It is a continuing source of professional satisfaction for me to see my company committed to helping customers transform their thinking and their IT infrastructure to focus on generating true business value. As a result, I couldn’t help but notice when the Healthcare Information & Management Systems Society (HIMSS) recently introduced the Health IT Value Suite. I’m taking this as a positive sign that, unlike many other industries, the healthcare sector has decided it’s time for a new IT model and is taking steps to change its thinking from ‘technology for technology’s sake’ to the role of technology in generating business value. If you’re not familiar with HIMSS, it is a global, not-for-profit organization focused on better health outcomes through the use of Information Technology. Its membership encompasses more than 50,000 individuals, 600 corporations and 250 not-for-profit partner organizations. Historically, investments by IT management beyond just ‘keeping the lights on’ seem to have been focused on optimizing infrastructure to reduce costs and improve service delivery. Server consolidation, virtualization and now cloud computing are good examples; and frameworks such as the Microsoft Infrastructure Optimization Model have provided a roadmap for many such optimization initiatives. In healthcare, the Electronic Medical Records (EMR) Adoption Model from HIMSS Analytics seems to fit this ‘roadmap’ description. Introduced in 2005, the model is used to track EMR adoption progress at hospitals and health systems. It is also used to score hospitals on their use of associated healthcare technologies such as emergency department systems, chronic disease management systems, electronic drug order entry systems, diagnostic image repositories, and specialized applications for radiology, pharmacy and the laboratory. The accompanying diagram shows a 2011 example of the overall score for those Canadian healthcare facilities reporting their activities, to which I have added the Q3, 2013 scores as currently reported by HIMSS. In my opinion, however, the EMR Adoption Model is merely a ‘technology scorecard’. With today’s economics, I think IT organizations in general are being held more accountable for how their investments in Information Technology will generate value related to non-IT, business metrics. These include, for example, time-to-market for new products and services, inventory turns, service quality and the customer experience, employee satisfaction and engagement, innovation, revenue and others. As a result, CIOs are working more closely with business units to achieve a measurable source of business advantage for their organizations, and technology maturity models may be giving way to value-based frameworks to guide improvement. Healthcare is no exception.
Thinking about value in healthcare IT
In July, HIMSS introduced the Health IT Value Suite to help healthcare providers and other health sector stakeholders evaluate the value, and thus the success, of their investments in healthcare IT across numerous clinical, business and financial measures. The Health IT Value Suite manifests itself physically as a repository accessible by HIMSS members containing hundreds of evidence-based information artifacts, including case studies, exemplifying the value of health IT. Of more interest to me, however, is the fact that the Health IT Value Suite creates a framework for assessing the impact of IT in health settings. As depicted by the accompanying diagram, the framework consists of five value categories, called the Health IT Value STEPS™, by which the healthcare community, especially CIOs and senior IT management, can now articulate, rationalize and evaluate investments in IT in terms of their contribution to generating business value and differentiation. Clearly a step in the right direction for the healthcare sector that other industries should take note of.