Why it’s critical to forge a partnership between clinical and technical leaders

Earlier this year, CHIME conducted a survey of more than 100 healthcare CIOs with question topics ranging from large business goals to the use cases driving mobile application selections.

Spok published a report in November based on the survey data. The top business goals that CIOs reported as priorities through 2017 were strengthening data security (81 percent), increasing patient satisfaction (70 percent), and improving physician satisfaction (65 percent).

Data security and physician satisfaction emerged as main themes throughout the survey, from the large goals down to the details around secure messaging projects. There is a really interesting space where these two priorities overlap, and I decided to explore further with a couple of experts. I talked to Dr. Andrew Mellin and Jason Stanaland, two Spok leaders with front-line knowledge about this intersection of technology and end user satisfaction. They shared some insight that I think is worth a larger discussion across the healthcare industry when it comes to technology implementations, primarily around the partnerships required for successful implementations in the clinical space. For example, in the survey, CIOs responded that physician adoption was both the top challenge and the top measure of success relating to secure messaging app rollouts. This seems like a perfect example of the convergence of technology and usability.

Dr. Mellin: Secure messaging not just an IT/telecom project. It should be thought of as a clinical communications project to enhance patient care and care team collaboration. I would advocate that these undertakings require a tight partnership between the chief information officer (CIO) and the chief medical information officer (CMIO) for success. This type of collaboration is critical to ensure the clinical workflows, provider satisfaction, and IT security and deployment needs are met. As these types of solutions move beyond messaging to solutions that support critical notifications and multi-person care team interactions, they require both a deep understanding of how end users work and their processes as well as the technical requirements of a solution.

For example, we know a critical success factor for these solutions is ensuring adequate Wi-Fi coverage in the hospital—something that the CIO must ensure prior to rollout. Similarly, the CMIO needs to ensure the directory, call schedules, and device preference and escalation configurations are accurate for the providers so messages can get to the right person's preferred device and be escalated to another provider if needed. Both the CIO and CMIO need to create a communication and support plan that demonstrates immediate clinical and personal value to physicians and helps them with the inevitable nuances of making sure the physicians' cell phones are set up correctly for reliable message delivery.

Stanaland: Given my experience at numerous customer locations, I would even take this one step further. There are examples I can think of where the CIO and CMIO worked together on an organization-wide strategy, involved clinical champions, and supported the purchase of a technological solution to solve a general high-level problem (e.g., non-secure communication), but then the project fell apart. There seem to be two reasons for this disconnect.

First, sometimes the scope of the problem that leaders are looking to solve isn't specific enough. Data security is a really big scope, and you might think that wanting to secure text messages and photos shared between providers is pretty detailed, but it's actually not. I've seen more success at locations where a secure messaging app is purchased to move a roadmap of very specific metrics, like reducing the time it takes for an ED physician and the admitting hospitalist to connect and confirm a patient admit, which will in turn impact a targeted revenue metric. This level of specificity for desired outcomes does two things: 1) It articulates precisely how the app will be used and by whom, and it tells end users there are specific benefits―it answers the question 'Why.' 2) Clear objectives keep project teams focused and on target, with the motivation needed to address any roadblocks that come up and keep activities moving forward. A project is much more likely to be successful if everyone understands the purpose and can see progress toward achievable, measurable goals.

The second reason I see projects fail, even ones with a CIO/CMIO partnership at the helm, is if a solution is handed off as a technical implementation without continued involvement from clinical teams and strategic leadership. Buying a solution for the right reasons doesn't necessarily translate into a successful solution. That clinical and technical partnership with key champions and leaders needs to be sustained throughout a rollout in order for the whys and the value to translate to end users (and ultimately patients). That value is key to the change management required for solution adoption.

Clearly, the big goals on a CIO's plate, including data security and physician satisfaction, do not have simple solutions―they are complex challenges that require new technology, upgraded infrastructures, a detailed understanding of clinical processes, and a heavy dose of change management and human behavior. Perhaps one way to approach some of these the big-picture challenges is to think about reengineering not just the technology, but also the process of technology change itself

Brian Edds is vice president of product strategy at Spok with over a decade of experience in mobile strategy, software as a service, and enterprise software systems.

Dr. Andrew Mellin is chief medical officer at Spok with over 20 years of experience as both a practicing physician and healthcare executive.

Jason Stanaland is a professional services manager and Spok's mobility solutions expert with 10 years' experience in systems architecture design, enterprise mobility management, IT service management, project management, consulting services, and product marketing.

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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