D'Arcy Gue

Top Ten Signs That Your Hospital Needs an IT Assessment — Part 2

January 30, 2017

Healthcare IT 6 Minute Read

With so many IT initiatives on your organization’s plate today, the IT department must be performing at its peak potential.  Every hospital  IT shop goes through ups and downs — the latter often due to unanticipated changes, new expectations, over-taxed staff or other circumstances that can spiral it into a breakdown, if not caught quickly enough. Your executive team must be sure that the hospital’s IT infrastructure, operations and projects are under top-notch, sustainable control, and that the hospital is getting the best return on every dollar invested.

How do you know when it’s time for such a review?   See Part 1 where we explored our first five potential tipping points when hospitals are in greatest need of an objective IT assessment. Read on for the second five…

Our second five reasons why you may need an IT assessment:

  1. The IT budget is over 4% and climbing. It is increasingly difficult to benchmark IT spending.  In the past, in pre- EMR days, IT expense of 3% of operating expense or greater would have been considered excessive by industry standards.   In today’s world of hospitals in advanced stages of EMR adoption, IT expenses in access of 4% are too high, unless spending in previous years was deferred.  Still, if your IT spend is climbing past 4%, it shouldn’t be – and an independent analysis will identify unnecessary costs, and reduce the hit on the hospital’s pocketbook.
  2. User satisfaction with your IT systems and/or the staff is low. No one wants unhappy physicians, clinicians or other users. A disgruntled staff reduces productivity, and costs money, time, and the reputation of your hospital as well as your IT department.  Beware: you may hear complaints about IT – or you may not – but you still may have an underlying climate of discontent, reflected by build-ups of non-resolved service tickets, poor follow-through on commitments, and more. A trend of anecdotal complaints can help to expose such discontent, but is unlikely to pinpoint the causes. Your hospital’s environment is so diverse that an assessment conducted by internal staff is unlikely to thoroughly and objectively identify what may be multiple causes of dissatisfaction. A third party can perform an unbiased assessment and propose resolutions that will make your team happy with IT again.
  3. IT staff satisfaction is low and/or turnover is high. Also, you may be experiencing high absenteeism, late arrivals to work or to meetings, unmet commitments, and other signs that all is not well within the work group. These are danger signals that should not be ignored for long. Factors to consider:
    • An unhappy IT department staff may be the cause or the result of an unhealthy IT environment – and more than likely, it is both.
    • Whether positive or negative, the IT shop’s culture and attitudes strongly influence the rest of the hospital’s overall perceptions of the department. If the department and its productivity are not highly respected, hospital users will cease trusting IT leadership and staff — a situation that could put collaborative projects and proper IT controls in jeopardy.
    • If IT staff are so unhappy that they start leaving their positions, the team infrastructure and capabilities can quickly descend into in a death spiral that will be very costly. Worse, the performance of your organization’s overall IT resources will be at risk. A third party can get to the root of these issues and give your IT team the tools and culture they need to happily go about their jobs.
  4. Your hospital is starting or finishing a major system install and doesn’t have a well thought out IT staffing plan. This critical part of IT management is often overlooked, as IT leaders tend to bias their staff planning toward current staffing levels. In addition, at these already expensive junctures, executive leaders are typically very sensitive to staffing costs.  A system install creates vastly different resource requirements pre- and post-implementation, and appropriate staffing levels vary from one vendor system to another.  A neutral third party can give you a much needed new perspective on appropriate staffing levels and skill sets.
  5. You have no current IT Strategic Plan. It is has been too easy in the last few years to get stuck on the idea that compliance (Meaningful Use / MIPS, ICD-10, etc) is the major objective of the IT department.  Now, nothing is further from the truth…we’re moving into the aftermath of those activities, including interoperabiity, data analytics, and value-based based payments  It’s even more critical today to have a clear multi-dimensional IT plan, supported by the entire leadership team.  Consider the following:
    • How much influence is your IT leadership given in consideration of the hospital’s strategic direction, understanding that IT is often an integral component of major strategies? Is it enough?
    • How do your current state IT operations and goals mesh with the organization’s strategic direction? How should they change?
    • How will emerging technologies fit into your Meaningful Use / MIPS environment going forward?
    • What plans should be developed for the IT infrastructure and data security in relation to security risks, regulatory initiatives and your use of new technologies?
    • What are the cost projections for IT three to five years going forward, considering the above?
    • How will staffing – not just numbers, but needed capabilities – be affected by the above, and how should this affect your IT planning?
    • How might capital limitations constrain IT from meeting future goals, and how should these issues be resolved?
    • How might IT-related initiatives of competitors impact your hospital’s market share, and how should this be addressed?

IT priorities, costs and value are quickly getting out of control in many hospitals. Understanding a technology services assessment can be difficult and frustrating.  True, some benchmarks exist, but are not a quick solution, because of the variabilities in organizational requirements and system platforms.  The IT support demands for a 600 bed Epic-based hospital are very different from those of a 230 bed Meditech hospital, and from a 25 bed OpenVista critical access facility.

A thorough IT assessment based on industry-standard methodologies, and conducted by an experienced, objective professional will be worth far more than you pay for it.  In fact, many organizations commonly realize major savings as an outcome. For example, an  assessment we recently conducted raised some executive eyebrows about certain outsourced services, with the result that recommended changes are now saving the hospital $70,000 a month. At the same time, the quality of services has dramatically improved.

In the above example, the results of the assessment also enabled us to help the hospital determine how IT will figure into the organization’s overall plan for meeting its strategic targets. Many IT departments don’t have a plan that, one for one, supports the hospital’s strategic goals.  The  result is that IT investments end up being made in a risky just-in-time mode, and may not staff that is qualified to implement or support them. If you aren’t confident that your IT plan is all that it needs to be, an objective assessment, along with associated recommendations, likely should be an early step in moving from today into your hospital’s increasingly digital future.

To learn more about how Phoenix’ capabilities regarding IT assessment and planning, please contact us.

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