As healthcare organizations become more technology dependent, many still struggle with implementing their IT systems successfully. In fact, many notoriously postpone initiating large-scale projects due to the vast scope despite knowing how critical upgrades are to an organization’s success.
In our 2-part series of Your Guide to a Successful Healthcare IT Project, we discuss the key factors that drive a successful IT project; how to develop and execute your project plan; and the rippling effects of IT project failures.
Large healthcare projects in general are daunting and successful implementation is not an easy task. To achieve this momentous goal, you need an expert project manager that will ensure the project details are not overlooked while keeping the high-level end goal in sight, delivered on time, and within budget. Project managers should also:
At John Lynch & Associates we take a “hands-on” approach to project management and pro-actively address your questions regarding project planning and how to choose teams and tools specific to your project. Consider partnering with one of our seasoned project managers to plan, implement, manage, and execute your critical healthcare projects on time and within budget.
Every successful implementation needs a team of people that see the IT project through from inception to completion. Staffing the project appropriately means appointing the best people from all areas of the project spectrum including end-users. A properly staffed team includes members with a variety of expertise that are:
Take the time to hand-pick your team and be sure to bring them on board early in the planning process and encourage their feedback. Make them feel invested in the project and provide them with the right incentives to fully participate.
Healthcare IT projects involve several people from different professional backgrounds and levels of experience within the organization. Due to this complexity, scoping sessions are excellent opportunities to collect valuable information from key individuals while gaining insight into their work culture and practices.
Briefly, a scoping session is a meeting involving key stakeholders to discuss the goals and objectives of the project. Scoping sessions also provide the space to set clear expectations and a unified vision of what success should look like. The outcomes of the scoping sessions will result in the development of a project plan.
Every project has an end goal or deliverable. Whether you are launching a new practice or implementing a new electronic health record (EHR), knowing what the ultimate end goal will look like is imperative.
Be sure you understand the project requirements and spell them all out in detail. Keep your goals at the forefront while you execute the project. They will remind you what is important and what is peripheral. Make sure every stakeholder is reminded of the end goal and has a clear understanding of the steps you laid out all the way to the finish line.
You should keep an open mind that major changes along the way are not always best and will introduce risk to the project. If anything, discuss the project thoroughly at the time of goal setting to make sure everyone is on board and agrees with the plan of action.
Most healthcare organizations make the mistake of measuring the success of their project only after 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 those outcomes have been achieved.
Project measurements are referred to as key performance indicators – or KPIs. Begin by collecting your baseline measurements of all KPIs pertinent to your organization’s goals. Logically, your KPIs should be tied to the desired outcomes.
By collecting your baseline KPIs from the start, you will be able to check in with your goals along the course of your healthcare IT project. Once completed, you will be able to measure your project’s overall success.
Milestones illuminate key moments throughout your project roadmap. They break a project down into smaller manageable pieces and provide the team with a sense of accomplishment along the way.
For each of your project milestones, clearly identify each task, and determine who, when, and how it will get completed. Identify reasonable deadlines knowing there might be hiccups. Plan for reasonable delays. Your project manager must be pro-active in tracking all milestones and update timelines wherever necessary.
Managing risk is one of the most crucial elements of a successful project. Evaluate the pros and cons, opportunities and challenges, and strengths and weaknesses of each step and identify potential risks. Address questions such as:
Establish realistic budgets and timelines. This is the planning phase that most organizations are familiar with. However, a critical misstep is failing to include the right people in the discussion. For example, the individuals who will be executing on a specific timeline will have a vastly different frame of reference than those who are managing the finances on the project.
Additionally, conduct risk identification workshops within your organization. During these workshops, every department is represented to get a complete picture of the potential hurdles the project faces.
To prevent an IT project failure, you must identify and anticipate all the potential problems your organization could face. Using this information, develop a Plan B to mitigate these risks to prevent disaster down the line.
Change management is important in every project, across every industry, particularly in healthcare. With healthcare reform and government mandates constantly changing, projects should have flexibility to adapt without impacting the bottom line. It is important to implement an effective change management strategy at the beginning of the project to ensure all goals are met on time and within budget. Read more on proven change management strategies here.
Project managers and team members need to understand the importance of when and how to effectively communicate with each level of the organization throughout the project’s lifecycle. This ensures that your team is well-equipped to provide the clear and consistent messaging necessary for the success of your IT project.
Your communication strategy includes go-to people for a variety of scenarios. Decide the chain of command system for the project and, for every goal, spell out critical personnel and the modalities of communication: when, where, and how. Use the same standards of communication you would use in a patient-provider relationship, communicate often, in a concise manner, and be sure you follow the communication strategy your team spelled out at the very beginning.
Your communication strategy also considerably reduces the amount of time and effort traditional project teams spend emailing back and forth seeking clarity on a particular component of a project.
Additionally, you can include automated methods of communication like feedback forms in your strategy. Feedback forms provide the opportunity for physicians, administrators, and patients to bring forth issues that the project management team were unaware of and will benefit your 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.
Stay tuned for Part II of our 2-part series where we discuss how to develop and execute your project plan and the rippling effects of IT project failures.
In the meantime, if you are preparing to embark on a small or large healthcare IT project, connect with our team at 623.980.8018 or by email at email@example.com
In this featured case study, our project managers partnered with two hospitals and ambulatory practices to develop and deliver a Request for Information (RFI) to prospective vendors, provide guidance during system selection, and deploy project management services throughout each phase of their project.
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