We are all firmly in a technology driven world and healthcare is no different. It is now widely accepted that software and digital healthcare has become a vital part of the patient journey.
What has changed for the better in recent years is the shift in healthcare providers’ perceptions, embracing the need for change and recognising that project investment is required for success. It’s great to see that there is now a willingness to drive improvement at an executive level.
However, many healthcare providers have seen and experienced expensive failed technology change and are left with transformation providing little to no additional value. Even worse, after implementation of the product, support has declined to a point where both the relationship with the provider and trust in the solution are unrecoverable.
Understanding how to navigate your way through selecting a new software provider and creating an implementation journey that is efficient and effective will give transformational results.
Below are our top tips to help you kick off your project with confidence.
Identify your needs prior to implementation
Why is there a need to change software? Are you having software performance or functionality problems? Or, is it cost, poor customer service, slow customer-led development, or have you identified the need for better outcomes and reporting? Whatever your drivers are, make sure you can identify and communicate them to your colleagues. Ensure all your key stakeholders are clear on the project objectives and what your new ‘good looks like’.
When you have recognised the problems that can only be fixed by making a change to your software estate, it is hugely important to understand any contractual implications with your incumbent provider(s), so you can work to a suitable timeline when looking for new software suppliers.
When looking for that all important new solution, do your homework. Ensure that any new software gives your organisation growth in line with your project objectives and business plan. Importantly, you should also feel that any new providers are experts in their field and will be able to lead you and your team through the entire project process including post implementation support. Ultimately, any new healthcare software must be useable by your teams, it must have the appropriate connectivity, security, clinical safety and interoperability to meet all your complex operational needs.
Involving your IT Department, Transformation and Digital Leads
It is very important to include your IT department as a key stakeholder to make an implementation successful. With the increasing workload for IT departments due to the increased importance of IT solutions in healthcare, their buy-in and guidance is paramount.
You will need to think about the relationship between your IT team, the solution providers and Technical and Infrastructure teams, to ensure that lines of communication are kept open. It’s important that each party understands the extent of their areas of responsibilities. Building a strong relationship of trust and expertise between the two teams from the outset will ensure the best possible implementation outcome.
Your healthcare software project isn’t going to be an insignificant task; it is going to need a dedicated IT resource - even if it’s only for a short period of time.
Identify your internal champions
The IT department is an important starting point, but you need to find your people on the ground and operationally who understand your clinical service processes first hand. The IT department will usually give you expertise on one level but will be missing clinical knowledge. Identifying champion users is crucial for a successful implementation. It’s also crucial to secure a communications champion to relay the story internally. Keeping your staff and wider colleague network informed is more likely to gather a positive perception throughout your implementation journey.
Include the users in the process
Your users need to be included from the very beginning. Creating a community of users will not only help with implementation, but also create a valuable support platform for the new and less technically skilled.
It’s also important not to underestimate the time needed to do a full and robust testing of your new solution - of course here is where user involvement will be pivotal, as gathering findings from them will help inform changes to shape the user experience and operational flows.
No healthcare software is as simple as ‘plug-n-play’, so involvement to help shape new processes as well as inform a considered user training plan will be hugely valuable for all involved.
Make a cost-effectiveness analysis of the process
We know that implementation and integration of good software will increase productivity, improve patient information and decrease waste. But it's easier said than done when justifying spending money on a solution. Presenting well-balanced reporting of planned expenditure, including implementation time and the operational and financial savings expected will give the project credibility and help you to secure sign-off where required.
Define your timeline
Be realistic, consider current critical work pressures, seasonality and other up and coming projects that may have an impact on resources.
Build contingency and resilience into your overall plan in collaboration with your new software provider. You can use their extensive skills and knowledge from other customer projects to help inform your project plan.
Report and track your progress using a traditional RAG or RAID project plan to provide transparency to your stakeholders and to give you clear accountability for actions and risks.
Take the leap
Finally, use the knowledge, skills and expertise of your new solution provider to guide you through the project and implementation phase to create a working partnership approach.
Make sure that you are comfortable with the support and product development road maps of your new software supplier, so that your relationship will continue to flourish following the implementation. It’s important that you feel you have a genuine partnership, where trust and transparency are at the forefront.