The Role of a Healthcare IT Consultant
By: Katie Lynch | Chief Operating Officer
What does the title “consultant” mean to you? For some people, a consultant is a guide who advises but remains hands-off when it comes to actual implementation. For others, a consultant is someone who swoops in to save the day. Working as a healthcare IT consultant for the past six years, I have seen the pros and cons of each interpretation.
In my experience, each client – large and small – requires a varying degree of outside expertise to help their internal staff come together to accomplish the task at hand. However, there are several similarities from one project to the next – particularly in the healthcare IT consultant space – that illustrate precisely what a great consultant does for his or her clients.
A healthcare IT consultant is the glue that holds your team and the overarching goals of the project together. If you are implementing a new EHR system, your consultant also serves as the conduit between you and the technology vendor to ensure you get everything you need and are not distracted by all the things you do not need.
It has been my absolute pleasure to work with clients ranging from children’s health clinics to large scale health networks to facilitate improving the
healthcare industry for the betterment of patient care.
Over the many years, my operations team and I at John Lynch & Associates have found that there are specific criteria all effective consultants must embody in order to give our clients the most dedicated, expert attention for optimal outcomes.
What an Effective Consultant Does
An effective healthcare IT consultant is like a painter who sees the entire mural in his mind’s eye before it ever comes to life on a tangible canvas. The ability to see where skills, knowledge, and infrastructure are missing and to fill in those holes with a systematic, orderly process is both an art and a science.
When engaging the support of a healthcare IT consultant, you can expect him or her to do the following:
- Provide Overall Guidance – When embarking on a large-scale healthcare IT project, there is inevitably going to be some discomfort. A skilled consultant recognizes this discomfort and provides leadership support to get your staff comfortable.
- Gather Information – Your healthcare organization is an intricate machine comprised of many moving cogs. A consultant’s job is to gather information from each department and apply granules of knowledge to the larger project to prepare for success and protect against potential risks or failures.
- Provide Competency Training – While your healthcare IT consultant may seem like a walking encyclopedia of detailed knowledge, he also needs to be able to impart that knowledge to your staff in order to empower your organization to operate intelligently after your engagement has ended.
- Perform Constant Evaluation – A healthcare IT project is a constantly evolving entity. Information and circumstances will change along the way and an effective consultant is able to fold those new developments in to curate a comprehensive plan.
Most healthcare organizations do have individuals on staff – whether in the C-Suite, Board, or other leadership roles – who can perform some or all of these tasks. Still, 68 percent of IT projects fail.
There is a certain spark an outside consultant brings to a healthcare IT project that internal teams simply cannot manifest.
Why Hire a Healthcare IT Consultant
Healthcare organizations operate under some of the most heavy loads of demand and responsibility of any industry. Your staff members are committed to caring for individuals and saving lives – as they should be – and may be spread too thin to take on such a large-scale project.
Enlisting the help of a healthcare IT consultant ensures that your staff can continue focusing their efforts where they are needed most while your upgrade is implemented expertly.
If your team is lacking specific knowledge on a particular tool or technology, they likely do not know what they do not know. Bringing an expert consultant in can fill the gaps of knowledge and ensure your project is executed correctly the first time around.
Additionally, expert consultants add a dynamic layer to the way your internal team works together. A consultant helps your team move through “stuck” phases and can shed light on areas in need of improvement that have succumb to the “that’s how we’ve always done it” mentality.
Finally, one of the most valuable assets a consultant brings to the project is the vantage point of a third party. Staff members are often more willing to voice concerns to someone with whom they have no history or emotional ties; therefore enabling the valuable gems of feedback to emerge and benefit the entire organization.
What to Look for in a Healthcare IT Consultant
There are many highly rated consultancy firms out there, yet many healthcare organizations struggle to find the right fit for their unique needs. Following these criteria can help you find the right healthcare IT consultant for your next project:
- Experience – Your consultant should have a proven track record of doing precisely what you are looking for assistance with.
- Expertise – While some industries may benefit from having a Jack of All Trades on speed dial, when it comes to executing an effective EHR implementation or other large healthcare IT projects, you need an expert rather than a generalist.
- Attention – Bigger is not always better. We often hear from our clients who have worked with large firms in the past that felt neglected during that experience. No one likes to feel like just another number on the firm’s client roster. Find people who will be invested in your success.
- Communication – When there are so many moving pieces to consider, it is better to over-communicate than to risk something being lost in the shuffle. Your consultant should always err on the side of caution by making directives explicit.
- Shared Values – Healthcare organizations uphold specific values and ideals. To ensure your service and promises are never interrupted, choose a consultant who you can trust to embody the same values of your organization such as strong character, good morale, reliability in challenging circumstances, and integrity.
- Dedicated Educator – An effective consultant knows when and how to ask the right questions of the right people while also educating and guiding your team for the unknowns. Supporting your organization through a successful IT project requires the consultant to be open to educating him/herself on your organization and to be willing to educate your staff as needed.
Are you considering hiring a healthcare IT consultant for your next project? Let us know what questions you have in the comments below or reach out to us for expert advice.