In the very early days of my career, I was recruited to fill a Director of Telehealth position and many of the deciding factors on investing in a health it platform were already decided. There were several lessons learned from this experience.
The hospital’s health it decisions were made by a committee comprised of Vice-Presidents, Senior Administrators, Chief Information Officer, Chief Medical Information Officer and about 10 or more information technology staff from the hospital’s IT department. Very early, a Telehealth Executive Committee was formed to gather all of these people to review the technology platforms by the many IT vendors that had the latest and greatest cool technology. It was putting the cart before the horse.
Once a decision was made on what technology the health system was going to invest, install and put into production, a Telehealth Strategic Business Plan was created. At that point, it was attempted to gain 100 percent agreement by all of the high level, C-Suite executives. The process was backwards and did not include the input of the care team that would be using the solution on a regular basis.
For hospitals and organizations looking to implement health it solutions today, I would strongly urge a different approach. Here are five steps to consider when preparing to invest in health it:
Create a plan. Creating a committee is not a bad idea. And while the executive staff is necessary, it is also critical to include physicians, nurses and clinical leads to participate in this business plan process. Together, the committee should develop the clinical use cases where a health it program could add value. Once the use cases for a health it program are well defined and agreed upon by clinical and administrative leadership, the financial team will need to validate that the investment will be beneficial to the health system and a breakeven time period clearly identified.
Take inventory. Once a plan is in place, its time to take inventory of what you already have to make the most of your investment. Take stock of all current video teleconferencing equipment, service level agreements and support lifecycle of the hardware. If a current platform investment could provide value to a health it program, the program should be able to leverage the technology platform. If the IT group has invested top dollars in a Unified Communication platform for audio, video, chat and document sharing technology – see if it can be leveraged for the teleheath program. Why not? The finance staff will be your best friends if you can do more with less spend.
Evaluate technology needs. If current available technology is inadequate or does not meet all of the needs in the business plan, a longer technology evaluation plan is needed. During this process, vendor evaluations will occur. Do your research on all health it vendors and their technology. Develop vendor “bake offs” or demo days to test the products and make a decision on the best vendor for your organization.
Decide on a technology model. Once a vendor and a technology has been selected, several decisions will need to be made: Will you purchase the hardware and support it internally or will you purchase a “software-as-service” model in which a customer is only paying for the technology?
Once the purchase or SaaS model has been decided, you will have another decision to either host all of the technology onsite within the data center or to co-locate the technology at a vendor’s data center in the “cloud.” The on-premise vs. cloud debate poses some major risk and privacy questions to a health it program that I will discuss in a future post.
Launch a pilot program. I would recommend that several clinical use cases are selected from the strategic business plan in order to organize a pilot or two around them. These pilots will provide some feedback to the Telehealth Executive Committee, as well as the financial staff, that the health system is making the most of their clinical and technical investments.
Typically, one or two pilots are created to test out the technology and work out the kinks in the hardware or network but proceed with caution. Many pilots never turn into successful programs. To avoid this, make sure to set goals and a timetable with a specific start and end dates. You should also survey the clinicians, physicians, nurses and especially the patients to get their feedback on the health it program. With these survey responses, the health it champions of the program can fix the problems, address the negativity and attempt to grow the adoption of health it.