Several members of the Oxford team attended HIMSS19 this year in Orlando, Florida, along with 45,000 other healthcare IT professionals. There were over 300 education sessions, 1,300 vendors, and several opportunities to make connections throughout the duration of the conference. There were a few topics in particular that held interest for us as they highlight the current trends we’re seeing with our healthcare clients.
Process Improvement, Workflow, and Change Management
Identifying areas for improvement and updating your business processes to increase efficiency, and therefore save time and resources, is hugely important given the way technology has advanced in recent years. However, this is not the most challenging part. Getting people on board and adapted to that change is key. If people do not adopt the new systems, the new idea will never get off the ground and it will be difficult to achieve your objectives.
At HIMSS, Larry Dux, Mary Ellen Skeens, Deborah D. Flint, Dean Athanassiades, John Hansmann, and Brian Compas held a pre-conference workshop entitled Creating and Sustaining Process Improvement: Applying Lean & Six-Sigma Tools and Change Management to Achieve Organizational Success.1 In it, they discussed what industry changes are driving process improvement, strategies for identifying potential process improvements, and the steps to take once those improvements have been identified.
One such strategy was DMAIC (define, measure, analyze, improve, control). DMAIC “provide[s] a systematic approach to solving complex problems. Specifically, [it guides] improvement teams to examine why processes fail to achieve their desired results.”1 Applying strategies such as these can help identify potential areas of businesses that could be improved or made more efficient.
Once these areas are identified, you need to then connect the process improvement to the organizational goals or strategies, and communicate effectively with your team. If the right people do not understand the consequences of remaining stagnant, it is unlikely you will get everyone on board. The “why” is the most important part of communicating the benefits of any idea.
That is the main challenge of workflow management: aligning your strategy with the expectations of the team, and helping everyone to have the same vision.
Sometimes, the best strategy for uniting your team is to bring in outside expertise to help facilitate the change and make your ideas a reality. Here is an example of how the right people can make all the difference.
Health Information Exchange, Interoperability, Data Integration
Recent government proposals surrounding the rules of interoperability created quite the buzz at HIMSS this year. There are many things that need to happen before the technology becomes seamless, and experts voiced their concerns. In the presentation, CMS and ONC: Enabling Data Interoperability Across the Continuum2, Elizabeth Palena Hall, ONC; Beth Connor, CMS, Michelle Dougherty, RTI International; and Dave Hill, MITRE outlined challenges that must be overcome before interoperability can become a reality. Such challenges include: lack of data transparency, data exchange between EHR systems, accessibility, poor communication, staff recruiting and retention in PAC facilities, and more.
Since there are so many ways to fall behind, and because integrating these technologies is such a delicate operation, having the right talent readily available to support your initiatives is vital. Increased sharing of information between different technologies creates a need for industry experts who can support integration projects, or help with the implementation of new systems.
Cybersecurity, Privacy & Security
As the demand for accessibility within medical records becomes ever more present, so do questions surrounding the security of that data. Any time information is passed between systems there is the chance of a breach. While interoperability is the ultimate goal, the information must remain secure every step of the way.
At HIMSS, speakers were optimistic about interoperability, but cybersecurity was at the forefront of their minds. Suzann Schwartz, FDA associate director for science and strategic partnerships, said, “Everyone has to have a seat at the table and participating in what that looks like and how one accomplishes that systematically and methodically. It’s not going to happen all at once. It’s got to be done in a safe way, in a manner that has risk based upon the kinds of devices that are out there.”3
At Oxford, we have connections with IT infrastructure and security experts who can help our clients analyze their systems, recommend solutions, and then implement and manage the project as needed. This way, our clients can have confidence that all their data remains safe, yet accessible.
While reflecting on these key facets of the upcoming years in HIT, we have re-committed ourselves to the idea of helping our clients and consultants understand the “why” behind these trends and assisting them as they become adaptable and successful in the years to come.