The field of healthcare information technology is not such a big deal. After all, we've managed so far, haven't we? So what, if there's a small leak here and there, or the access to medical records pipelines get clogged every once in a while, and there's an overflow from time to time, and Well, we can live with that, can't we?
I always smile to myself, when I remember that plumber's ad:
"We repair what your husband fixed".
I enjoy a bit of DIY (do-it-yourself) from time to time - but I do know, that when a job is too big to handle, or too complex, you've got to call in the big guns - the specialists.
I'm not the only one to realize this, as more and more healthcare entities are beginning to understand that when dealing with health data management, healthcare data storage, healthcare data analytics, and other factors in healthcare technology, there is a very good chance that you're going to require the assistance of a general or specialized consultant.
Even activities as 'simple' as medical records storage and health information management are no longer straightforward and simple matters. Especially not now, with healthcare compliance regulatory issues at the forefront of serious healthcare data solutions and actually built into the law (see, for example, about HIPAA compliant cloud). Today, HIPAA compliant cloud storage is crucial in Healthcare.
To DIY or Not to DIY - That is the Question
It's true, that you have your own IT department, and they know your network and processes inside-out. But you nevertheless need to be extra careful regarding the DYI-ers. Don't forget, that your IT staff is already busy with their own daily tasks (tech troubles and tribulations) and may not be focused on the 'big picture' of your real needs. They may actually appreciate having a 'helping hand': someone independent, experienced, and external to help extract them from the daily bog they often find themselves in.
In addition, your own IT experts don't have the broad (as well as pinpoint) experience and know-how of the specialists and consultants that have already gone through various phases of upgrading and/or overhauling of similar systems and processes. They just may not have all the tools necessary to handle the job.
The Specialist's Toolbox
Consultants and specialists in our field of medical IT processes is nothing new - even with respect to the healthcare-relevant aspects of the IT world. However, as we require better, more efficient, and more integrated healthcare information systems and related platforms (more directly put: as we become increasingly dependent on them for our daily activities), it pays to weigh in what they have to offer (and what we have to lose if we may need to 'repair' something after we 'fix' it).
Don't Throw A Wrench into the Works - Think. Plan, Before You Act
To go back to the plumbing analogy: Unless it's an emergency, with broken pipes and water shooting out and spraying all over, or the toilet backing up and flooding the bathroom - the plumber you call in will calmly ask a few questions, study the problem, maybe walk around the building to figure out the lay of the plumbing (inflow and outflow), etc. - and then proceed to take care of the 'issue'.
Similarly, a consultant will want to learn how you are managing your healthcare datasets, take a look at your inventory of hardware and software, learn about your healthcare information management processes, and so forth.
After a period (short or long - depending on the issues and if you only want a short term solution or are planning on future-proofing) the consultant will present his/her findings and recommendations: What is salvageable, what needs to be scrapped, what needs to be upgraded, what new tech needs to be invested in.
Maybe there are also external issues that need to be taken into account: budgetary, regulatory, shared resources with other departments or remote offices, etc.? Is the Cloud a possible part of the recommended solution?
Or are there internal issues to consider, such as what staffing changes or training may be required? What timetable is expected for completing the transformation of the medical records management - and how that will affect the current workflow and business continuity?
Aiming High Benefiting from the Cloud
A serious consultant must be Cloud-knowledgeable (not just 'Cloud-aware') " and offer solid solution recommendations based on practical and financially feasible " especially ROI-advantageous Cloud-based solutions.
If your health records turnaround is not massive, then maybe a Cloud solution would be an excellent recommendation - but not necessarily a requirement. However, as you move closer to increased big data in healthcare storage and access requirements, then you will almost be begging to move up, if not now, then in the very near future.
One Step at a Time - and With the Right Team
Converting from the current system to the new one is not an easy or even a quick process. Depending on the gap between what is, and what will be - the process can take months if not more. It may be a 'complete' solution, or possibly phased over several years.
Many things are involved -“ aside from the bureaucratic issue of presenting the plan, getting approval and budgeting. There are many steps in the process, and these are just some of the key ones:
- The pre-plan study needs to be approved and budgeted - and carried out.
- Risk assessments, contingency plans, system backups and continuity protection -“ plus enhanced network security steps - must be planned for and carried out
- A possible pilot 'project' may be implemented to test the system and conversion process
- Staff size and skill-set considerations, as well as training issues need to be considered
- Milestone debriefing and best-practices for further phase implementation should be carried out continuously and consistently for process learning.
- And more..
If Cloud is to be considered as a viable path - and why shouldn't it - then you have to take into account that it's still a rather new area, and you need a consultant that has the relevant experience - and hopefully the relevant toolbox and skill set to support you.
You'll want a reputable and experienced consulting company that has successfully carried out similar healthcare technology conversions and upgrades. This is the critical key to a long-term solution that will benefit everyone at all levels of your healthcare organization: Your general staff, your IT personnel, your internal and external users, and your clients and patients.
It's really no fun repairing what someone else has fixed, and we at Zulucare know what we're talking about. Call us.