatory pressures related to the EHR. So much so that it has been impossible to keep our eye on the continuous improvement effort that is needed to optimize the IT function. So, let’s make 2017 the year we shore this up while we anticipate the next big evolutionary wave.
We know community healthcare IT and we are here to help you succeed. This is our passion. Let us help you do this right!