Technology and tools are investments in efficiency.
They are there to aid the practice in critical functions and generate insights that improve care and decision making. The sizeable and complex nature of these infrastructure investments, however, can make their implementation during emergency preparedness especially overwhelming and/or intimidating. Decision makers should narrowly focus the conversation on areas of technology and tools that directly relate to the critical infrastructure issues that arose during the pandemic, addressing these immediate technology weaknesses first. New requirements can then go through the regular technology planning cycle to manage technology spend. Emergency spend on new solutions or vendors can take time to mature so that Payments are optimized during a recovery period.
Within the scope of this immediate review are three primary areas of consideration:
- Existing hardware and software technology that supported clinical and non-clinical functions prior to COVID-19
- New hardware and software technology implemented as a direct response to COVID-19 for clinical or non-clinical teams
- Tools (equipment) for critical response functions, either clinical or non-clinical
When thinking about existing hardware and software, the consideration should focus on infrastructure directly touched or impacted during the crisis. For instance, if a human resource recruiting tool had no impact on direct emergency response while the electronic medical record (EMR) did, the HR tool should not be a point of focus, as it pertains to budget set aside for emergency preparedness. While this seems obvious, reviewing and identifying infrastructure in the emergency response network first protects decision makers from budget and backlog discussions better suited for the normal technology planning cycle.
Once the focus has been narrowed to the most relevant infrastructure, the evaluation of upgrades, patches, or enhancements can begin. If an organization leverages an Agile methodology, product owners play a critical role in developing epic-specific user stories that can hone the attention and scope of the technology efforts. Regardless of project management methodology, product owners and technology teams can participate in a facilitated session to “walk the process,” identifying changes or impacts that occurred during the pandemic. This sessions allows product owners to share feedback about what happened during the pandemic as well as identify and prioritize opportunities for improvement.
Leadership should also consider if sunsetting decisions for hardware or software should be advanced. Factors contributing towards sunsetting old technology should not only include the performance during the pandemic but the reward, cost, and maintenance criteria typically considered by the healthcare organization.
New technology implemented during the pandemic also needs consideration as it is configured, enhanced, and integrated into the existing architecture. Before jumping head-first into new horizons, stakeholders should take note of what functions worked well during the pandemic and what features did not meet expectations. Because these new technologies have not yet been fully integrated into the organization, it is important to note these user stories but not be constrained by them. Healthcare organizations should take a step back to consider how the new technology can be leveraged to improve prior processes and create a vision and roadmap for the technology beyond its immediate use during COVID-19.
Lastly, reviewing the tooling (equipment) that is needed to respond to an emergency event is worthwhile. While ventilators have been of critical focus, healthcare organizations should consider other types of equipment that are consumed with high volumes of patients and providers. Tools such as Glidescopes, PAPRs, iPads, or monitors may be a larger and more practical pain point for some healthcare organizations. Planning for the investment in equipment, as well as allocating some equipment as emergency only, is important to future preparedness efforts.
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