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Business Strategy | Prioritizing IT: Tips for Hospitals and Healthcare Facilities

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In a hospital, nursing, or long-term care facility with overburdened care providers, ever-increasing regulations, budget limitations, and a variety of other obstacles, technology solutions and strategies Electronic health records have risen to become a top priority for executives and leaders. According to the 2016 EKS&H Business Outlook Survey, “implementation of Electronic Health Records and Other Technology Developments (e.g., Telemedicine),” was ranked as the industry-specific key external driver that would have the greatest impact on respondents’ businesses in 2016.

However, with limited budgets and important data security and privacy regulations, healthcare executives must make difficult decisions about where to focus their IT efforts. Technology solutions can provide welcome relief for many industry challenges, but prioritization is key. The following are some important areas for consideration, as well as strategies for ensuring effective IT implementation.

Top IT Issues for Healthcare Providers

EMPLOYEE COMMUNICATION

To ensure efficient care for patients and smooth organizational operations, healthcare providers must have access to reliable, timely, and secure communications. One facility, in an effort to maintain confidentiality, continued to use walkie-talkies as its main communication tool. Recognizing the need for a technology upgrade, it issued mobile phones – but only to certain personnel, which continued to hinder the communication process. To avoid such extremes, organizations should seek a balance between security and efficiency.

REPORTING REQUIREMENTS

Today’s healthcare administrators are well aware of the amount of reporting required by governmental agencies, an issue of particular concern to smaller organizations that might not have the staff to comply. More efficient, automated reporting tools are available, and can ease this data-intensive burden. The best software solutions enable caregivers to complete one report, and distribute information in it for other needs. Modern IT reporting solutions are also more flexible in adapting to evolving reporting requirements, allowing subject matter experts to quickly create or modify reports with minimal assistance from IT specialists.

ELECTRONIC HEALTH RECORDS

While most healthcare industry professionals would agree that electronic health records (EHR) would streamline administration and improve patient care, many providers run into significant challenges with implementation due to time and budgets. When a facility can prioritize it, there is useful technology available to help. One of the keys to successful implementation is a commitment, from both executives and daily users, to EHR technology. Each department, team, or office should consider assigning one person as the “EHR champion,” to ensure all personnel get trained on the new system, and continue to use it effectively.

BUSINESS ANALYTICS

With pressure on the healthcare system for greater efficiency and improved outcomes, business analytics (BI) may be an answer. Analytics can help facilities use their data in a meaningful way to drive desired outcomes. The key to a successful BI implementation, however, is a strong data strategy. Without it, raw numbers, conflicting information, or silo applications are of limited or no use. For example, an organization could decide that it wants to find out which physicians get the best outcomes. This would require the data measures being entered in an accurate and timely manner, and reviewing reports regularly.

RETURN ON INVESTMENT

Healthcare organizations may also have needs for technology in things like HR/scheduling, billing, sales, marketing, and ratings and certifications. While technology exists to support all of these areas (and many solutions offer functionality across business areas), organizations facing limited budgets and internal IT expertise should perform a cost-benefit analysis to determine which may have the biggest impact and help to achieve specific higher-level organizational goals (such as “increase regulatory compliance by 25%” or “improve patient outcomes by 10%”).

IT Implementation Tips

Once an organization has determined its IT priorities, it should find a consultant with experience in the industry (and an understanding of the importance of privacy) to meet those technology goals. The most important thing in working with a third-party IT consultant is setting up clear expectations regarding the organizations’ needs for things like communication, system updates, upgrades, security, and timelines.

Once those items are addressed, a consultant can assist in determining what makes sense for the operation. For instance, an IT service provider might suggest alternatives in the walkie-talkie example — such as the use of iPads in each room to check patient records and a secure facility network — that might be more efficient and more secure.

Healthcare organizations must also consider that an IT outsourcer’s one-size-fits-all solution might not be right for their type of facility. Systems that can help with insurance billing, decision support, budgeting, and so on, may need to be customized for each provider’s specific needs. The more efficient the software, the more profit the organization can make, due to a decreased need to hire additional staff.

In addition, smaller providers should be aware that when they grow, a different type of software may be needed for certain tasks. For example, some simple tasks in a smaller provider may be accomplished with a spreadsheet, but may need a more sophisticated approach as the provider grows. Conversely, larger providers should check with their IT advisor to ensure they don’t have more technology than they need.

Conclusion

Naturally, all technology decisions within the healthcare industry must be balanced between cost and profitability. Mandated reporting requirements obviously are the highest priority. When systems are appropriately integrated and able to automate data administration tasks, caregivers have more time to assist patients and improve health outcomes.

EKS&H has been supporting healthcare businesses and organizations for more than 10 years. We understand the special considerations required and can help solve the unique technology challenges that care providers often face.

To learn more about EKS&H’s customized IT services and consulting for healthcare entities, please contact Dan Domagala at ddomagala@eksh.com or Scott Gunter at sgunter@eksh.com or call us at 303-740-9400.