Imagine this: you maintain an older healthcare info system and are tasked with creating logic to satisfy a doctor's request. But the system doesn't support that logic, and besides, you've been pushing for an upgrade to this outdated system for some time now. You know your boss wants to see results, but aren't sure how to prove your point.
Upgrades can be expensive, and the upfront investment of money and resources in health IT often scares decision makers away before they've even examined their options or begun to understand how greatly functionality could improve. So, how do you convince decision makers now is the right time, and that ROI will be significant?
What's Involved in a Healthcare Information Systems Upgrade?
Whatever your reason for requesting an upgrade--be it increased reliability, security or speed--coming armed with information is a battle-tested plan of attack.
The system itself
You should know exactly which systems your company will need to upgrade and what's required for an installation.
"There are so many elements involved," says Alex Insley, Twinstate's Unified Defense Strategies technical manager. "You have to ask: What do I physically need in this upgrade? What are the system requirements?"
Many times, says Insley, you will need to include a new server or servers in your upgrade, so cost can be significant. You'll also want to consider software user licenses. What happens if your user licenses are non-transferable between upgrades, and you need to purchase new ones for every user? That's another upfront cost.
Another consideration: your current backup solution. If the one you have in place is no longer relevant or adequate for your new platform and its hardware and software requirements, this could be an added cost. If you are moving to a virtual environment from an outdated medium, such as tape, software updates specific to that virtualization may have costs as well. Insley recommends using an industry standard virtual environment backup solution with a reasonable cost, such as Veeam.
In the rare case that your infrastructure includes VMWare, an upgrade is much easier. You've planned to have room for expansion, and will likely save on the upfront investment in installation.
We've established that software and hardware can both present significant costs. But what about the costs of things you don't purchase, like productivity?
"One thing that doesn't get enough attention is the learning curve," says Insley. "Productivity rates are going to drop for a while as you get used to a new system."
But, if you're fortunate, says Insley, this cost can work for you as you make your case. You can suggest running both systems side by side--with users taking shifts for training--or suggest training prior to the go-live date, while the old system is still in place.
"Anything you can do to minimize productivity loss while things ramp up will help your argument," explains Insley.
Making the Case
You know why you want an upgrade. Maybe frequent functionality requests tipped you off. Or you feel there's too much downtime.
Maybe you hear everyone complaining about how long it takes to access patient records, or you're concerned about security, due to the sensitive nature of the data your practice keeps. Whatever your reasons, you know it's time. But how do you convince others?
Take the negative/positive approach. Examine consequences and benefits separately.
Consequences of not upgrading
If a hard drive were to fail, you know it would be disastrous to the operations of your healthcare office, so be sure to express that to decision makers. You can quantify the loss of hours that failure would incur, and position the vendors positively by noting that they have the tools to avoid the potential loss of money.
Further, the sensitivity of data at a medical office is unparalleled. The consequences of mismanagement of this data, such that it is held for ransom, leaked, destroyed or tampered with, represent "a whole new level to breach damage," says Jennifer Allen, Twinstate's Red Team manager.
"You're talking about the health and well-being of individuals. If these systems are mishandled, this can actually hurt people," Allen cautions.
Fear of consequences isn't the only way to convince your decision makers to upgrade, though. You can also talk about the potential benefits.
Benefits of an upgrade
By demonstrating increased interoperability between systems in your office and other EMR systems, heightened security and better reliability can show your decision makers that the ROI is positive (even if not immediately quantifiable) when potential negatives are avoided.
You might also describe the increased trust patients will have in your ability to keep their data safe. Consider the opportunities for sharing the benefits of the upgrade with your community.
But what about the more tangible: the obvious workflow and efficiency improvements? Don't leave those out.
"A lot of times we’ll replace servers and suddenly everyone is working faster because they have better response time and faster workflow," says Allen. "You're saving money right there just replacing architecture."
Insley agrees. "Hopefully you'd move to a new package because it allows you to do things faster, like process patients and pull up information more quickly," he says.
"It's not just the software, but also the hardware: the switches, routers, etc. Your transfer rates might be ten times as fast. So there's a lot you can do to cut the time it takes to do the same task you would have done in your old system." You could even quantify this based on billable hour software, Insley notes.
When it's up to you to bring a new healthcare information solution into the fold, focus on describing the costs of installation, the costs associated with negative outcomes of ignoring the upgrade needed, and the tangible, measurable benefits. Stakeholder buy-in should follow.
Looking to learn more about information systems? Twinstate Technologies can help.