Investing in IT: 4 big obstacles leaders face

At Becker's Hospital Review's 4th Annual Health IT + Revenue Cycle conference in Chicago Sept. 21, four healthcare industry experts discussed the top obstacles health system leaders face when trying to invest in IT. They also offered several solutions.

1. Budget. For many hospitals the IT department budget is lumped in with the entire capital budget. This is problematic because implementing a new IT system or program that benefits the entire health system can get  expensive and far exceed the budgeted amount, said Dawn Blandford, CIO of Leitchfield, Ky.-based Twin Lakes Regional Medical Center.

"One way we mitigated this and got the approval to separate the IT budget from the rest of the departments was aligning more with the CFO … [and] establishing an IT governance to discuss the budget from the top down ... and present the return on investment to get the board to sign off," Ms. Blandford said.

2. Interoperability and clinician burnout. When choosing to invest in an IT system, leaders must look at how the various applications communicate and exchange data. Many healthcare leaders don't, and as a result, 62 percent of physicians say interoperability is their No. 1 problem today, according to a Deloitte survey.

"The issue becomes how do you get the data to work together so clinicians get a full view of the patient without being overwhelmed," said Michael Blackman, MD, medical director of population health and analytics for Allscripts. He suggested getting physician input about their frustrations, and new technologies may help solve the problem of physician burnout from technology.

3. Temptations of emerging technologies. There's a temptation by upper management to buy the latest promising technology, but often it isn't the smartest decision to jump on it right away, said Esteban Gershanik, MD, the former CIO of the Louisiana Department of Health.

"As a CIO, it's your job to bring things back and say 'hey we need to focus on our base before we get tempted by the banter of new technologies in the market,'" Dr. Gershanik said.

4. So many things to balance. Healthcare leaders have a lot to balance, including pushing new strategic initiatives, understanding the changing regulations, hiring new talent and keeping an eye on market consolidation strategies. This means IT leaders must be focused to push their ideas up through governance, said John Squeo, former chief Innovation and strategy officer of Chicago-based Thorek Memorial Hospital and current strategy consultant for Accenture.

"It comes down to having a strict rigor to focus … IT leaders need to be masters and pick the battles they can solve," Mr. Squeo said.

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