By Iris Berman, VP, Telehealth Services, Northwell Health
The decisions surrounding the selection and use of technology in healthcare have many influencers, some positive, and some due to barriers. Such obstacles to adaptation of new technology include preexisting limitations of current infrastructure such as application deficits, physical work environment, human resources for training, and support of involved staff. Behavioral barriers include behavioral issues or attitudes towards technology and organizational hierarchy of the influenced care models within the system.
Due to these factors, at the first start, it can be wise to phase in the introduction of new technology to understand the full impact before making a full financial commitment.
One advantageof a phased approach in the environment is to ‘test the waters’ with relation to breaking through barriers. Another is to identify areas where resources will have the most impact utilizing some of the technology and evolving its’ use as adaptation occurs. All this can occur while environments are modified. But most important is to be certain of the problem you are trying to solve by introducing new equipment. If this is unclear, so too will be the adoption, use, and understanding of its’ need. In addition, if the problem solved is one that is understood by the end-users, the continuous change of technology inherent in today’s world, particularly as it applies to health care, can help to yield a symbiotic relationship between the two while allowing for the chaos of this change.
In building infrastructure, we consider the capital spend and longevity of the hardware, the flexibility of the software, and the willingness of partners in either domain to work with us. The end-user must be involved in decisions around selection and design, not just of the technology but also how it is utilized. The greatest amount of time invested should be in the workflows. Simply purchasing technology because it is the shiny new toy will not result in a problem solved and quite likely a costly problem created.
Before purchasing, consider what the problem is you are trying to solve. Is it time, distance, image storage, communication, provider shortages, and replacement of existing technology? Is it consumer-facing, employee-facing, provider facing, or a combination of all? What are the KPIs for the project? Will you be able to influence outcomes based on the technology and vendor you select? What does the workflow look like today before the technology is inserted, and what advantage does the technology bring to the provider and the patient entities? If you are unable to answer these questions, you may be solving the wrong problem. There may be growing pains around new workflows related to the new technology. Spend a great deal of time understanding current state workflow and design of the updated workflow with the new technology in place. Use mock scenarios before a live launch, especially if patient or consumer-facing. Finally, plan for adequate support, both educational and technical for the first few weeks and be clear on what the vendor is responsible for vs what you are. Make that support plan clear to everyone. There will always be hiccups, but the more you can anticipate, the less complex those will be.