Squeaky-Wheel IT vs. Enterprise IT: A Better Approach to Information Technology for Community Hospitals
It is time to think of IT differently—not as a business function but as a business partner with the same business objectives as your healthcare organization as a whole. That means strategic business goals should drive IT decisions. In healthcare organizations, the ultimate business goals are delivering superior patient care and improving outcomes. IT exists principally to support those and other goals.
Understanding IT in terms of a business partnership drives down costs. The main drivers of IT costs can be a “hard sell” by vendors to executives and physicians who may be influenced by best-of-breed solutions, flashy dashboards, widgets and tools. Requests pour in for these technologies and often are granted, without considering larger organizational goals. Integrating one-off tools not only can increase the cost of support, but can also negatively impact patient care if not managed correctly. Hospitals need to change the way they evaluate products, bringing weightier considerations to the process than a departmental request to fix something. That’s the squeaky wheel approach to IT. An enterprise approach to IT looks at it through the lens of business goals and strategy. This approach asks, “What is best for the organization from a cost, care, and risk perspective?”
This enterprise mindset is more common at larger health systems, but we are bringing it to CHC-owned community hospitals by advocating IT involvement upfront. At Wahiawa General Hospital in Hawaii, for example, monthly IT Steering Committee meetings are held to discuss how any new projects and purchases will advance business goals. The committee also documents the goals, key functionality requirements and metrics for a successful implementation—all before looking at any product demos. And key functionality requirements always include integration and security evaluations.
Executives understandably want to satisfy their various constituencies, and the pressure is high to implement remote and mobile EMR access solutions as well as cloud-based technologies. The cloud does offer cost-saving opportunities for community hospitals, but any technology that isn’t evaluated properly not only poses security risks but is also a lost opportunity to advance business goals and improve patient care. Non-strategic IT decisions also drive up expenses because hospitals end up implementing departmental tools that go unused due to lack of training and support, as well as posing costly integration challenges that can take focus away from strategic priorities.
IT and Workflow
In addition to project and product evaluation, standardization of IT processes cuts costs significantly. For example, offering multiple ways to remotely access patient records drives up costs.
CHC’s focus over the past few years has been on clinical informatics and improving efficiencies in clinical workflow, from pre-registration to patient care through billing and collections. Too often overlooked, CHC IT sees informatics as a place where hospitals can apply strategic IT planning and an investment in workflow design expertise to achieve significant savings while improving end-user satisfaction and quality of care.
Ultimately, developing an enterprise IT mindset within your organization, no matter the size, will better enable delivery of quality patient care.