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Author: Elyse, PMP, CPHIMS
August 15, 2010

Simply put, it is time for Healthcare to catch up with technology. Healthcare IT has been the Cinderella in waiting way too long, and folks we have a mess on our hands. Poor Leadership and Heroic Getter Done Right Now Attitudes have left behind an infrastructure and portfolio filled with technical debt. Often invoking clerical automation equates to a systems analyst daily tweaking of something for at least an hour. It appears to be automated, but the daily work has moved to another higher paid salaried individual just not in that department. However, the discussion with the Healthcare IT Leadership continues to not "rock the boat."

"The significant problems we face cannot be solved by the same level of thinking that created them" - Albert Einstein

In order for IT to have the ability to augment health system strategy, you need to have a good basic management and understanding of your IT capabilities. Let's take a deeper look at the key practices needed in an Healthcare IT Shop and review the difference between average and great IT Shops.

Healthcare IT Practices

There are six key practices which must be deployed to improve your IT department and a couple of questions to understand your starting point.
  • Applying Portfolio, Program and Project Management - Portfolio, Program, and Project management is more than just PMI guidelines and some templates. Are programs driven? Is the portfolio the right mix of innovations, strategic efforts, and tactical goals? Do you have a repeatable process for demand management? Is the work intake and prioritization process known? (and not just for Joint Commission Audits) Is there a viable project pipeline? Are project cancellation criteria well know?
  • Developing Environments for Collaboration - Let's be frank 1980 cubeville is not a good collaboration environment. However designing for collaboration doesn't stop there... What tools and practices to increase virtual teaming? Do you have development sessions on the hard and softer skills like facilitation? Is there a way to whiteboard and digitize brainstorming?. Do you celebrate the differences or ostracize upon the differences? Is an environment devoted to teaming and collaboration or clicks? Is the spirit of IT award given to an individual or a team?
  • Gleaming Wisdom from Data - Do you have timekeeping for the IT department? Okay what's your mix of project work to maintenance work? Do you assume a new employee can just put 40 hours to projects? Which Application had the most changes? Where they done one at a time or in a release? Which System had the most incidents? Why? Do you know these items? Is there a process in place to report, group and bubble up in a useful format to IT leadership?
  • Earning Trust and Customer Loyalty - Do you have focus groups? Are IT liaisons or business relationship managers in place? Do your customers for a department have a single point of contact? Is the IT liaison empowered? Are your yearly performance goals tied to the health system? Do you have IT department rounding in the hospital? Do you have desktop support around the clock for the clinicians? How are you improving service this year?
  • Increasing Agility while Keeping Strategy on Point - Are you brought down by technical debt? Are you at least 2 release behind on critical apps? How about email? How many Novell Trees and AD Domains do you have? How would deploy a critical patch for which you couldn't use SUS? Do you have a good infrastructure base which is able to be nimble and agile enough to grow? Or do you just add yet another bucket to the tree? Is your infrastructure and application architecture brittle? When changes are added, do they always work as designed? Does everyone know what the strategic goals are? Are changes and releases evaluated against achieving the strategic goal? Are you really just managing a spaghetti monster?
  • Being Aware of the Competition - What is the hospital down the street implementing? Do you have a couple of individuals focused to research new technologies? Is there an emerging technology evaluation process? Have smart phones taken you by surprise? Do you check out other industries which are either manufacturing or service based? Have you outsourced the management of your critical applications? How about having a himss analytics comparison done between you and your competitors? What's there FTE to bed ratio? What's yours?

The Take Away

There is spin and you can spend your career spinning and looking for your best opportunity. Unfortunately more than a few IT Leaders do. However if you want to reach greatness, take a look at growing and developing these practices. Look at what can be improved, take the accountability to improve, and instill the practices within your team. Understand the need to show the show, but have a great show to bring to stage.

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1 Comments to “Searching for Healthcare IT Leadership - Uncovering Your IT Practices”

I am really impressed on how you point out the 6 key practice. specially when it comes on how to gain loyal from costumers and being aware of competitors...This two happens to be the most important thing in a business and I am on my way to check your other post "How to Avoid Project Failure" it sounds interesting too..


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