Technology is now critical to the strategy of health and human service organizations—both managing the analytics derived from tech-enabled systems and embedding technology in the service delivery process. Because it is critical to strategy, it is also a critical executive competency—just not one that most executives in the field are prepared for, either by education or by experience.
How can executives develop the requisite tech management competencies they need? Gary Minnier, Senior Manager of Partner Experience and Innovation at Credible Behavioral Health, focused on answering that question in his presentation, What Executives Need To Know About EHR/Tech Management, at The 2018 OPEN MINDS Management Best Practices Institute. I took away five key points from his executive tech management blueprint:
Start at the end: If you don’t know what success looks like, you won’t be able to build a path to get you there. This is a truism at the heart of all strategic planning. When it comes to implementing new technology systems, the place to start is with your organization’s strategic plan—include a section devoted to tech strategy, and keep it as fresh and updated as your overall plan. From there, you can drill down into specific goals and objectives for each new technology project. Whether you are implementing a new electronic health record (EHR), adding new consumer functionality to your website, or sharing consumer health data with new partners, the key to successful planning is to have specific and measurable goals and an agreed upon definition of what you want to achieve.
Adopt key drivers: All things management must have a solid foundation in metrics, and technology planning is no different. This is the only consistent method for figuring out what really matters, and knowing what has to happen to drive that success. Take the time to map out the key metrics that will show progress on your goals and allow your executive team to monitor progress along the way.
Be consistent: Adapting your drivers is sometimes necessary, but you can neither change your plan and metrics constantly, nor continually add new metrics and get a clear picture. In an environment as data rich as health care, executives need to prioritize what is important and focus on that. Identify the top three metrics that will improve your performance and focus on them.
Define clear ownership: A team is necessary to execute specific tasks, but one person needs to own and champion the project if it’s to maintain its “legs” into the future. Responsibility for technology solutions, like all other aspects of management, can’t be given to a group and expected to emerge from the chaos. Assign that responsibility up front.
Tech needs to be modern: It should go without saying that investment in up-to-date hardware and software is important, but health care is rife with legacy systems. With so much pressure from the changing market, its sometimes tempting for executive teams to think about technology as checking an item off a list; but the reality is that this a constantly evolving field, and the EHR you implemented five years ago may not be able to keep up with the changing needs and priorities of your organization. Updating these systems may not be as costly as it seems, but sometimes additional investment is unavoidable if executives want to keep up with the cutting-edge solutions that are redefining the market.
There were a few “pearls of wisdom” from Mr. Minnier that I think any manager working with technology should keep in mind. First, complex doesn’t equal “right.” Sometimes, tech experts like to dive into the details, but from an organizational performance perspective, the goal is simple: How do you improve (simplify) your workflows? How do you make your performance reporting easier (simpler)?
Second, one of the key reasons why health and human service organizations don’t get the maximum return-on-investment (ROI) from their tech investments is that they are automating bad processes, rather than using the technology that they purchase to streamline operations. Mr. Minnier’s observation was that if you automate a really bad system, you’ve simply automated what was bad about the system. The tech alone won’t solve your bad process problems.
The range of technology and tech functionality is a moving target in business in general, and in health and human services in particular. But, if executives develop a “best practice” framework for evaluating and managing technology, they will be able to keep up with that rising tide.
For more advice on tech strategy and management, be sure to check out these resources from the OPEN MINDS Industry Library:
- What Executives Need To Know About EHR/Tech Management
- Incorporating Technology Into Organizational Strategy: Finding Success In A Changing Behavioral Health Landscape
- The Role Technology Should Have In Your Strategic Plan
- EHR Implementations: What Could Possibly Go Wrong?
- How To Build A Successful Technology Plan: From Innovation & Strategy, To Budgeting & Selection
- Getting That Return On Your Tech Investment
- Getting More From Your EHR
- The Strategy Of Tech Investment
- A Guide To Implementing Innovation
- Looking At Banking To Predict The Future Of EHRs: An Interview With Matthew M. Dorman
Be sure to join my colleague Joseph Naughton-Travers, Senior Associate, OPEN MINDS on October 24 at The 2018 OPEN MINDS Technology & Informatics Institute for his seminar, “How To Make The Right Tech Investments For Your Organization: An OPEN MINDS Executive Seminar To Technology Budgeting & Planning.”