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Category: Healthcare - CIO to CEO--Get Value from IT

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Category: Healthcare

11/04/09

Permalink 08:08:00 pm, Categories: IT Leadership, Healthcare, Business Leadership

Last week, I attended the Southern California Healthcare Conference. The list of speakers was impressive and the audience of over 900 people got a full dose of information.

One message that was repeated over and over is how much a successful reform of the US healthcare system is going to depend on information technology. While I do believe it is true that IT will be a major factor in the success (or failure) of healthcare reform, there is much more that needs to be considered as organizations take on new technologies (especially electronic medical records).

As I have mentioned in previous posts and in my whitepapers, organizations often fail to give full attention to the process, people, and culture issues that play a major role in the implementation of new technologies. A number of the speakers at the conference did allude to this, but very few of them directly talked about these issues.

If I could only give three pieces of advice to the CEO of a hospital, physician group, or insurance plan when it comes to implementing new technology it would be these:

(1) Have good project management--hire it, contract it, steal it, do whatever it takes, but be sure you have it!

(2) Involve people at all levels who will be impacted by the technology you are implementing--involve them early, involve them often, and really listen to their fears, concerns, ideas, excitement, and business. Remember to include patients in this mix!!

(3) Don't worry about (or spend too much time on) the actual technology--as long as you select a fairly large, established vendor, most of the systems on the market will do 90% of what you want them to do out of the box. The remaining 10% of the functionality is where you should focus your questions when talking to vendors.

Healthcare reform in the US is important--and will be painful in many ways. But by focusing on the people and process components, we can ensure that the technologies improve healthcare rather than simply automating existing processes.


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09/29/09

Permalink 01:49:55 pm, Categories: IT Leadership, Healthcare, Business Leadership

Last week, I presented at a conference on Healthcare Connectivity. During my presentation (which was titled "Getting Over the Chaos of Change: Ensuring You're Ready to Implement a New Technology System), I took a number of informal surveys of the audience members. The audience was a mix of executives, directors, managers, and a few technical people from a variety of healthcare organizations. While all of the responses were interesting, several things were particularly interesting.

The respondents overwhelmingly (66% vs 33%) believe that IT is viewed as tactical rather than strategic in their organization. This did not surprise me--healthcare, until recently, has not functioned as a business in many organizations. Without a business view, IT is naturally seen as "keeping the lights on" and not much else. Some of the comments made during the presentation lead me to believe that organizations are changing, however, and the long-term trend is towards utilizing the power of IT in a more strategic way.

One rather surprising piece of insight was around the question "Does your organization have formal methods for measuring the success/failure of projects?" 75% of the respondents indicated that they do NOT have formal measurements for projects. At a time when projects costs millions of dollars and take significant resources to implement, this is truly amazing. If you don't measure success, how can you know that you truly achieved it? I agree that there are soft measures that are meaningful as well, but hard measures keep projects on track and allow for non-emotional decisions about whether or not to continue a project. This is an area where healthcare still lags other industries.

In a future post, I will talk about the other area the survey addressed, namely the use and value of Request for Proposal (RFP) processes.


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07/29/09

Permalink 07:35:05 pm, Categories: Healthcare, IT Alignment

I have had a running e-mail conversation with a colleague over the past few weeks. He (we'll call him Joe) works in the financial services industry as a CIO. His wife is a caregiver in the healthcare industry (yes, yes, this is relevant--keep reading).

Joe has had the opportunity to visit the major medical organization where his wife works on several occasions. His comment to me was "If this was a financial institution I [as the CIO] would have been shown the door a long time ago." Joe's comment started me thinking about why two industries, both of which touch the lives of millions of people, have adopted information technology in such different ways.

I think part of the issue comes down to regulation. While both industries are heavily regulated, the regulations in the financial industry have actually encouraged the use of technology in order to allow the business to grow. Regulations in healthcare have discouraged technology because many people believe (perhaps mistakenly) that technology makes it more difficult to protect patient information. Add to this the normally conservative mindset of healthcare organizations, and it is pretty easy to see why technology has not been embraced as fully as in the financial world.

Two other factors, I believe, have also contributed significantly to the slow adoption of information technology in healthcare. One is related to the "fear of sharing". Healthcare organizations and individual providers have been hesitant to share information about patients for a number of reasons--liability, competitive advantage, and fear of peer review.

The second factor is a lack of interest on the part of consumers; but this is changing rapidly and healthcare organizations need to understand that consumers today want more control over THEIR healthcare records and access to THEIR information. Organizations who can leverage this are more likely to keep their customers longer.

Joe and I will continue our dialogue. Perhaps his background in the financial world can help a healthcare organization leapfrog their competition. In the meantime, I will continue to spread the information technology best practices of the financial world.


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Don shares his experience and ideas about how to get the most value from your IT function. Note: The views and opinions expressed here are those of Don and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of his clients or employers.

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