Too much to do and too little time and resources? Making the case for outsourcing your perioperative IT needs
In many industries, contracting out... ok, "outsourcing" is perceived as a negative option for meeting IT needs – particularly customer service needs. However, with increasing financial and operational pressures and the centralization of hospital or even system-wide IT support, outsourcing to meet your surgical services and anesthesia information system needs may be the best option.
It is not uncommon for IT departments to "outsource" project management, clinical system design/implementation and IT security roles. For surgical and anesthesia information systems – outsourcing these roles makes a lot of sense as does outsourcing for resource heavy system upgrades or conversions. In fact, it makes a lot of sense to outsource even the day-to-day system management. By outsourcing during any of these IT administration phases, you and your team can continue to focus on your pressing day-to-day operational and management issues with the confidence that your IT systems and projects are meeting the needs of your customers (the staff, surgeons, and patients).
How will outsourcing benefit my team and organization?
The July 2013 HIMSS Workplace Survey¹ found that almost half of the participating healthcare providers could not fully staff an IT initiative and so considered or actually deferred the project.
Making a case for outsourcing is straightforward (it's a well-known secret... that those working outside of the OR are intimidated by what goes on in the OR – and rightly so). The OR has diverse personalities, unique needs, and truly life-or-death situations and therefore requires knowledgeable and experienced support, with specific understanding of workflow regardless of whether it is a one-time project or on-going support. Implementation, conversion and upgrade tasks such as database build, data analysis and cleanup, data file merge, system validation testing, end user training, report writing and go-live support (just to name a few) each require significant FTE hours. Hiring staff to fill these roles is not a great solution for these one-time projects nor is cutting corners on the heavy resources required in these areas. A large project without dedicated and experienced support can have devastating and lasting effects: IT Staff, surgeons and anesthesiologists become frustrated without timely responses and adequate support from knowledgeable resources and ultimately undermine the entire project – resulting in the costly and culture-eating abandonment of the software system.
During an implementation, a consultant can be the best resource for one-time tasks requiring skilled examination or management, such as data analysis, clean-up and validation. Time-consuming short-term responsibilities, such as project management, are also tasks that can be outsourced to allow your team to complete your initiatives while keeping attention on their day-to-day responsibilities.
During system conversion, consultants can serve your needs in many roles. Not only can they best handle the one-time and short-term tasks requiring expertise, but they can also be the most effective solution to manage your legacy system while the rest of your team is focusing on the new. Outsourcing the system administration and help desk support tasks for your current system provides your end users with seamless support without overtaxing your staff.
Outsourcing isn't just about the big jobs, though... Even outsourcing the smaller and/or one-time projects such as preference card-clean and item file clean up, point of care charge capture and CPT procedure coding - provides benefits (e.g. gets the project done without disrupting schedules and or without waiting to be "next" on the long list of the hospital's IT projects). Outside expertise has the benefit of leveraging experience not only with the system but also with the project process – no matter how big or small- and can provide skill sets to meet your specific needs (versus one size fits all).
Outsourcing periop IT services allows you to focus on your core business while passing off the details to the experts.
Lastly, as IT departments increasingly absorb the once separate/dedicated periop system support staff, facilities can and should also consider outsourcing the day-to-day management of their periop software systems. The same benefits as outsourcing during an implementation, upgrade or conversion apply here too and allow you to provide your end users with quick and accurate support within their context. Hiring qualified system analysts can be exhaustive and expensive plus there are the additional costs and efforts associated with training new hires. When you outsource, you tap into experience and intelligence while keeping overhead costs low and learning curves are almost non-existent.
Outsourcing's greatest benefit? Outside, expert partners provide
Bringing periop IT consultants on to your team also provides operating rooms with an outside perspective. Implementations and conversions often require change – a consultant can be the best resource to do workflow analysis and make recommendations, without the potential bias of an internal staff member. Outside experts can bridge the gap and facilitate coordination between departments and find common ground. Experience in other organizations allows these members of your team to think outside the box, identify potential issues and solutions and make suggestions for best practices.
Experts get it – (we get it). The OR is complex; the data needs are extensive, user needs are frequently urgent, personalities are diverse and, the OR is a significant contributor to the overall success of the entire organization. It takes a unique skill set and background to fill perioperative IT support roles in order to successfully manage the highly-complex data (and personalities) that involved with the use of surgical and anesthesia systems.
Outsourcing Success Stories
Coratek has successfully partnered with organizations of all sizes with projects of varying scope. Below are recent highlights:
Multi-year, multi-resource commitment
Project: System Administration for Periop and Anesthesia solutions, 1500+ bed, nationally ranked and JCAHO accredited, tertiary medical center and teaching facility in the Northeast.
Targeted scope, data analysis project
Project: Extract and format disparate database files to be merged into a new periop vendor system