What does it mean to be the best healthcare IT department

What does it mean to be the best in Healthcare IT? Does it mean that you provide your internal customers with an SLA (Service Level Agreement) that you can commit to or meet a large percentage of time? Does it mean that you always have the resources that is required to achieve the objectives that the customer wants and never need to say no to a project that they ask for? What does it really mean?

In a recent article in Healthcare IT News, they asked 5000 people from 194 provider organizations through an online survey basically if they can answer these very questions, but primarily focused on day work is like, the IT team, the management, the provider organization’s leadership, the workplace culture as well as training, development and compensation.

To me, I would also consider the best as being the following:

Have they set out their objectives for the year, keeping into account, matching their IT spend and objectives with that of operations?

Does the IT organization have enough human capital to achieve these objectives or do they need to hire individuals to achieve their objectives?

Have they ascertained the risks, both positive and negative on their projects and understand ramifications if those risks become a reality (e.g. ICD-10 delay)?

Ultimately, IT departments execute organizational objectives and need to make sure that each of the projects has an operational sponsor that moves the momentum of the initiatives along so that politics and roadblocks get cleared and budgets can be maintained in accordance with what has been stated in a project charter or vision document.

Whenever I am at a IT organization and as their representative, go to a clinic at the hospital, (after asking if I could fix their printer or PC problem), they will always complain about the slowness of the IT team in getting back to them. Just a note that IT focuses hard on their initiatives and is always under funded many times as it is looked as a cost center rather than a strategic advantage. If IS&T starts to be viewed as an agent of organizational differentiator and is internally sold as such, then attitudes may change when it comes to being a provider organization that values it’s IS&T department. Let’s move forward in the 21st century, leaving those old attitudes about IT behind and forging a new path towards a collaborative and constructive IT ecosystem within healthcare.

Nelson Mandela and Equality in Healthcare

Nelson Mandela

Nobody exemplified the need for equal access to quality healthcare than Nelson Mandela, the iconic South African hero, who passed away in December of 2013,  at the age of 95. We remembered him last week on the 96th anniversary of his birth.

He will not only be remembered for his resistance to Apartheid and his crusade for its dismantling,  but really in the way that he did it. He was not a man who took revenge on his oppressors, but enbraced them and wanted to make sure that they enjoyed the fruits of a multi ethnic,  multicultural South Africa,  where everyone was enfranchised and everyone had the same access to all facilities, including healthcare.

There would not be separate, segregated healthcare providers anymore based on your ethnic make up. Everyone now had access to South Africa’s best facilities.  He did not do this overnight though. With everything,  this took time to work its way into the consciousness of all South Africans and all of us who have had the privilege of learning from his example.

We thank you Mr.Mandela for the contribution you have made to humanity.

An intuitive Payer-Provider Solution that “Cares to Connect”

Sometimes I have the opportunity to connect with interesting people that want to provide better healthcare collaboration like myself. Recently, I was introduced to such an individual in Suresh Kumar, the founder of a solution called “vCareConnect”.

I recently asked him about how he came up with his entrepreneurial initiative. Below is my interview with him.

Ajay: Suresh, thanks for sharing some of your thoughts with me and the readers of Healthcare Interoperability. How did you start this concept of Care Coordination?

Suresh: One of my neighbors is a caregiver for her 75 year old Mother. Her Mother had had a mild stroke and had to be taken to the Emergency Room. She shared with me how, during this event, she had to share the same information over and over again with different people and most of the providers were not aware of the care prescribed by other physicians for her Mother. That’s when it struck me. Why can’t the healthcare experience be like going on Amazon.com?  In an “Amazon experience” the buyer provides the information only once, completes their purchase with many sellers within the “Amazon ecosystem” without having to re-enter their information and the fulfillment department knows everything about the order and optimizes shipping to reduce costs. Granted in that model, it is possible to be well coordinated as a seller is in that ecosystem. In healthcare, we cannot get all of the healthcare systems under one umbrella. That was the genesis for the solution which I named, “vCareConnect”; a care coordination platform that provides transparency to the patient, provider, caregiver and care manager, enabling collaboration.

Ajay: So what is your concept of care coordination?

Suresh: Coordination means different things to different people, here is how we describe coordination, it is the ability to clearly communicate to provider, patient, caregiver and care manager on what care is needed for the patient, when is it needed and how to organize to ensure patient receives the care.

