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8 tips for determining where to invest in health IT

With so many competing priorities at healthcare organizations, it’s critical to choose health IT investments wisely. At a recent Becker’s conference, I participated on a panel with CIOs and other physician executives who shared their most successful strategies for determining where to invest in health IT, including these eight tips:

1. Align with the rest of the organization

When asked for their top strategies, every panelist discussed aligning with overall strategic plans and goals. Health IT decisions must work in concert with the organization’s mission and vision, as well as current and future facility plans, regulatory requirements, and payment models.

2. Start with an honest self-assessment

What’s working well? What challenges are you trying to solve? Before focusing on the “how” in resolving workflow and change management problems, focus on the “why and what.” Get input from clinicians and patients for a more complete perspective.

3. Address clinician burnout

Organizations need to make sure systems are easier to use, that they’re well connected, and that people are using them in a way that’s most efficient. Every health IT decision should carefully consider the impact on users and aim to reduce clinician burden.

4. Solve for interoperability

A recent Deloitte survey asked physicians: To deliver better care, what changes would you make to your electronic health record (EHR)? The top response (62%) was to make the EHR system more interoperable. Clinicians are consistently calling for a full view of patient information, and health IT decisions should support that.

5. Develop solid governance

Panelists shared several examples of how having a strong governance structure helps to better prioritize a long list of health IT requests. Good governance brings together multiple disciplines to agree what health IT issues your organization is going to tackle, and in what order.

6. Take a hard look at legacy systems

An audience member asked about strategies for managing and integrating legacy systems. There’s no easy answer to this question, but I strongly advise a thorough review of how they’re being used before integrating or replacing. Bring to light all the ways people in your organization may be using them before making any decisions.

7. Invest for the long-term

One of my fellow panelists recalled an organization that made several grant-based investments in health IT solutions, which tended to be less expensive to fit short-term requirements. As grants ended, these systems were often forgotten, leaving the organization with hundreds of small-scale solutions. The organization has since come to understand the need to make long-term health IT investments for a more sustainable infrastructure.

8. Keep the patient at the center

This point is probably most important; when organizations put patients first, the rest tends to fall into place.

Our moderator closed with a question: What do you really enjoy about what you do? For me, this is an exciting time to be in health IT. We have reached the point where we are finally able to take advantage of the EHR, and the rich data it contains, to see return on our investments. All the information can help clinicians do what we know works, close care gaps and deliver better care.

Editor’s Note: To read more from Dr. Blackman’s panel session at Becker’s Hospital Review’s 4th Annual Health IT + Revenue Cycle conference in Chicago Sept. 21, read Investing in IT: 4 big obstacles leaders face.

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