Expert Advice about Health IT Team Strategies from Beth Dituro, PCPD’s HIT Education Program Director
FAIRFIELD, N.J., Sept. 28, 2015 – Health Information Technology (HIT) encompasses all aspects of information technology infrastructure that support communication and care coordination among a network of health providers, patients, and payers. There are also human factors and processes required to empower the technology. Given the disparate backgrounds of the health IT team members and the myriad of specialties, it is essential they have a unified sense of the “big HIT picture.”
When it comes to working effectively in the HIT field, there’s some advice that may help staff and workflow come together more seamlessly. Beth Dituro, program director at NJ-based Pinnacle Center for Professional Development (PCPD), offers these HIT goals and strategies to achieve them:
Goal #1: Effective Project Management
Strategy: CIOs should be visible and supportive of Project Managers from the start
Project management in HIT is sometimes like herding cats – it can be one of the most difficult jobs in the IT organization, regardless of the methodologies that are utilized. PMs need to be able to rely on the visibility and support of their CIO, especially at the beginning of projects, in order to gain and sustain momentum.
Tip #2: Boost Morale
Strategy: Recognize and reward team members for going the extra mile
HIT projects can become extremely intense, and health IT team members tend to be expected to make personal sacrifices in terms of time and energy to ensure the project’s success. When management fails to recognize and appreciate these efforts, or begins to take this extra effort for granted, the morale and energy of the team will inevitably begin to subside. Overwork should be kept to a minimum, managed tightly, and rewarded.
Goal #3: Foster Teamwork
Strategy: Respect and recognize team members’ efforts in public and private
HIT teams are often comprised of members from various departments and organizations. When these teams work together for any length of time, it is important for members to avoid becoming like families, with associated dysfunctional roles and relationships. Leadership is required to ensure teams function on all cylinders, playing on complementary strengths, focused on a common goal – the success of the project.
Goal #4: Develop creative problem-solving skills
Strategy: Allow team members to fail and learn from mistakes
Creativity in HIT is under-rated. Many issues – especially related to usability – could be addressed by forming small subcommittees of interested or affected staff and asking them to come up with solutions or workarounds to a particular problem. Even if they come up empty-handed, the creative workout may help get them in shape to successfully tackle the next issue.
Goal #5: Efficient Processes
Strategy: Cut the red tape
Good processes in HIT are fair and effective, and support successful project outcomes and the achievement of service level agreements. Too much bureaucracy, however, can be an embarrassment to the IT organization and a source of frustration, distrust and disrespect by end-users, customers and vendors alike. IT leadership and management needs to be sensitive to the fine line between efficient processes and red tape.
Goal #6: Transparent Governance
Strategy: Spell out the rules of the game
IT governance in healthcare is sometimes invisible, when it should be transparent. This invisibility causes frustration both inside and outside the IT organization because no one knows the rules of the game. Good governance simply spells out the processes for identifying, prioritizing and funding IT requirements.
Goal #7: Hiring the right people
Strategy: Look for trainable candidates with road skills
HIT organizations do themselves a disservice when they insist on hiring staff with experience in a particular vendor product. Finding the perfect person will often take longer than hiring someone with proven, related skills and providing them with training.
Goal #8: Leadership
Strategy: Encourage trial-and-error whenever possible
Successful healthcare IT leaders and CIOs need to be able to walk the walk of both IT and healthcare. They also need to be fair, fearless and fault-tolerant in order to effectively manage HIT resources and lead HIT initiatives. Fairness and fearlessness foster respect and loyalty, and fault-tolerance encourages creativity, pride and excellence by allowing staff to try, fail, and learn from their mistakes.
Goal #9: Motivation
Strategy: Continually show appreciation and respect
HIT teams are often highly matrixed and include members with varied interests and backgrounds – the only thing they may have in common is the work at hand. Providing motivation and encouragement to such an eclectic bunch can be challenging, but usually can be achieved by simply respecting and recognizing ongoing efforts, both in private and in public.
Goal #10: Empower staff to respond to current industry challenges and opportunities
Strategy: Ongoing continuing education
The best and most effective managers have solid background in health IT with an understanding of the “big picture” of HIT. Because they understand the ever-changing HIT environment and initiatives, such as Obamacare and HITECH, they are equipped with the perspective to make informed decisions and set priorities. The right continuing education program provides context and purpose, leaving team members inspired and motivated to approach projects with a broader and more strategic focus.
Beth Dituro is Program Director at Pinnacle Center for Professional Development (PCPD), a new center of education designed to meet the urgent need for a competent, confident and motivated Health Information Technology (HIT) workforce. Quality continuing education is offered in a face-to-face classroom setting, delivered by seasoned professionals. Courses are held at the company’s state-of-the-art facility in Fairfield, N.J. or at a site convenient to customers. PCPD’s programs prepare students, including clinicians, IT staff and healthcare administrators with coursework that will keep them current and well-prepared for the opportunities in today’s ever-changing HIT field. For more information, and to see the full calendar of courses visit www.pinnacle-center.com.