The Competitive Advantage: IT and Operations Building a Shared EHR Vision
Many healthcare organizations task IT departments with a narrow focus: Keep hardware technology current, software competencies high, and downtime to a minimum. Meanwhile, financial and clinical operations run the business of providing healthcare. Under these directives, IT and operations behave as separate entities managing distinct visions, budgets, and priorities.
Today, this business-as-usual approach simply doesn’t foster collaboration and innovation. With high capital costs for enterprise systems, federal program changes, and market consolidation, staying competitive demands an interdependence between IT and operations unlike never before. In fact, 66 percent of CIOs note that EHR optimization is a critical area of focus for their health systems.
It goes without saying that technology solutions are no longer just enablers. Decisions made by IT stakeholders can impact — either positively or negatively — nearly every operations function. Executing almost any healthcare transformation initiative needs a shared vision, mutual governance and prioritization, and long-term optimization.
From budgeting and scoping upgrades, to usability and adoption, important process changes can establish a collaborative culture that leads to IT and operations becoming solution partners. Here are four best practices that help to create a new marriage:
1) Best practice: Establish a harmonious governance
Appoint co-chairs for steering committees, and require pre-work. However regular clinical, financial, consumer, and business governance meetings may be, seldom do we require a pre-meeting between Ops and IT co-chairs before each session. When co-chairs pre-meet, review proposals, and coach presenters together, the time in governance is spent on solution adjustment, less so solution debate. This approach drives faster decision making, more refined solutions, and more pleased leadership.
Having co-chairs requires collaboration before meetings and permits equal accountability for creativity and solution generation. For example, if operations is working to change the provider reimbursement model, IT can generate RVU reporting capabilities and provide a corresponding solution for the business needs. Too often today, we don’t do our homework together.
2) Best practice: Create true FTE liaisons
Liaisons are a secret sauce for EHR optimization and ongoing collaboration. Liaisons assigned as a half or full FTE function as eyes and ears on the units, in the medical offices, business offices, and more. They know who is frustrated, what’s broken, what workarounds persist, and who is succeeding and innovating. Liaisons ideally have operations and IT backgrounds, and are very comfortable shadowing, listening, training, and becoming a trusted peer to users. They play a key role in educating decision-makers about culture, readiness, and support for change.
Clinicians, former billing office managers, and ancillary staff all make good liaisons. They can be budgeted by IT and operations to share accountability, and can split time between IT work and extra hands on the floor.
3) Best practice: Internally market your initiatives
From the C-suite to individual work teams, explaining what, how, and why decisions are made — and marketing the rationale behind new initiatives — is key to achieving organizational alignment and buy-in. Governance teams should share this information on intranets, at medical executive committees, in nurse manager meetings, at lunch sessions, and more. Transparent decision making drives earlier reaction, timely feedback, and a sense of inclusiveness that retains talent and prevents isolation.
For key decisions, mature organizations circulate a one-page memo (perhaps about the future of device integration) that includes the names of decision committee members, a summary of the discussion, and the challenges and decisions that help all stakeholders become a part of the conversation.
EHR Champions have the responsibility of working with the communications team to market priorities collaboratively and secure support.
4) Best practice: Make optimization a “forever” plan
Business optimization must become a "forever" effort. There is debate in the community around establishing dedicated optimization teams. Whether a distinct team or one with matrixed responsibility, prioritizing together with PMO support, communicating to the organization, and delivering continuously relevant optimization is key to the health of the business.
Aligning and re-aligning transparent drivers such as patient engagement, user personalization, system replacement, KPI reporting, and more to specific initiatives and departments should be a continuous exercise.
Aligning visions benefits all stakeholders
Aligning the corporate vision accrues benefits from governance to work team execution. The healthcare enterprise can — and must — evolve more quickly to keep a competitive advantage and improve quality. Building the web of trust requires strengthening connections from the patient to the user to the CFO, and transparency is key.
Achieving such a shared vision enables faster adoption of solutions. Innovation allows organizations to attract and retain talent, improve clinical productivity and enhance reimbursement potential — all of which can lead to a better position in the marketplace. Although creating a competitive advantage through alignment is challenging, organizations that consistently follow best practices can ensure steady progress, happier users and healthier patients.
Jaffer Traish is the Epic Practice Director at Culbert Healthcare Solutions.