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Maturity assessments build the business case for electronic medical records infrastructure

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Maturity assessments build the business case for electronic medical records infrastructure

Martin Burns | Dimension Data General Manager, Healthcare, Australia

Martin Burns | Dimension Data General Manager, Healthcare, Australia

While hospital administrations understand the life-saving necessity for electronic medical records (EMR), they don’t always know how to build a business case for the extra expenditure that an effective EMR system entails.

For one thing, EMR isn’t just about acquiring the necessary software. It calls for fundamental changes to both business and IT processes along with adjustments to the way caregivers and administrators go about their daily duties.

More to the point, perhaps, for EMR to save lives and improve the quality of patient care, the infrastructure on which it runs has to be optimised for digital usage and made sustainable in all demand scenarios. If not, it cannot enable the hospital to reach HIMSS stage 5 or above.

Getting there

Identifying the steps needed to transform a hospital’s extant systems to HIMSS standards is most accurately and relevantly achieved by doing a maturity assessment. But, the assessment has to be properly designed.

Obviously, it must be able to project the as is state against what HIMSS requires. Beyond that, it must take into account a particular hospital’s strategy and budget. And, because EMR is a significant step on the road to becoming a Smart Hospital, the assessment must be projected against the requirements for reaching what is an inevitable destination for hospitals.

Although the ultimate vision is always the same, getting to EMR as the initial phase of an ongoing transformation is a highly individualistic journey. With its own particular financial, operational, and IT constraints, every hospital is at a different point on the journey. For an EMR maturity assessment to have any practical value, it must show administrators how best to navigate their constraints from where they are now.

The place to start is with a business case.

Mandatory vs optional

The business case has to be structured around the infrastructure requirements that are mandatory for achieving HIMSS stages 5 and above. These include power, cooling, storage, and network outages, which statistics show account for some 66% of all EMR access issues.

Although the remaining 34% of issues are non-core, they can still result in EMR outages and, therefore, pose a risk to patients and the business. Seemingly peripheral disciplines such as IT governance, support, change management, and operational excellence are actually critical front line services.

A maturity assessment should, therefore, provide hospitals with insight into both mandatory and non-core issues that threaten its EMR capabilities, providing solutions for bridging the gap between a non-desirable state and an optimal outcome.

Overall, it should link the implementation of an EMR capability back to a business model that includes everything from procurement to security. Everything a hospital does affects the safe, caring delivery of medication to patients.

Becoming a service broker

In many cases, out tasking or outsourcing non-core disciplines and, indeed, some of the mandatory ones, is the quickest, least disruptive, and least expensive way of gaining rapid EMR service maturity.

So, as a hospital moves up the EMR infrastructure capability curve, it transforms naturally into a service broker. By virtue of being in command but not necessarily possession of a robust services platform that supports integration of programmes, partners, and services, it can confidently place the patient at the centre of all its operations.

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