Tue | Dec 18, 2018

Health + Tech | Planning & Preparation - The keys to successfully implement technology

Published:Sunday | November 18, 2018 | 12:00 AMDoug Halsall

I have had some experience implementing technology in entities that are completely new to it. This is not an easy process and can result in extended delays if not undertaken clinically.

My experiences include implementing health-system-related technology at entities such as pharmacies, hospitals, and medical practices. Like any normal change process, these things require a strategic approach.

People are generally averse to change but Jamaicans tend to fear technology, especially when we believe it to be intrusive - requiring personal information - which health technology can't escape.

The work to get acceptance is much more difficult in this environment. Initial reactions to the implementation of the Provider Access System for health-insurance claims processing included suspicion, apprehension, and outright refusal, but the system is now being sought after.

We are in the midst of a paradigm shift where the use of health technology is concerned. The University Hospital of the West Indies' implementation of the Health Information Management System and the Government's adoption of telemedicine, points to this. The insurance companies already use online, real-time claims processing, and doctors' offices are now requesting electronic health records and the Medical Practice Management System.

There are important components that need to be considered for successful implementation of health technology.

- Preparation is key: Implementation of any health-technology system involves several stakeholders. It is important that administrators begin to prepare staff for what is coming by engendering open communication and an environment in which the vision and premise upon which the organisation is built is properly communicated and practised at every level. training and education need to be prioritised and critical and creative thinking supported.

- Have a clear plan: Your plan will begin to take shape once you have decided the purpose of the technology that you wish to implement. This must include mission, vision, values, and goals. It is important that all team members are made to understand these. They can even contribute to putting this part of the plan together for a more inclusive process. The plan should include clear objectives, responsibilities, and time lines.

- Choose the right team: Once the decision has been made to use technology, the process of change management begins. Identifying key leaders within the organisation at every level is important. For example, doctors, pharmacists, administrative team members, customer-service personnel, human resources and importantly, a good communicator.

- Empower your champions: The leaders that you have chosen from each section of the business need must be influencers. Communication skills and an understanding of the importance of the change must be factors to consider when making your choice. Make sure that they have the freedom to represent the project to other staff members.

- Communication is key: Ensure that your leaders are properly educated about the plans and are always kept up to date on the progress of the project. You must establish rules for communication so that information is organised and conveyed in a structured and timely manner from a central and trusted source.

- Prioritise training: Training is a key component of implementation. It is a good idea to train trainers who will then train their peers to ensure that once the external project team leaves, there will still be internal resources to train new staff and refresh others.

- Standardise implementation and testing: Create an implementation schedule that is communicated across the organisation. There should be no confusion as to when a department will be expected to facilitate the team implementing the technology. Roles should also be made clear. Study the existing work flow and where change is recommended for efficiency or best practices, it must be reasoned. User buy-in must be achieved.

These are just some of the considerations when implementing health technology across an organisation. The technology may be the best, but errors in the implementation process may result in improper use or lack of use.

Proper research is important when choosing technology for your business so that it will satisfy your objectives.

Constant and consistent documentation during the process is important to help you to stay on track and address any issue that may come up as soon as possible. Project implementation is not easy, especially when it is technology-related. However, success can be achieved with meticulous and inclusive management.

- Doug Halsall is the chairman and CEO of Advanced Integrated Systems. Feedback: doug.halsall@gmail.com.