When Everything is on Fire: Part 2 – The 3 Critical Strategies to a Successful Healthcare IT Project
By Dustin Miranda | March 19, 2019
Last week, I discussed the most critical factors to consider when embarking on a healthcare IT project. If I made it sound like a grave, dire situation, good – it is. Healthcare IT projects are massive endeavors that require commitment, fortitude, and dedication because, ultimately, they impact the lives of the patients we serve.
However, I am here to break down the mystery of how to run a successful healthcare IT project. Just because something is critically important does not mean it has to be an overwhelming burden.
Rather, with the right priorities, framework, and approach, you and your healthcare organization can enjoy a prolific implementation.
There are three phases that comprise the foundation of a successful healthcare IT project: measuring success, planning, and communication.
Measuring the Success of Your Healthcare IT Project
Admittedly, most healthcare organizations make the mistake of measuring the success of their project once it is complete. Yet, how are you expected to measure something without a starting point?
The very first thing that an organization must do is to agree upon the expected outcomes of a project and how you will determine whether or not those outcomes have been achieved. These yardsticks of measurements are referred to as key performance indicators – or KPIs.
By collecting your baseline KPIs from the start, you will be able to check in with your goals along the course of you healthcare IT project. Once it is complete, you will be able to measure its success.
Begin by collecting your baseline measurements of all KPIs pertinent to your organization’s goals. KPIs should be logically tied to the desired outcomes. Understandably, these can be difficult to identify. If you need help deciding which KPIs you should track and how to measure them, let us know.
Planning Your Healthcare IT Project
Most organizations know they need to plan out their healthcare IT project. However, the mistake most make is limiting the planning and strategy sessions to the board and executives.
The leadership team needs to be involved, yes; however, so too do the people who have their boots on the ground doing the daily work. These individuals are intimately familiar with the systems, challenges, and patients.
Before launching a healthcare IT project, conduct scoping sessions. Scoping sessions are collaboration meetings that allow you to collect valuable information from:
- Board members
- Team leads
- Department managers
- Project managers
It is during this time that we almost always see that key individuals most affected by the project have different definitions of success and a differing vision for the project. If this dichotomy is not identified early on, the entire project implementation will be a constant tug of war battle – eventually someone’s face will be in the mud.
Collective Buy-In & Commitment
The scoping sessions also increase buy-in and provides space to set expectations. Implementing such a large-scale project is more of a mindset adjustment than anything else.
If you do not go through the steps of analyzing the psychological landscape of your leadership and staff, you will fail to come together in a unified vision of what success should look like and what relief it will provide the organization. Failing to do so will set your organization up for massive disappointment throughout.
When I consult with a new healthcare organization, my goal is always to empower each individual. In order to do this, we need to get clear on how we will measure success so that we know when to celebrate and acknowledge the hard work of our team members.
While many organizations are afraid of “wasting time” on so many discussions at the beginning of the project, those who skip this pivotal process suffer frustration, missed opportunities, failed goals, and disruptions of service, business, and client care in the long run.
Additionally, showing your ground-level employees that you appreciate their insight and experience goes a long way toward strengthening your company culture, improving employee satisfaction, and establishing an environment in which patients can thrive.
Even though a medical assistant receives a relatively low pay rate compared to other medical professionals, this individual is full of valuable insight and experience. Ensuring he or she feels rightly valued in the process can go a long way toward ensuring the success of your project.
The Nitty Gritty
Next, we must establish realistic budgets and timelines. This is the planning phase that most organizations are familiar with. However, a critical misstep is, once again, failing to include the right people in the discussion.
The individuals who will be executing on a specific timeline will have a very different frame of reference than those who are managing the finances on the project.
Additionally, one of the biggest ways you can prevent future fires from flaring up is to create a plan B for your timeline and budget. To do so, I conduct risk identification workshops with our clients. During these workshops, every department is represented in order to get a complete picture of the potential hazards and hurdles the project faces.
At this stage, there may be topics that are uncomfortable to discuss, such as potentially needing a different level of insurance based on the projected end result of the implementation. The best way to tackle these challenges is to talk about them, despite the discomfort. Your future self, team, and patients will thank you.
Communicating About Your Healthcare IT Project
When it comes to communicating about such a large-scale project, a common reaction is, “Where do I begin?” Acknowledging feelings of overwhelm is the first step to breaking down the barriers of communication.
As such, a good rule to live by to ensure the success of your healthcare IT project implementation is: Over-communication is effective communication.
Additionally, communication does not just happen in a conference room. For example, if you include one representative from each department of a 1,000-person healthcare organization, you will likely end up with about 50 individuals. However, that still leaves 950 individuals with valuable ideas and experiences who have no way to give their input.
Setting up automated methods of communication like feedback forms is a commonly overlooked tool that can take an IT project from “OK” to “wildly successful.” Feedback from physicians, administrators, and patients can illuminate issues that the project management team were unaware of and can enrich your entire project.
While many organizations are afraid to ask for feedback for fear of receiving a barrage of negativity, appearing weak, or experiencing a longer project timeline, the bigger fear should be of the inevitable failure due to not addressing long-standing issues.
Plan Together, Succeed Together
These three critical strategies can make an astonishing impact on the success of your healthcare IT project. Measuring success, planning, and building effective communication channels ensures that you are able to stay on track together.
Conversely, by assuming everyone is on the same page, you risk losing what it means to be a part of the organization.
If you missed part 1 of this 3-part series, check it out here. Then stay tuned for part 3: When Everything Is on Fire: How High-Performing Organizations Approach a Healthcare IT Project.