I.T. – we do our best to leave them alone
If your hospital is like most, your IT department is busy. If you were to take the elevator down to the basement and ask your IT Director to schedule a project, you probably would not get a commitment for resources until Q2 of 2013.
Admissions system (ADT) upgrade, standardization of clinic operations, implementation of a new financial system…their projects calendar is, and always will be, full. What answer did you receive the last time you made a request to the IT department? An immediate no?
As a vendor, we are constantly on the road meeting with hospitals. Our engagements are typically with Patient Access Managers, CFOs and CEOs – and each time the IT constraint issue comes up. Making self-services available to patients makes sense, but the unavailability of IT resources is the first objection to be raised (well that and privacy, but I will address the issue of web forms and kiosks vs Post-it notes and fax machines in a separate post).
With the right vendor, there should be little IT involvement required
If you work at a hospital, you no doubt remember vividly the hellish experience of implementing a new (or upgrading your) ADT system. But introducing patient self-services that complement your ADT system can actually be quite painless from an IT standpoint.
We have always kept IT involvement to a strict minimum, and as we roll-out PatientWay web, mobile and kiosk solutions in Canadian and U.S. hospitals, we continue to make improvements to the implementation phase.
If you are considering patient self-services, but are delaying your project because IT is too busy, then consider the following:
1. ADT integration should be performed by the vendor: This is a must. Any patient self-service (such as online pre-registration, appointment reminders or check-in kiosks) should be integrated with your ADT system. The right vendor will provide products that can be integrated with your ADT and will perform that work. With the exception of creating a test account and providing access privileges to your ADT, your IT department should not be required to do the integration work.
2. Changes to your IT infrastructure – a day or two at most: When installing kiosks, new hardware will be required to host the software and data internally. So you will need to ask your IT department to purchase and configure two new servers (one for the live software and a second for testing). The time required to install and configure a server is one to two days. In addition, back-up for these servers as well as VPN access will also be required. I apologize for all the IT terms, but it helps to throw out a few tech words when trying to get their attention.
If IT can’t commit an FTE for two days, speak with your vendor. If they are committed to making your project a success (and not just making a quick sale), they might be willing to configure your servers – just ask, and don’t forget to double-check with your IT Director.
3. You should be in the driver’s seat when it comes to software management: A major reason why information systems are scary is the inability to make changes. Requesting a change from a software vendor can be a time consuming and costly proposition.
Adding a new question to a satisfaction survey or changing the flow of your kiosk screens should not be complicated. Find a vendor that will provide your hospital with a simple admin tool, where changes can be easily made. It should be possible for a member of your Patient Admissions team or someone from the Communications department to make changes without the help of the vendor nor your IT department. So make sure this option is available when making your purchase.
4. Installation should be plug-and-play: The ideal vendor should deliver kiosks that are plug-and-play. A kiosk should arrive in one piece, and all the components from the casing to the touch screen to the card reader should all be in place. Avoid buying an Ikea style kiosk that arrives in pieces and requires you to make that long trip to the basement to see IT for another favor.
During the pre-implementation planning phase, your vendor should verify that all integration and configuration issues have been addressed, so that once you plug-in your kiosk everything will fall into place.
Power and network connectivity for the kiosks will also be required – but your Facilities Manager can probably handle that task.
5. Web development should be the least of your concerns: Your vendor should build your web registration form based on your specs, and deal with all the hosting, integration and security issues (don’t settle for anything less than SSL encryption – another term to use when speaking with IT). IT’s only involvement should be to link the web registration form to your hospital’s homepage – and your Communications department can probably do that part.
A successful project will ultimately depend on the reliability of your vendor to effectively plan for your implementation and reduce the burden on your IT department. Making self-service options available (that will benefit you and your patients) should not be competing with large IT projects. Instead, services like online pre-registration, appointment reminders and check-in should be seen as complementary add-ons that will increase the ROI of the ADT system that your IT department worked so hard to deliver.