May 17, 2012
Years ago most IT departments’ plans included streamlining data, optimizing work flow and overseeing staffing. The new approach is to make healthcare IT more patient friendly.
In the words of Sue Sutton, president and CEO of Tower Strategies, “The future of IT planning should focus on an inclusive approach — all while optimizing workflows, playing up social media and keeping staff needs in mind.”
This is certainly a valid — if not lofty – ideal. But the question for organizations is how to go about making IT more patient-centered while still focusing on the organization’s needs.
Sutton addresses this in her approach to improving IT plans.
Think about the patient experience.
Sutton encourages the healthcare provider or organization to look at the process through the perspective of the patient.
According to Sutton, “many organizations haven’t thought through how information technology can support and improve the patient experience. It’s crucial to consider what can be done electronically to support patients, whether they’re in the facility or not.” She suggests that organizations employ patient focus groups to determine what patients want from the organizations’ IT. She believes many IT departments feel their customers are the staff and healthcare providers.
Consider the best practices of other industries
Sutton points out that healthcare can utilize some of the best practices from other industries. This includes more personalized care information. She gives the example of the luxury hotel chain Ritz Carlton and how it uses a customer’s name 11 times before reaching the room. She also mentions that patient accounts should be updated frequently so that patients have better access to their information and all necessary treatment plans.
Don’t forget the staff
Healthcare IT not only needs to be more patient focused, it also needs to include optimum workflow is part of the plan. The staff needs to be able to attend to patients without being tied to a computer. IT needs to make sure that work flow is at its optimum so that patients can be seen in a timely fashion.
Sutton suggests IT departments change to an integrated model in which IT works with the organization to allow for not only a consistent plan but also support for the IT plan from all parts of the organization.
Sutton concludes, “So to wrap all of this up, we start talking about staff and patient experience and improving the workflow, marketing, operations and clinical teams need to be at the table. It’s time for the rest of the organization to be engaged and support IT. People need to be thinking about the way IT planning has been done in the past — which was to focus on their own issues — and what needs to happen now. This is the future of IT planning.”