Here at Afia, we frequently conduct IT assessments for potential new and existing healthcare clients. The majority of these evaluations are commissioned by the business leaders and almost never by IT directly. It’s common for these organizations to feel held hostage by IT, or have a “black box” perception of the IT department, and ask us the question, “How can we get more out of IT and have their results better align with our business goals?”
To answer these fundamental questions, I should first begin with some background information. Many of our clients are registered not-for-profit healthcare agencies, and many of these still are so caught up in keeping operations and overhead low they have difficulty investing into IT except when necessary, and often do not engage IT when selecting applications or services. IT is simply tasked to adopt and support what was selected with no regard to requirements or administration. I believe this to be one of the root causes of their poor results. Every agency invests deeply in deploying and maintaining IT services such as Electronic Health Records, Financial Systems, Fleet Maintenance and Routing Systems, email and secure access on the go. Some make these investments better than others, display more profitable results, and frequently spend the same – if not less – dollars per service than those doing it poorly.
These healthcare organizations start by employing IT at a strategic level in the business. They understand that technology isn’t a cost center, and IT isn’t separate from the business, but rather that they are an integral part of the whole. The most successful agencies have a genuine healthcare IT executive such as a Chief Information Officer (CIO) or IT Director (title can depend on company structure) bridging the divide between business leaders, program members, and the IT department. This leader is someone at the helm who understands not just your business, but the business of IT – a leader who knows how to get IT out of the “just keeping the lights on” loop, while helping take the entire business to the next level.
Many of you reading this post may be thinking you have this leader already with an IT Manager or Senior Systems Admin, but that’s not what we are talking about. To be clear, a healthcare CIO isn’t the same role and doesn’t have the same skill set as your IT manager. A manager may work with people, processes and projects to move the company forward with technology, but their focus will be on the technology first and foremost. Rather, a CIO spends their time focused on people, clinical processes, projects, policy and takes a much more customer service view of technology. This executive won’t confuse a tool or technology for its purpose or product, where an IT manager may likely chase a technology for technology’s sake.
A CIO should be engaged with other C-level executives and with the organization’s core mission where technology is simply an integrated part of a bigger machine working to achieve business goals and streamline clinical workflow through every program and group. This leader will not only help drive IT decision-making, but help develop the business roadmap by recommending IT initiatives that support the overall vision set by the executive team. The CIO should also measure and report the successes or failures of IT initiatives and projects through the constant evaluation of data metrics as much as the rest of the business. Metrics such as knowing if a project is under or over budget, project deliverables are on time, user satisfaction survey results, and workflow efficiencies gained or lost and why. Once “What’s IT working on?” has been demystified, and the business has visibility into IT, the process of focusing IT resources and dollars on what matters can indeed begin. Ultimately the administration, clinical, and IT must walk hand in hand. IT’s projects and services should properly align with business goals with little to no interruption in workflow, and priorities should be balanced to reflect that. Investing into the right IT executive will certainly help your business get more, not just from IT, but out of your entire organization.
Did you know Afia offers Interim CIO and CIO Coaching services for healthcare organizations? If you’re in need of CIO leadership and aren’t sure where to begin, contact Afia today at (734) 418-8162. We can help.
Ron is an IT consultant with 20 years experience specializing in technology, healthcare and getting things done. Above all Ron feels that having the right attitude, real experience, and a proven ability to learn quickly will always get the best results.
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