Project Management Institute

The human element

The debate over healthcare in the United States sparked heated exchanges in the nation's presidential elections in November 2012. While the candidates disagreed ideologically, the issue was rooted in some very real, and very large, numbers. According to The New England Journal of Medicine, U.S. healthcare spending will reach an estimated US$2.8 trillion in 2012, about 18 percent of the nation's GDP. At the intersection of healthcare and IT, however, exist myriad opportunities for project professionals to eliminate massive inefficiencies, redundancies and administrative costs. This article discusses the biggest obstacle to success in healthcare IT projects, which is one that project teams have to make an extra effort to control: the human element. In doing so, it discusses failures in electronic healthcare records (HER) megaprojects, software-based HER systems and health information exchanges to infrastructure overhauls that outfit hospitals with technology. It examines how Geisinger Health System (Danville, Pennsylvania, USA) implemented a Pennsylvania-wide health information exchange (HIE) system that links every clinical facility and healthcare worker and explains the implementation plan. The article then looks at how Texas Health (Dallas, Texas, USA) built a new, state-of-the-art hospital, noting that the IT team was not fully consulted in the initial project planning process. As a result, the software applications, licensing fees and installation costs were not factored into the budget. The article also looks at the importance of creating a true dialogue between IT project teams and healthcare staff. It describes how the IT team at Texas Health sets clear goals about stakeholder expectations, and how they are creating liaisons with clinical personnel and establishing staff tasked with the specific purpose of setting strategic project goals. Accompanying the article is a case study discussing how a clinical data warehouse was built at the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC) (Charleston, South Caroline, USA). It details the project plan and identifies the challenges encountered by the project team. In addition, three sidebars accompany the article: The first one examines the expected surge in project management positions in healthcare IT projects; the second one focuses on the role of chief medical information officers; the third sidebar details the effect of a rise in healthcare IT spending.
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