4 experts offer tips for aligning IT with business goals

It is imperative to align IT with an organization's strategic business goals, especially as healthcare reform pushes forward and emerging technologies continue to change the industry.

During a panel discussion at Becker's 4th Annual Health IT + Revenue Cycle Conference, Sept. 21 in Chicago, four healthcare technology leaders offered their best tips on aligning IT and strategic initiatives to meet business goals.

Panelists included:

  • Robin Sarkar, PhD, CIO of Lakeland Health in St. Joseph, Mich.
  • Gary Haynes, MD, PhD, professor and chair of anesthesiology at New Orleans-based HCA Tulane Hospital System
  • Bob Monteverdi, MD, global healthcare solutions leader of Lenovo Health
  • Andrew Mellin, MD, CMO of Spok

Here's what the experts had to say:

Editor's note: Responses have been edited for length, clarity and style.

1. Ensure every stakeholder is at the table. When setting a business goal or embarking on any strategic initiative, several stakeholders are at the table, including the clinical team, regulatory department, finance leaders and technology leaders. However, one key stakeholder is often missing, explained Dr. Sarkar.

"The one stakeholder who is missing around the table is the patient. We have struggled in the past to clearly represent the patient and consumer in decision making. This needs to change," Dr. Sarkar said.

2. Ask for physician input. Physicians are often not consulted about IT decisions and as a result there have been some spectacular failures with many informatics projects, said Dr. Haynes.

"Clinician involvement has been missing.  I think the clinicians must identify clinical goals first and bring them together with business knowledge to come up with an effective strategy. Then and only then can you integrate the IT professionals who can help build out solutions," Dr. Haynes said.

3. Establish effective communication. Healthcare has a communication problem. There are inefficiencies in communication whether it's physician to physician,  physician to nurse or clinician to patient. Establishing an ecosystem that removes barriers to ineffective communication unlocks benefits that are often not realized and helps achieve business goals such as reducing patient wait time, said Dr. Mellin.

"One organization we worked with had a major problem with patient flow in the emergency room because of a lack of effective communication. The time between the attending physician in the ER waiting to admit a patient, to time the patient was accepted by admitting physician was an average of 37 minutes. After establishing this communication ecosystem it dropped to 5 minutes on average," Dr. Mellin said.

4. Establish measurable outcomes. When it comes to implementing a new technology, many providers struggle to prove its value. It is imperative to find measures to track outcomes. There are several metrics that can be used, including measuring geographic reach when it comes to virtual care, tracking 30-day readmission rates or patient satisfaction post-implementation, Dr. Monteverdi said.

5. Trust the collaboration. "Trust the collaboration you have with your vendor, otherwise you won't be able to align various technologies with your strategic goals," Dr. Monteverdi said, adding that it is imperative to start with the big picture in mind and then work on the incremental steps in collaboration with the IT vendors and leaders to get to your goal. "Then you will have a fighting chance to meet your goals," he added.

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