Lets say, as a scenario, I am on a visit to Florida and I fall sick. I should be able to quickly share my medical record with the provider  so that they can see the Care Plan I am on and medications I am taking. After I get back from my travel to Florida, I should be able to revoke provider access if I want to do so.

Ajay: That is an interesting concept, but what’s unique about vCareConnect?

Suresh: Another key part of the platform is a greater inclusion of caregivers. Caregivers play a key role in influencing patient behaviors and we believe this is an aspect that’s not been explored enough to improve patient engagement. Say if I am lagging behind on my blood pressure testing, if my wife knows about it she will certainly influence or prompt me to get it completed.

Unlike traditional careplans  our solution helps provider/care manager communicate care tasks in an easily understandable, daily task-like fashion. Our multi-modal communication tool-set delivers the information via the channel the patient prefers (such as online, through a smartphone app or a regular landline/mobile telephone call). What we are trying to do is providing tools to a team based care approach to  ensure transparency and communication among all of the stakeholders in the care process.

Ajay: That’s awesome to hear. Have you had any early successes in your entrepreneurial pursuits?

Suresh: Fortunately, we have had a chance to pilot this product in a rural population in India and have had some success in decreasing the  miscarriage rate and improving deliveries at the local government facilities from 20% to 35%. We were also able to save the patient population around $140,000.

Ajay: Suresh, thanks for sharing your experience and your entrepreneurial adventures with us. I look forward to your success and your continued advocacy for better patient care through healthcare information technology!

Suresh: Thanks Ajay.

Suresh Kumar is the founder of vCareConnect. He is a technology leader and has worked in technology consulting and advisory for 15 years. As a Senior Enterprise Architect and management consultant, he has provided services to organizations such as Blue Cross Blue Shield of Illinois, Wellpoint and Cigna. He was the Operations Director for Transunion Healthcare’s Analytics Product managedcare.com and has worked for consulting firms such as Booz & Co , Deloitte and Capgemini. Suresh currently lives in Illinois with his family.

Suresh Kumar-Founder of vCareConnect



Analytics and Operational Intelligence Projects in Healthcare! Oxymoron or possibility?

For many industries, the terms Business Intelligence”  has been around for more than a decade. “BI” has been much sought after over the last decade and it is finally healthcare’s turn to take advantage of analytics or intelligence initiatives to better the care of the population.

Being able to provide a predictive view of your operations, analytical tools have the ability to offer unlimited possibilities for healthcare organizations as a well-structured analytics application can give the organization a great return on investment for the organization and for the population the organization serves.

Analytics projects cut across the organization and managing an analytics project is much more involved than managing a traditional IT project as different techniques may be involved for a successful outcome. Depending on the organization, different operational users will be responsible for prioritizing and gathering their requirements for the project. They will need to document them as formal requirements.

The earlier phase will give us the ability to be able to understand the gap existing in the operations and the knowledge required to properly develop a roadmap for the project and understand the duration, cost and other project resources that would be required to successfully complete the objectives set out in a Project Charter and being able to understand your analytics and operational intelligence requirements is foremost. Being able to translate operational needs into technical requirements documents is necessary. This will help the technical resources into understand what their deliverables need to be and keeps them in sync with their operational counterparts.

In addition, I’ve seen that many recommendations is to not just talk to “Operational Power Users”. Every operational and clinical group has it’s Champion or go to individual when someone needs data for analysis. Those are your Power Users and they typically know where the data is and how to get analyze it and get at it. These people are the “C” in the RACI chart you put together, but make sure that you don’t assume that they represent the typical usage of the rest of the group, but only themselves.

Once the objectives are defined, the project architect will identify and select (if not already known) the right tools and technology for the initiative. They will create the data models and also map the workflow required from the source to the target system and work more often than not, with the ETL individuals from the database team and be able to define the operational and data requirements. As the team moves on to the development phase of the initiative and create and develop operational analytics content such as models, reports and queries.

Testing of the analytics content and system load is critical before any go live and operational user testers will be required to provide feedback on overall on any defects or functionalities, features, and data accuracy. Technical team testing will also be required to ensure the integration and performance of entire system is defect/bug free.

Being able to have a great deployment of your analytics solution is now is where the rubber hits the road. Making sure that your resources, infrastructure or otherwise, set up and configuration and completed dry runs ahead of time will require a great deal of collaboration and all of the resources working in concert to ensure success.