Healthcare Information Technology (HIT) Strategic Planning

Early adaptors of the Electronic Health Records (EHR) process are discovering that they have to prepare for a wave of change, which will impact the entire organization, long before they bring in an IT specialist. The Health Information Technology (HIT) component of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) was signed into law on February 17, 2009. A specific goal of Medicare and Medicaid HIT provisions is to provide incentives for the adoption of certified Electronic Health Records (EHR).

Over a five year period health care providers can be reimbursed a total of $44,000 if they show meaningful use of Electronic Health Record (EHR) technology. Eventually, by year 2015, there will be penalties for medical professionals that do not adopt EHR.

To maximize HIT payments, providers must begin to submit for incentive payments during the 2011 and 2012 calendar year. This is good news for organizations that have been contemplating an ERH process, as they can benefit from these lessons learned from others that have jumped in and implemented the process through trial and error.

Consistent with any major change management process, it is essential that the leadership be aware of the disruptive effect the EHR process will have throughout the organization.

The strategic planning processes provides a format for developing specific strategies, converting those strategies into a business planning process and establish measurable and attainable organizational goals. It is a process that not only determines where an organization wants and needs to go, but also, how it is going to get there

HIT Strategic Planning:

Health Information Technology (HIT) payments are spread out over a 5 year period. This is the time to seize the opportunity to develop a five-year strategic plan with short and long term goals that coincide with the HIT planning process and the organizations mission.

At the start of the process, creating and communicating a compelling vision is the powerful directional force. The vision sets the strategy for the next 5 to 10 years and positions the future success of the organization, its migration to EHR technology and the resulting improved patient information and care.

An effective planning process needs to include an external assessment and an internal appraisal. The external assessment considers the organizations customer or market segments, along with a competitive and trend analysis. A formalized internal appraisal should objectively review the organizations structure & functions, resources, strengths and limitations. A survey assessment tool from a third-party, not affiliated with the organization, will generate unbiased results

Collaboration: It is essential that the HIT team truly represent the organizations clinical leadership, in addition to administrative and IT leadership teams. Before EHR implementation begins, consider completing a comprehensive work flow analysis to review the current efficiency of the organization prior to IT intervention

It has been early adaptors experience that organizations are never fully prepared for the loss in productivity that accompanies the EHR planning and implementation process. Allow enough time for the EHR team to complete the selection, planning and implementation process (24 to 36 months is recommended).

Communication: A clear and upfront communication of the organizations vision, and how HIT will fit into the mission, needs to be determined by the leadership team before beginning the EHR process.

Update policies and procedures to inform staff, with clear and concise documentation, on how roles, responsibilities and processes may have been changed.

Implement a standardized orientation process to insure consistency.

Cross-fertilization of department staff within orientation, training & development sessions has been a helpful strategy in learning the big picture. Leadership support for an environment of trust and open communication was found to foster honest feedback on the system and the EHR implementation process, which points to the increased buy-in that is necessary for successful HIT initiatives.

It is inevitable that EHR will begin to transfer an organizational culture that may be founded on yesterdays paradigms and ideas. Among the lessons learned by early adapters of electronic healthcare technology is leadership teams who develop a strategy that includes collaboration, communication and cooperation before beginning the process create an environment in which people are prepared and excited about operationalizing the vision.

Aligning resources and establishing guidelines for effectively leading people across the organization, before beginning the EHR selection process, will ultimately lead to a higher level of performance.

Medical professionals can take full advantage of the ARRA HIT timeline and the maximum payment schedule by beginning the EHR development process in 2011 or 2012 and submitting for reimbursement. Now is the time to create a strategy which determines the future direction of the organization and what organizational resources will be needed to determine that success.

Kevin Danaher is President of Danaher Development International, LLC, a strategic planning consulting company, focusing on aligning strategy, people and processes around measurable and attainable, customer-centric goals. Danaher has successfully used the strategic development process to reposition health care organizations create brand alignment and shift the organization’s focus on profitable, customer relationships.

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