Technology seems to be one of those things healthcare providers have to invest in. For all the money spent on computer systems and automation, the industry has been one of the slower adopters. The reluctance is understandable given three factors:
- A history of cottage practitioners,
- A natural conservative streak among professionals, and
- The heavily personal nature of services.
And so, the industry overall has been stuck in a position of catching up, with heavy capital investments driven by regulatory compliance issues and the idea that, one day, there would be cost savings somewhere or other. The focus on the medical technology industry has become know-how that can save providers money, as FierceHealthFinance explains:
Medtronic, Abbott Laboratories and Stryker Corp., all have entered into deals to acquire companies that focus on improving efficiency and cutting costs in healthcare delivery, according to the article. Medtronic acquired Bellco, which manufactures systems that can spot sepsis for undisclosed terms; Abbott acquired laboratory test platform maker Alere for $5.8 billion; and Stryker acquired Sage Products, which manufactures products that help reduce surgical mistakes, for $2.8 billion.
The reason for the focus is because the major wave of compliance spending has been underway for years. Eventually the need to keep regulators and insurers happy is satisfied, at which point providers can begin to focus on the uses of technology that other industries have chased for years. Whether the specifics are reducing risk, eliminating waste, improving quality while eliminating error, or automating previously manual tasks to increase efficiency, the eventual result can be bottom line improvement without the sacrifice of care. However, making technology work means understanding how to manage it. That includes such standard advice as the following:
- Every project needs a business case to explain what hard and soft benefits it is to provide.
- Soft benefits are fine but can be difficult to track, so be sure the hard benefits can at least cost-justify the investment.
- Strong project management skills by people experienced in running technology is vital.
- Rapid implementation with incremental improvement, the so-called agile method of development, helps establish benefits while keeping users close to the process to avoid unpleasant surprises.
- Each new addition of technology needs metrics and ongoing supervision to ensure that the business rationale is met.
In addition, remember that technology vendors are intent on selling. That can mean anything some might promise more than they can deliver or try to circumvent the technology experts to apply indirect pressure through management. Find other users of the systems, ask for honest appraisals of good and bad, and make all decisions in a collaborative form so tech experts, medical professional users, and executives can all come to agreement on what makes sense.
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