Cloud applications are revolutionizing healthcare as they have other industries. Phone systems, electronic health records and telehealth platforms, all can be staged and supported in-house by IT leaders, but more and more, leaders are turning to cloud providers as partners for these rollouts.
The business reasons are well documented: on-premise servers can deliver computing power and infrastructure control, but these assets are more expensive to run and maintain, difficult and slow to scale and require personnel with expertise that may not be readily available due to geography, competition for skill sets, etc.
Mission-critical systems require extensive planning and project management to rollout successfully, with many stakeholders involved, but ultimately the IT department will be judged on their effective adoption.
Therefore many IT leaders are faced with an accelerated need to rollout new health technologies, using virtual cloud-based infrastructure, while required to orchestrate their staff, other departments, and new cloud-based providers to succeed.
New healthcare apps are essential to achieving modern healthcare missions, so let’s look at the two challenges of leveraging cloud resources and orchestrating stakeholders to achieve successful rollouts.
Getting to the Cloud
So many healthcare facilities attempt to roll out cutting edge technology while still relying on creaky legacy infrastructure to support the new, more resource-intensive applications. This leads to latency, outages, slow response times and user frustration.
Frustrated frontline workers often blame the new applications for the failures when in fact the legacy network has doomed the project from the beginning.
Mission critical applications like telehealth and electronic health records require 100% uptime and lightning fast availability.
Single telecom carriers rarely can provide the level of performance that these applications require.
Therefore, most health organizations need to manage multiple vendors and optimize their own networks in order to meet their organization’s IT and care goals.
This adds cost that needs to be budgeted and justified to finance. Luckily, a more robust freeway to the cloud benefits all applications in use within healthcare, from HR online systems to Office 365. Championing the transition to cloud-based networks that support these systems will improve productivity across the board, and so is an essential role IT needs to play.
Once the infrastructure is in place, it makes even more sense to leverage cloud providers to roll out applications faster with better results. There are many providers of cloud migration solutions who can help with this transition. Cloud management solutions can also support the IT department in monitoring performance during and following a migration. These experts can also share best practices their other customers have used to maximize results.
Start with Training
Training you and your in-house staff on cloud models and rolling out the application is just the start. It’s not enough. Just because the application works, doesn’t mean it’s delivering value to your mission. Your customers, the users of the app, have to be onboard for the app to succeed. Systematic training programs covering all healthcare systems and technologies are a best practice and should be introduced from the moment an employee is hired.
But beyond that, training should be tailored to each employee’s specific workflow so that each is educated in the most important features of the applications that make them more effective in their jobs. Too many training courses are generic and try to cover too many features. Less is more!
Train Them Again
It’s naïve to think that a busy healthcare provider or user with a heavy workload is going to take the time or have the capacity to learn all of the IT tools and systems at their disposal in one sitting. Refresher training should be scheduled every quarter or so, especially with those applications critical to their roles and when updates have been released or protocols changed.
Online Learning is Better
When a new system or tool is rolled out, it’s a good idea to set up an online program that allows your users to access and educate themselves or refresh themselves at their own pace. The application provider may have their own training program, or there might be a generic online course available if the technology is widespread.
If there’s no existing training package, consider creating your own as this will ensure training is consistent and not dependent on the skill of the person running the training. If relevant you might want to restrict live use of the new technology until users have passed an online assessment.
Listen to Your People
Too many IT leaders interpret complaints by their customers, the users, as resistance or ungratefulness. They don’t take the complaints seriously.
Sometimes the user is inflexible, but at other times a user may have picked up on a major flaw, with the software itself or its incompatibility with their workflow. Users with sensible complaints should be listened to and their feedback should be used to improve the relevant application or workflow.
Separate the Mountains from the Mole Hills
When serious issues have been identified that affect multiple users, then correcting these problems should be treated as a priority. When an individual is struggling, time should be allocated for one-on-one coaching with that employee.
If an issue is affecting a whole department or a wider healthcare setting, then consider organizing a task force specially formed to address the issue as a project.
The panel might include senior leaders, technology providers, IT technicians, HR and other department heads.
Recruit Your Leaders
Often times, healthcare leaders handoff tech deployments to the IT department without much understanding of the issues involved or resources needed to successfully accomplish the goals. This can lead to poor communication, confusion, frustration and unsuccessful rollouts. Engaging a senior non-IT leader in a rollout and recruiting other advocates from all departments affected can go a long way towards driving a positive message of change and achieving desired results. When technology runs on adequate infrastructure, relevant training is provided and resources are in place to tackle areas of friction, new tech rollouts will deliver benefits more quickly and effectively and will reflect more positively on the IT leader in charge.
James Munro, Vice President of IT Services at Shamrock Consulting Group, LLC.