Information Technology Assessment, Strategy & Planning Services

1. Why invest in Information Technology (IT) assessment and strategy?

    A healthcare organization's investment in IT should be to improve the organization's customer experience and performance and add value to the organization. But technology alone does not improve an organization's ability to meet expectations or obtain value. Instead, it is important to view every technology and enhancement as an opportunity to assess an organization's people and process components, as well as technology changes.

    In addition, every IT project must be considered an ongoing work-in-progress. This means that healthcare organizations must revisit IT project objectives periodically -- before, during and, especially, after project installations. Also, healthcare organizations must ensure that they continue to challenge themselves.  They must evaluate new opportunities for improvement as well as discard planned opportunities that, for whatever reason, do not bring value to the organizations and from their IT investments.

2. Why invest in IT planning?

    Investing in IT planning is one, proven way to stay ahead of the technology curve in the face of diminishing investment resources.

    Just as healthcare organizations would not consider building or remodeling facilities without first investing in structural planning, architecture, and design, so, too, must healthcare organizations consider investing in IT planning, architecture, and design prior to developing, building, or integrating information systems. Investing in IT planning helps healthcare organizations design component frameworks that provide forward reusability and element replacement. It alleviates the "throw-away" and reinvestment costs that plague organizations in the face of rapid changes in technology.

    As skill leaders and performance-based consultants in healthcare, IT assessment, strategy and planning consultants assist healthcare organizations in understanding new technologies and how the technologies fit in the organizations' existing technology environments. They help create flexible and scalable solutions using component-based architecture tools and applications. They help design innovative solutions prior to implementation to allow organizations to wed the best technologies with current technology investments. They help build strategic frameworks to meet organizations' business objectives, such as proven technologies to minimize risk, high-availability systems to maximize reliability, and cost management concepts to maximize return and value.

3. What is the difference between strategy and operational effectiveness?

    Operational effectiveness focuses on doing what is good for the healthcare organization in general. Reengineering, best practices and total quality initiatives are components of operational effectiveness.

    Strategy is about doing what sets the healthcare organization apart from other organizations. Strategy involves creating a sustainable advantage and deliberately choosing to be unique. Strategy concentrates on the basic value(s) the organization is trying to deliver. However, the organization must also aggressively integrate new ideas that will help it deliver that strategy. If an organization maintains a consistent, high-level, IT strategy, it will be easier to change the strategy constantly and effectively.

For example:

a. What strategic advice can Dak Systems Consulting provide regarding an IT project installation?

    From the beginning, maintain a solid business case for the Board. 

    Understand what your competitors are doing as well as their potential gains in operational efficiency and increased revenues. 

    Show the return on investment for tangible benefits with cash flows and internal rates of return.

    Don't take for granted the technical and organizational expertise required to implement software. 

    Don't assume your organization has enough technical and organizational expertise in-house.

    Build in-house expertise to manage expectations and plan change.

    Identify the critical impediments that prevent the successful, cost-efficient, and expeditious deployment of IT.

    You are not "just" deploying an information system or technology! You are conducting a clinical or financial improvement effort. Don't underestimate what all that requires.

    • Recognize that technology creates new responsibilities and new problems. 
    • Recognize that technology exists to support and enhance operations, not the other way around. 
    • Don't underestimate the need for project planning, project management, quantitative measurement to understand system performance, and competency-based training. 

    If these recommendations are not realized, expectations will not be met.  Changes will be slow in coming, if at all, and benefits will be nominal!


b. How can we successfully integrate some of those fast-changing IT solutions into our fast-changing organization?

    Information is and will continue to be CRITICAL. And, IT has a direct relation to customer service.

    But IT errors are costly, and extensive processing is usually required, including multiple views, decisions and complex routing methods. This is difficult to achieve in any organization.

    Therefore, an organization must be amenable --

    • willing to do business in new ways 
    • enthusiastic about the benefits 
    • understand the effort required to implement and manage change.

    If these characteristics currently are not present in your organization, it may not be the time to integrate some of those "fast-changing IT solutions" into your organization.


c. Why have we not seen a significant penetration of value-laden clinical information systems in our healthcare provider organizations?

For example, what we have seen, and what we are confronted with daily, is an explosion of reporting requests, profiles, structured and unstructured documentation, and administrative tasks!

    One has to wonder who is winning here - the computer or the human trying to make sense of it all.

    Yes, today in healthcare, we have unbearable administrative and diverse data cataloguing tasks, many of which remain to be automated.

    But the computerization has been piecemeal, and the standards that have been developed, such as the X12 standards, apply only to a small part of the overall burden -- the claims!  The other standards required for the automation, and the massive accompanying changes that go with the automation, are slowly being implemented or harmonized, including those that are governmentally mandated by the 1996 Healthcare Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).

    Strategically, we must understand that we are just not going to completely eliminate paper and/or administrative tasks. Operationally, the tasks will be different and the processes will be evolutionary.

    Therefore, one way we can begin is by contributing to the development of a standard computer data format, document and / or process that must conform to a standard number of requirements that will support and not hinder the inevitable paper-to-computer continuum.

Consulting Services

1. What is an information technology consultant?

    Today, it seems as if everyone refers to themselves as consultants!

    Similar to accountants and attorneys, consultants provide contracted professional services and often specialize in selected business areas, such as, in Dak's case, information technology (IT). In addition, consultants often sub-specialize in selected business areas / services; for example, in Dak's case, healthcare IT: assessment, strategy and planning.

    Typically IT consultants do not develop, sell, or maintain hardware / software products. However, some IT consultants do. Other IT consultants provide related services, such as systems integration, IT executive management, project management, 24 x 7 application management and interim management. Some IT consultancies specialize in all of the above. (See About Dak)

    These and other business area services in which IT consultants specialize and / or sub-specialize are included under a broad umbrella of professional services related to the successful utilization and value of IT assessment, strategy, planning, and design.


2. Why retain an IT consultant?

    To obtain an objective opinion 

    To obtain a specialized resource (i.e., the organization lacks the expertise) 

    To obtain additional resources (i.e., the organization lacks the time)


3. Should we retain a strategy-driven consultant or a consultant with expertise in certain business or process areas?

    Both!


Should we retain a consultant with a history of successfully executing projects or with a vision?

    Both!


Should we retain a consultant with experience, training, and certification in health IT or in health information management?

    Both!


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