Smart hospitals, hospital at home programs, and telehealth are just a few ways technology is transforming healthcare today. Technology has the power to deliver value to clinicians and patients because it can enable better patient care. However, well-executed healthcare IT implementation project is one that should be quiet and behind-the-scenes. How is this possible? Can you really implement technology in a way that’s not disruptive? The short answer is yes. But, before you kick off your next digital transformation initiative, be sure you have guardrails in place like the ones I have learned to use over the years.
A conversation I’ll never forget
One of my more memorable implementations happened shortly after completing an expansive interoperability setup. I was working with a group of ED providers to evaluate the usage of the tool and obtain feedback.
During that conversation, one of the doctors shared that the previous night he had a very sick patient present to the ED. As he was trying to determine the care plan for this individual, he decided to use the new tool for this particular patient.
The outcome: the care plan for this patient was altered extensively and most likely was an attributing factor to saving this person’s life. The provider is still an adamant user of the technology, recommends new features to others and makes sure his colleagues understand the technology.
Where do you begin with a project implementation so you can end with such a positive outcome?
Start with what’s in it for them
The first place to start with any healthcare IT project is to define the benefit for the end user. Some common benefits — reasons why the technology will matter to a physician, nurse, clinical staff, healthcare operator, or patient — are listed below:
- Provides easy and direct access to patient medical records
- Facilitates communication between health care providers
- Reduces medical errors
- Provides Clinical Decision Support with real time data
- Supports care coordination
- Improves patient safety
- Gives care teams more time to focus on patient care
- Improves patient education
- Reduces cost in healthcare operations
- Streamlines workflows
- Improves patient experience
Of course, benefits of a given healthcare technology should also trace back and support overall goals of the healthcare organization. Once the project is set to move forward, how do you help keep the implementation on track?
Best practices for implementing a new healthcare technology solution
1. Evaluate the technology to ensure it is the best solution for your patient community.
- Validate that the solution solves the clinical problem that has been presented and will provide value to the organization, clinical staff and ultimately the patient.
- Ensure the solution meets your organizations security policies and guidelines is HIPAA compliant
- Remember the human aspect of the solution — it is just as important as the technology.
2. Determine the high-level implementation plan.
- Consider incremental delivery. A rolling wave or phased approach can be an effective way to realize the value and benefits of the new technology. This agile strategy allows caregivers time to understand the technology and how it can provide more efficient care to the patient. The flexibility can also spur creative thinking to expand the solution within the clinical environment.
- Establish integration. Plan for an integration phase to allow true interoperability with the EMR and downstream systems. Integrations help eliminate duplicate entry which in turn helps reduce errors, save clinicians time and streamlines back office administrative tasks. Often integrations are the conduit for direct access to patient records which is critical as remote care options expand.
- Perform a final review for any additional integration touchpoints or components needed to optimize the solution for patient care or clinical workflows.
3. Recruit the right project team members
When assembling your project team, include technical, business, clinical, and vendor/partner members. The perspective of each team member is invaluable and maximizes the potential of the technology being accepted with in the healthcare system as it allows technical teams to work side by side with clinicians that are caring for patients.
With teams of varying backgrounds, it is crucial to facilitate work sessions to assure communication and collaboration is taking place which may require “translation” between the team members as technical team members may not understand clinical concepts and the clinical teams may be overwhelmed by technical jargon.
Continuous facilitation and translation help teams have a consistent understanding of what work needs to be accomplished, fosters open communication about issues and problems to be worked through, and builds ownership of the new solution.
This lesson was incorporated into each of my implementation plans after working with an oncology group to build a highly specialized EMR. The unique clinical workflow for the providers to care for their critical patients required “all hands-on deck” to determine the best solution for their clinic.
4. Continuously focus on the goals and set expectations of the solution.
Clinicians are most importantly focused on patient care and needs in addition to being part of a technical implementation. Keep the goal of the implementation at the forefront. Help the team focus by breaking the work effort into manageable blocks.
The first couple of days using a new solution in a clinical setting can be cumbersome and can create frustration and panic in some instances. Maintain a calm demeaner, remain patient, and listen to feedback so you can make improvements in a timely manner.
During an initial Artificial Intelligence implementation for a Neurology group, I recall the providers being frustrated with the technology. They said they did not trust the new technology to aid in the care of their patients.
On the backend, the team continued to load crucial clinical data into the database and found a champion to use the system for optimization. Within a few months, the system was deemed a successful technology — teaching us that patience is critical for AI/Machine Learning solutions because time is required to optimize these solutions.
The technology advances in healthcare seem boundless with remote care, wearables, personalized medicine, population health, artificial intelligence, automation and more. Here’s to mapping our way to a bright future by way of following practical guidelines for technology implementations.
About the Author :
Angie Bates is a Program Director at CereCore focusing on PMO maturity, customer project delivery optimization and reporting. Prior to joining CereCore, she worked at HCA Healthcare and has 15+ years in Healthcare IT. Angie is an active member of Project Management Institute (PMI), CHIME, and HIMSS. She earned a Business Administration degree with a focus on Management Information Systems from Tennessee Technological University as well as her MBA. She also has multiple certifications including Prosci® Certified Change Practitioner, CHCIO, BRMP, PfMP, PgMP, PMP, and PMI-ACP.