Strategic Square Pegs

Now that we have the final rules for incentive payments and meaningful use, we reach a fork in the road. Healthcare leaders who take the time to look up from the day’s checklist of things to accomplish may realize that there are two ways to approach the required implementation of technology.

First is the path of compliance. This strategic approach asks:

  • What is the minimum we must do to get the incentive money and avoid penalties?
  • What hardware and software will get us there?
  • Can our IT department handle it or do we need more people?
  • How can we pay for it?
  • What is the deadline? Can we wait or should we do it now?
  • Etc.

Second is the path of control. This strategic approach asks:

  • What would the ultimate healthcare delivery system look like?
  • How would patients, physicians, nurses, operations, the organization and the community benefit?
  • How long would it take to get there?
  • What kind of information is required to get there?
  • How can we leverage the best qualities of technology to help us get there?
  • Etc.

Many will take the path of compliance, and realize later that despite a technically competent implementation, the organization did not adapt to the technology, and that the expected performance has fallen short. An organization should not adapt to the technology for one simple reason: its limits of performance and innovation are dictated by the technology.

So this is the time to engage the imaginations of everyone from the board to the support staff. Ask: “How could we improve everything?” Through this process each stakeholder will be expressing the value that could be had with the thoughtful implementation of information technology. If you design systems that provide that value, everyone will have something to gain.

The point here is that implementing health information technology is not purely a “technology” initiative. It is an initiative that starts with a vision of where your organization is headed. Yes, this is a big deal, but it is also a huge opportunity to see beyond the requirements of “meaningful use” and mere compliance with the evolving regulatory landscape. Look at meaningful use as a minimum of what you could accomplish with technology, and realize that the HITECH provisions of ARRA are not designed to get you much further than the minimum. By choosing the path of control, you design the process, and then build technology to support it. If your ideal process features round holes, design your technology as a round peg. Otherwise, all the pounding will result in more headaches down the road. Mostly for you.

-Rod Piechowski

Copyright © 2010, Rod Piechowski, Inc., Consulting

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