3 Keys to Effective Use of IT in Healthcare
Symptoms alert us to problems within our bodies that may cause us great distress. To improve our condition, we often rush to relieve our ailment by focusing on treating the symptoms rather than diagnosing the underlying problem. The same is true with many of the issues we face within the healthcare industry. Often healthcare leaders incorrectly link the cause of symptoms, like physician burnout or poor operating performance, with effective use of IT systems as the failure of outcomes when there are other factors at play.
As healthcare advisors, we focus on finding the root cause of the problem at hand. Just like a clinician, we start by asking many questions – How are you leveraging your investments in technology? Why are your IT systems not allowing the organization to achieve the desired outcomes? How does data flow into, across and out of your organization? How do you use insights from your data to guide the decisions you make? In our experience, in addition to a thorough understanding of the people and processes that drive initiatives, there are some IT best practices to lay the foundation for improvement across a complex clinically integrated network.
1. Are you using the maximum functionality of the core system?
How many applications are being used that serve the same function? Within those applications, how much of the functionality has been implemented? Who’s actually using the desired functionality as opposed to their own approach? We have found that many of the organizations we advise are using only a fraction of the available functionality within the applications. In many cases, independent best of breed systems are purchased to solve problems as they arise. While that approach may provide temporary relief, over time, the misalignment of systems leads to inefficiency, increased work effort, and decreased capacity. In turn, the result is a decrease in the operating margin for the organization.
Maximizing the functionality of enterprise applications such as Epic and Cerner allow an organization to better link the productivity of departments and in turn, allow for much more cohesive collaboration across the entire organization. When a hospital system is operating on one EHR and ERP platform, it gives them the ability to reach many audiences across multiple applications and can allow a health system to create economies of scale while advancing state of the art technical capabilities
2. Advanced Interoperability
The more information you consume, the better decisions you can make. By focusing on interoperability as a system-wide strategic initiative, you can surface more data to decision-makers so they can make smarter choices. We advise our clients to strive for semantic interoperability. This highest level of interoperability supports the electronic exchange of data structures and data definitions so that there is no ambiguity of the shared information. For example, clinicians treating patients with COPD that use data from disparate sources, such as social determinates, exposome data and health records from an outside network, can make a more informed decision at the point of care to improve the likelihood of advancing treatment outcomes and reduce health care expenditures. Technology that enables advanced interoperability will benefit every department within the health system moving forward.
3. Analytics Maturity
In today’s data-rich environment, those health systems with the ability to measure outcomes and utilize data at a sophisticated level achieve a competitive advantage. If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it. Analytics serve to improve many facets of a healthcare business beyond clinical decision support, such as the operational and financial performance of the organization. In addition to advanced interoperability, health systems must have the capability to curate and govern their data to ensure that the data is accurate, timely and relevant. Clinically Integrated Networks that prioritize analytics maturity and use insights to guide their strategic and tactical plans deliver value-based care to their consumers while maintaining top financial performance.
This article originally appeared in Optimum Healthcare IT’s Blog.