Five steps to future-proof your hospital’s tech roadmap

With the seemingly never-ending distraction of regulatory changes like MACRA and health politics in DC, it’s easy for hospitals to lose focus on the organization’s strategic plans and follow the noise.

However, hospitals need to prioritize long-term goals in order to future proof their organizations regardless of the latest bill or reporting requirement that comes down the pike. We’ve outlined five of the most important steps that hospitals need to do today in order to prepare for tomorrow.

1. Define the organization’s and IT’s future landscape
Your first task is understanding the near and long-term goals for the organization. What medical services will be offered and in what geographies and channels? Further, do you have the right technology tools, processes and people to successfully deliver those goals? Often times in healthcare organizations that have grown by merger and acquisition there are too many tools and competing processes negatively impacting interoperability and pinching profit margins. It’s been harder to integrate data from EHR systems than what most initially anticipated. However, it’s crucial to start leveraging this data versus simply collecting it in order to glean competitive advantage.

2. Determine the vehicles that will deliver your desired outcome
Once you understand the strategic objectives, it’s time to determine the vehicles necessary to deliver outcomes. Partnerships and joint ventures in outpatient services are on the rise—is that enough to move you forward? If not, are there acquisitions to plan for? Is a new IT operating model necessary to accommodate value-based care and billing?

Strategic outcomes-based sourcing models, which focus on producing desired results by a strategic partner versus merely performing a set list and quantity of activities, is one vehicle that can get you to your desired outcomes. All too often, the technology group and leadership team looks to use outsourcing as a hammer to lower costs. If you change the paradigm and look at sourcing as a strategic solution driver you can lower costs, increase quality, and achieve some of your strategic outcomes.

3. Identify how you can leverage technology to differentiate your services
IT planning with a differentiated market position in mind establishes you as a leader versus a member of the pack. Do you want to own the patient experience? Become data driven for all of your business operations? Offer the most complete, highest customer satisfaction network? Whatever your desired differentiation, it’s nearly guaranteed that technology will play some role in its success.

We already touched on leveraging data from EHRs. Integrating and analyzing all of your data sources across the suite of technologies used is critical in improving patient experience, improving quality scores or identifying billing issues and thus “finding” revenue. There are myriad ways to use the data and the technologies producing the data—if you can get to it.

4. Understand the economics
It’s important to truly understand where your dollars are being spent. Many may scoff at this statement, but time and again we see IT organizations think they are focused on a set of priorities. When in reality, budget dollars are being spent elsewhere, and almost never on the high-value projects it’s supposed to be spent on.

Now let’s talk talent, and again outsourcing can be used to assist in meeting this challenge. Not ‘my mess for less’ outsourcing and not outsourcing to the point that your internal team is only managing contract workers. Outsourcing should allow your internal, high-value staff to provide the expertise and value you hired them for. Outsourcing should augment these skills and move your organization more quickly to the outcomes it desires. Processing more tickets at a set cost isn’t saving money if the underlying issues remain unresolved.

5. Plan the sequence and velocity of your moves
Larger healthcare organizations look wistfully at start-ups wishing they, too, could all be moving in the same direction with the same goal. But often orthopedics or another clinical area runs on its own and other siloes have built up over time. This leads to strategy execution misfires and falling off pace and course.

It would be overly ambitious to say a roadmap will break down siloes, but it can help organizations deliver desired outcomes and stymie interruptions and side projects that don’t meet strategic criteria. It can also help to mitigate change fatigue because you can temper the strain on the organization’s financial and cross functional teams with proper sequence and velocity of implementation.

Avoid Missteps in 2018
Many organizations “know” these steps, but tend to skip step one and dive into step two. Without understanding the landscape, you don’t know whether you need a slow and reliable Humvee or a fast Ferrari. Selecting a technology because it’s a hot new app or a quick fix can take months or years to untangle down the road. It’s equally important to understand the economics behind running IT like a business. Follow the money and you will understand exactly what your priorities have actually been versus what you think they’ve been. It’s an enlightening exercise far too few healthcare organizations undertake. IT organizations that complain about having no budget should take a hard look here. This can be mined to open up funding to accelerate your roadmap.

Ultimately, a hospital with a well-run IT organization can facilitate improved care and financial performance despite regulatory uncertainty. IT can hamstring a hospital’s ability to compete effectively or it can be a strength, and advantage that moves an organization to the forefront of operational performance that supports healthy patient and financial outcomes.

Nick Vennaro, is the co-founder of Capto and a twenty-plus year healthcare industry veteran.

The views, opinions and positions expressed within these guest posts are those of the author alone and do not represent those of Becker's Hospital Review/Becker's Healthcare. The accuracy, completeness and validity of any statements made within this article are not guaranteed. We accept no liability for any errors, omissions or representations. The copyright of this content belongs to the author and any liability with regards to infringement of intellectual property rights remains with them.

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