By Shawn Tester, CEO at Northern Counties Health Care
We all know that the healthcare industry is undergoing an intense season of change, largely in response to an evolving political and regulatory climate. Operating a healthcare business is becoming increasingly complex, with mounting pressure to improve operational processes and maintain profitability despite ever narrowing margins. Fortunately, there are seemingly endless health and information management technologies available to help organizations improve operational efficiency.
So finding those efficiencies and improving those processes should be easy, right? Not so fast. While selecting the right technology for your organization is an important step, improving processes and achieving ROI is dependent on several factors. The successful implementation of any new application requires the marriage of process, people and technology.
The following are considerations healthcare organizations should take when adopting new technology:
Communicate the goals and benefits.
To do this, you have to communicate the vision in a way that matters to people. You want people in the organization to believe the vision and to pass it on to others. Properly communicate why the implementation is better than the status quo and how it will free up employees’ time to do more value-added work, improve bandwidth and decrease frustration.
Don't tell me we can't do something because it's too expensive, show me the ROI and why it's important. If your team knows the technology is a true solution — and that they’ll be trained to use it properly from the get-go — they’ll focus on the benefits, not on the growing pains associated with change.
Do some internal public relations around the new tool, tying its benefits to specific job functions and needs. Perceived value has been tied to successful adoption, so be specific about the wins of your new system. For example, explain how new automated indexing will ensure 100-percent accurate filing of clinical and financial documents, will streamline workflows and free up the staff’s time for other, higher-value work. Be clear about exactly what benefits the new technology offers and how they will see them in their day-to-day work so employees can make the connection.
Achieve buy-in of stakeholders.
Ensure that those who are actually using the technology or whose jobs will be impacted are part of the process from the very beginning, including the selection of the vendor. This will help them take ownership of the new process.
My observation, at least in primary care, is that our staff is typically overworked. Involve them in selecting and implementing the product — so they understand how it makes their lives easier — and the adoption will be much more successful.
We were spending lots of staff hours with tedious, manual entries. InDxLogic reversed that trend and eliminated the need for hiring additional staff to keep up. In addition, InDxLogic frees up our existing staff’s time so they can provide higher value-added services for our practices and our providers.
Prove that leadership comes from the top.
Implementations are often under-resourced, so identify an executive champion who can support it and allocate resources. This is an important part of the process and ensures you have proper support for technology implementations. The executive champion should gather resources, create a strategy and keep the process moving. He or she must manage points of contention and chart the course to full acceptance.
The champion needs to have a clear understanding of the business imperatives and how the technology works to support these objectives. He or she keeps the whole effort focused on the business goal.
The executive champion should be able to effectively influence the key people in the organization’s power structure. This means arranging for project funding, as well as convincing key people in an organization whose approval and support are necessary for the program to succeed.
In this era of social networking, we know that few things are more influential than the people around us. Select a staff member to champion your new technology implementation. Identify a team member with the potential to own the project and empower him or her to take a leadership role in the adoption process.
It doesn’t necessarily have to be someone with a technology background, but this person needs to have project management skills and be willing to follow through. Look for positive, tech-savvy employees who can remain upbeat, even during trying times, and who have the patience to answer questions and spread the gospel about your new resource. An employee is much quicker to get on board, when his or her peers have already bought into something.
Many times, organizations think that they are just going to buy a piece of software and then their problem is solved. In reality, the software is only a part of a larger solution that involves the education, adapting it to your environment, getting the buy-in. That's really the hard work that's required to achieve an ROI on any project.
And finally, finding a company to partner with on the technology — one that will be actively involved in implementation — is key. The company must understand that their product is going to live or die based on the success of the implementation and take the time to ensure the implementation is successful.