Organizational Transparency: Introduce Your IT Team to the Business Users

If you thought siloed data was a problem in healthcare, well you’re right. There are tremendous opportunities to improve this fundamental problem in OR’s, ER’s, and units in hospitals of all shapes and sizes. A majority of healthcare CIO’s agreed as well, identifying it as the Top Tech trend on their radar for 2010. But more and more large healthcare organizations are realizing it’s not just the disparate data scattered across the technical landscape that’s causing headaches, its’ siloed departments as well. “Dr. Smith, meet Ryan the head of clinical decision support.”

I have personally been a part of those awkward conversations, which as a consultant, are never fun. That is, when you are engaged with a client and you become the person that introduces a clinician (physician or surgeon or charge nurse) from the business side, to their counterpart [within the same organization] on the IT side (Manager of Data Warehouse, Director of Clinical Decision Support). The first thing that enters my mind (and I hope theirs) is, “how have you two not met before today?” Unfortunately, these continue to happen and with higher frequency than anyone would like to admit.

The role of Healthcare CIO has changed, the qualifications for a successful CIO now demand a strong understanding of the business in which they operate. Ben Williams, CIO of Catholic Healthcare West and its 42-hospital enterprise, said it best, “there is a greater demand on CIOs to be business leaders and innovators and know the business and know the challenges and parameters.” One way for organizations to improve this cross functional understanding and ensure coordination between business and technical leaders is to have their integration embedded in the guiding principles of enterprise data governance.  The demand for clinical analysts that can bridge this gap has never been higher; aside from these types of resources, the people on the front lines who have proprietary knowledge of clinical workflows, applications, and technical infrastructure must be challenged to expand their expertise outside of their direct responsibilities, regardless of the side of the organization they currently sit [comfortably]. 

The Many Costs Associated with Lack of Transparency

“So what if Bill from IT doesn’t know David, the Director of the OR! I run a huge organization, not everyone knows everyone else.” Wrong attitude; let me quantify the costs associated with this lack of resource coordination:

  • Lack of both clinical and technical requirements creates project re-work that misses deadlines, lengthens implementations and extends “Go-Lives”.
  • User dissatisfaction with applications, user interfaces, and system capabilities from inconsistent education – pockets of expertise littered amongst a sea of novice users underutilizing the apps
  • Distrust of technical/clinical counterparts and the data/information within the systems
    • Dr: “Why can’t it just work? I want IT to be like the lights; if I turn it on it should work.”
    • IT: “Why can’t the users just learn how to use the system correctly?”
    • Failed projects leaves long-term impact on users/staff involved
    • Diminished Return on Investment

How will you ensure your clinical decision support staff understands the clinical requirements for near-real time reporting of data related to quality, performance, and compliance? How can you ensure your clinical staff are proficient in the use of your most recent system implementation in the OR, floor unit, or ED? What argument must you articulate to the naysayers and critics amongst your anesthesiologists, surgeons and nurses when they ask, “Why do we have to move from paper to automation?” If the answer is not consistent from both sides of the house, business and IT, the message is lost and the battle to win over your end users becomes harder and harder to win as each new initiative is rolled out.

And we know one thing, paper in healthcare is like pleather, shoulder pads and mullets in fashion…if it makes a comeback we’re all in serious trouble.