Evolution of Healthcare IT Leadership


Over the past
two decades, technology has changed
tremendously. We’ve gone from cumbersome
desktop computers to handheld smartphones. Healthcare IT
has also changed. Technology is integrated
into every part of a hospital
or doctor’s office. So, Health IT leaders
have also changed. I think what the–with
the change in IT over the years, the leadership style has
definitely had to change. If you think about it,
15 or 20 years ago, when we put in systems,
we were looking at automating lab and automating
pharmacy, things like that. They didn’t really affect
the day-to-day workflow for nurses and physicians. And the project teams back then
were largely comprised of IT analysts,
and so your leadership style was managing your direct reports
and getting the code written and getting things done. Now, we’re–we’re implementing
systems that require the physician, the nurses,
and lab techs, radiology techs, all to–to do most
of their work in the system. They’re reviewing the results
in the system, they’re doing their
documentation in the systems, they’re managing orders
in the system. We’re impacting their workflow,
so now that team that– that used to be just
IT analysts is now a larger,
multi-disciplinary team. It’s the IT analyst,
it’s the lab techs, it’s the physician,
it’s the nurses. And so you have to have
more of a collaborative leadership style
and more relationship-building. Because you’re not just
managing direct reports, you’re interfacing
with other departments and professionals,
and you need to have a way to bring them all
to the table and get them
to work through issues that cut across
all these disciplines. Well, Healthcare IT, I think,
in information management is different than others
in that it’s highly complex, the data sets are very large
and they’re complex. And if you don’t manage ’em
correctly, the outcomes of it isn’t lost revenue
or lost cash, it is– could potentially be measured
in lives, so the, um, importance of it and the rigor
in which it’s done is highly important. Implementing and working in
Healthcare IT is complex because you’re dealing with a lot
of professionals that have expertise in their area and so
they’re strong-willed people that are–have a lot
of opinions about their part
of the delivery system. And the challenge is
you gotta bring ’em all together and have them sort through those potentially different
perspectives to have an integrated
and holistic solution. And because they’re very
well-educated, they usually believe they know
the answer, but sometimes they maybe haven’t understood
all of the issues with regard to information
management or technology. And you so you gotta help
work them through that learning process. I think the healthcare industry,
the data that we work with is much more sophisticated
and rich than financial data. And I know it’s easy
to make an analogy between the financial industry
and the medical industry, but when you think about
the types of data we have to manage,
whether it’s an image or a waveform or, um,
you know, a video, we have a lot of different data
types that we collect about a patient
and about their health. It’s very complicated
to manage all that data. I also think we have
a work process that varies
doctor by doctor. We have a professional group
that has each been, you know, learned to practice medicine
a slightly different way, and so you cannot
standardize stuff the way you can
in other industries. You can’t dictate or demand,
you’re gonna do, you know, step one then step two
then step three. ‘Cause I have a clinician
that does three and then two
and then one. Or two then one
then three. It all–it’s very, uh–
each clinician is a little different, so, I don’t think we’ve had
the opportunities for standardization
or data that has made it very simple to automate
healthcare. And the fact is,
when I got into healthcare IT more than 25 years ago, we were much less regulated
than we are today. Most organizations had
a lot of latitude in terms of the direction
they wanted to take and the functionality
of their systems and what kind of data
gets captured. With the federal mandates
and incentives and meaningful use, you’ve got
to be much more nimble because the landscape
can change very quickly. You need agility
in your systems, you need agility at
your management team level, and you’ve got to be willing
to pivot very quickly. You can’t stay too married
to a strategy for very long. The idea of developing
a five-year strategic plan, while it has some merits, isn’t as important nowadays
as being agile. Ten or 15 years ago,
Healthcare IT leadership was much different because
Healthcare IT was viewed more as a support
department. And IT was more of
a back-end operation. We pretty much provided
billing and– and after-the-thought
data entry type services. But, over the past ten
or 15 years, IT is now on
the front end. We’re providing
decision support that’s clinical
and financial. And on every purchase today,
there is an IT component, or minimally,
an IT impact. So now, IT leadership.
we have to be a part of practically every
decision that’s made in the healthcare environment,
so that really has transitioned
the role of IT. The vast amounts of information
clinicians have to have at their fingertips to
make the right decisions in patient care has just really
evolved and exploded over the past ten
to 15 years, so when you bring
those two things together, healthcare and IT,
with that amount of changes, then I think, um,
the old saying of “improvise, adapt, and overcome”
is definitely something leadership and IT has to
remember and take into account as they go about
that business. Healthcare IT
has been evolving. And so have the challenges
in leading Health IT. The Health IT leader
used to have a team composed mainly
of IT analysts. But now, leads a
multidisciplinary team, composed of individuals
with technical and clinical expertise. As IT has branched out
from being used mainly for financial applications
to clinical applications, the leader has a broader range
of responsibilities. The data is more complex. The systems involve
more people, and it has a huge impact
on the clinical workflow. And the clinical workflow
is anything but standard. At the same time,
today’s Health IT leaders have to deal with many more
regulations than their predecessors. Although all of these things
are challenges, IT is not just a support unit,
but an essential component of today’s healthcare
delivery process. Captioned by
Video Caption Corporation
www.vicaps.com

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