Guest post by Richard Kedziora, CIO/COO of Estenda Solutions, Inc.
Today’s healthcare system is becoming progressively technology dependent. With the need to meet meaningful use requirements, convert to ICD-10, or work with health information exchanges (HIEs), healthcare organizations must have effective IT solutions, but building and implementing one successfully is not an easy task.
Below is a list of 10 fundamentals of successful healthcare IT project implementation, management and execution that will help your organization, whether clinical, business, or IT, design and develop a functional, patient-centered IT solution that fits its needs. It’s easy to let the highly technical elements overwhelm healthcare IT projects, but following these guidelines will help your team focus on the delivery of care.
Develop your plan with a detailed project introduction, clear scope, deliverables, schedules, project methodology, roles and responsibilities, and change management procedures. Consult ISO 9001/13485/62385 for information on best practices for quality management systems.
Healthcare IT projects involve a lot of moving parts and many people from different professional backgrounds. Setting clear expectations that every project member agrees on will ensure a project runs efficiently. Meeting regulatory requirements, including meaningful use goals, is a crucial aspect of carrying out a successful healthcare IT project.
Set goals and objectives
Early on in the process, involve key players – clinical, business, and IT – in determining the goals and objectives of the project. Ask your team to agree on a definition of success. Depending on the project, involving patients may be valuable. A patient portal project is an ideal situation to solicit feedback from patients.
Adapt to changing objectives
Implement effective change management procedures to your plan to ensure that the project meets the goals on-time and within budget.
Change management is important in every project, in every industry. It is particularly important at this time in healthcare. Healthcare reform and government mandates, such as Meaningful Use, are ever-changing. Recently, the deadline for compliance with ICD10 was pushed back a year. If your organization was close to a switchover, ask your project team how those changing objectives impact your plan and your goals.
Staff your project appropriately
Choose the developers, testers, and analysts whose skills and effectiveness meet the needs of the project. Ability to focus on the project goals, work with a team, and adapt to change should be among the mandatory qualities of each project team member.
Staffing the project appropriately means appointing the best people from all areas of the project spectrum, including end-users and clinical informatics specialists.
It’s easy to get caught up in your own personal thoughts and tasks, but communication is the key to every project’s success. Team members must work as partners.
Formulate a communication strategy that includes all parties affected by the project. This may include clinical staff, business professionals, IT staff, and more often than not, the patient population. Hospitals are increasingly focusing on patient satisfaction, which means it’s necessary to include patients in the planning, designing, and outcomes of new projects.
Learn from the past
Use your past project experience as a learning tool. Look back at completed projects and ask yourself questions. What worked well? What could we have done differently? Search for the answers and implement them into your current processes.
Healthcare is moving through an unprecedented expansion in its use of Information Technology. Look not only to your own past experiences, but to those of other industries, to learn from them, as well.
Identify the possible risks, the events that could cause them, the probability that they will happen, and the potential impact they could have on the project. Assess this information and develop strategies to manage it.
Managing risk is arguably one of the most important aspects of a successful project. When discussing managing risks in projects, often scope, schedule, and budget are the main topics. Since healthcare IT projects often impact patients’ lives and well-being, the project team must consider HIPAA regulations, patient safety, and security in general.
Implement a quality documentation system that every project team member is trained on. Team members and customers should know exactly why, when, and how each part of the project is being developed.
Frequently healthcare and medical software development, particularly if overseen by the FDA, requires a higher level of rigor. Be sure the project vendor has the proper qualifications and uses a software development methodology appropriate to the projects’ needs.
Verify the overall results of the project and that its functionality performs at the expected level. Testing ensures that team members have done their job successfully and that customers can trust the product their being given.
Include technical, functional, security and clinical users as part of the test team. Not only do you want to make sure the software functions well, as designed, and is secure, you have to make sure it makes sense clinically and will not lead to patient harm.
In the practice of medicine, it is very common to discuss medical cases as a means of a learning exercise to determine how to perform better. The same ideology and devotion should be applied to health IT projects. What did we do well? What could we have done better? Did we make the right decisions? How do we do better next time?
Create an open forum where trust is established and project participants feel safe in expressing their opinions. The focus of the evaluation process should be to collaborate in determining the dos and don’ts for the next project.