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How to keep IT investments on track

By Gary Folker

Gary-FolkerTORONTO – Information technology continues to be one of the most powerful drivers of productivity and business transformation in the healthcare sector. However, IT investments must align with an organization’s overall business and clinical goals. Otherwise, IT solutions can be costly and difficult to implement, especially when dealing with multiple IT systems, care units and bureaucracies.

In fact, research conducted on more than 5,400 IT projects by McKinsey & Company in collaboration with the University of Oxford revealed that in addition to continued cost and schedule challenges, IT projects, on average, delivered 56% less value than predicted.

To facilitate this value-driven approach, while delivering and sustaining the quality of healthcare patients demand, organizations are best served when their vendors take a solutions-as-a-service approach to health IT. This approach means that health IT vendors work in constant collaboration with their clients to design sustainable health IT, which in turn allows vendors to fully invest themselves in the actual performance of the solutions they provide.

Going Beyond ‘Delivery as an Episode’
Technology is only one aspect of a broader health solution that, in order to deliver value, must also incorporate additional components such as a transformation strategy, solution adoption incentives, sound program governance, new and improved clinical processes, organizational changes and enhanced roles and responsibilities for stakeholders.

Even with all that, it may not be sufficient for an IT solution to simply deliver value. The subsequent financial benefits and improved clinical outcomes must also be sustainable over an extended period.

From a health IT perspective, this requires a different mentality from the traditional episodic delivery of software. It requires IT vendors to work more closely with their clients to first ensure smooth, continuous operation and seamless integration of their clients’ health IT solutions into their overall IT infrastructure, and then to help their clients leverage the full potential benefit of their health IT solution in terms of value-generation mechanisms.

What’s important to note is that health IT software on its own does not deliver value. It’s the broader IT solutions built collaboratively by an organization and its vendor that enables positive clinical and financial outcomes.

Strategic Services Define the New Partnership
In a growing number of cases, especially in the U.S., having a stake in their clients’ business means that health IT vendors are being asked to tie their fees to the outcomes and success of their clients. This is helping to shift the health IT delivery paradigm from simply transactional to a more full-blown IT Service Management (ITSM) model, with the IT vendor acting as trusted advisor throughout and providing service continuity from initial program inception to ongoing solution support and performance tuning.

Having vendors invest in their clients’ business is also creating a more engaged form of partnership, with health IT vendors providing advanced program- and system-level consulting and services in areas such as: health analytics and business intelligence (BI) initiatives, clinician adoption programs, population health and care-coordination strategies and EHR/HIE sustainability models.

Consider health data analytics and BI, for example. Healthcare organizations are notoriously data-rich but information-poor. The journey from ‘volume’ to ‘value’ requires that healthcare organizations use data from across their enterprise to not only support faster and better clinical decision-making but also to measure performance and identify risks and opportunities. However, organizations face many challenges, not the least of which are that:

• Aggregating and normalizing data from many sources is inefficient and labour-intensive;
• Data governance structures are often absent, incomplete or ineffective;
• Poorly architected data warehouses result in mismanagement of information; and
• Report generation is not automated, inefficient and relies heavily on IT resources.

The right healthcare IT vendor can help an organization leverage maximum value from its data assets, with a well-developed BI strategy, for example, that overcomes many data challenges and ensures the right information is accessible to the right individuals at the right time.

Healthcare technology is changing rapidly as patient expectations about their care and desire for more active involvement continues to evolve. Health IT vendors that integrate their clients’ business imperatives into the delivery and sustainability of their clients’ IT solutions are best positioned to drive positive clinical and business outcomes for the long term.

Gary Folker is the SVP and Country Manager for Orion Health Canada. For more information on Orion Health, visit www.orionhealth.com or email canadiansolutions@orionhealth.com.

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