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Strategic Planning for Healthcare IT, Part III

By: Chris Olson

Man wearing black and white stripe shirt looking at white printer papers on the wall

SEI recently helped a major healthcare provider to define, implement, and execute a strategic planning process.  In part 1, I addressed the selection of a framework and the definition of current state and ended with defining the future roadmap and an accompanying governance process.

One year and six steering committee meetings later the process is going strong. The major components of the governance process include:

  • User Work Groups
  • Request Triage Team
  • Steering Committee
  • Project Work Teams
  • Strategic Planning Support Team (Support and Communication)

Adhering to this strategic planning governance model has been critical for the continued successful execution of the strategic planning effort.

User Work Groups are focused on various functional areas including inpatient, ambulatory, pathology, radiology, and pharmacy. The membership of each group includes representation from IT, clinical, and non-clinical business partners. User Group members convene periodically to understand progress against the strategic plan and to generate new ideas for consideration. New ideas are vetted by the user group(s) and submitted to the Request Triage Team for review.

The Request Triage Team is the central point for reviewing enhancement and project requests submitted by user groups or individuals. The membership consists of IT, clinical, and non-clinical members (some of whom also participate in user groups). All new requests are logged without prejudice and effort is spent on maximizing the completeness of requests prior to the next meeting.

Members meet weekly to review submitted requests. The review includes a discussion of the request, an initial determination if the request is valid and/or in the best interest of the organization, an initial estimate of scope for valid requests and an agreement on next steps. Next steps are one of the following:

  • APPROVE as a small enhancement
  • APPROVE as a project that needs to be scoped and scheduled AFTER currently scheduled projects (i.e., to the right of the Gantt)
  • NEEDS FOLLOWUP with requester
  • DENIED for reasons such as:
    • Violates rule / law / standard of care
    • Incomplete; no response from requester
    • Duplicate request

The Steering Committee is the senior leadership component of the strategic planning effort. Membership includes 33 chiefs of departments, directors, and managers from across the organization. Members review progress against the strategic plan and consider reprioritizing planned projects if warranted. Other special topics that affect the organization are also discussed with the Steering Committee.

Project Work Teams consist of the people (i.e., project managers, business / system analyst, and developers) assigned to specific projects. They provide updates to the Strategic Planning Support Team for the projects they are responsible for. Project Work Teams are temporary teams specific to a particular project.

The Strategic Planning Support Team consists of Steering Committee members from IT, development managers, and IT project managers. They manage the overall strategic plan, special topics, and preparation of Steering Committee materials. Strategic Planning Support Team members are the glue in the governance process.

In the last year that the strategic planning process has been in place, skepticism, cynicism, and mistrust has been replaced with participation, trust, and support. The throughput of completed development projects has increased. Through transparency and communication, the organization recognized that IT planning is a multi-disciplinary activity not just an IT activity.

The story is not over yet! The organizational commitment is substantial. Individual team members are still critical to maintaining the process. Scoping of projects is still experience-based. The focus is now shifting to operationalizing the processes, introducing more tools to support the processes, and making the processes less dependent on specific people to manage moving forward. Watch for another update later this year!

Chris Olson


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