As budgeting and planning season approaches, many of our clients engage us when developing their IT roadmap. We’ve found that clients who have roadmaps are able to make more proactive, informed and cost-effective decisions regarding their IT. With the ability to move confidently and deliberately in their IT decisions, these practices are able to use technology as a strategic differentiator.
Does your practice have an IT roadmap?
Healthcare practices that create, budget around and follow their IT roadmap experience benefits at every level of the organization, starting with the executive level. Having an IT roadmap allows the IT department to align their goals and priorities with those of the overall business.
Practices that have an IT roadmap typically experience fewer unexpected expenses. The roadmap identifies both short and long-term IT needs. With this proactive planning, practices are less likely to have surprises in their IT environment.
Another benefit of having an IT roadmap is the ability to anticipate how technologies will affect each other, the budget and the workload. This kind of planning fosters greater cooperation, teamwork and buy-in among the team.
There’s no right or wrong time to work on your roadmap – the exercise of creating one will be a benefit in itself. Many practices, though, create their roadmap during their budgeting and planning season, as it’s top of mind, makes the budgeting process easier and allows organizations to be more proactive in the year ahead.
WHAT SHOULD BE INCLUDED IN A ROADMAP?
Here are four key sections that should be included in your IT roadmap:
Knowing where you’re going begins with knowing where you are. Your IT roadmap should include an assessment of the practice’s current environment, including:
• People – What specialization exists within your team? Could your practice benefit from additional team members? Are current team members serving in their specialty? At what point might it make more sense to outsource than to hire additional staff?
• Processes – Do you have current, tested processes for disaster recovery, breach, new hire or termination, HIPAA training? If not, where are the gaps, and what vulnerabilities do those gaps create? Are there other processes that could help make your practice more efficient? What are other practices in your specialty doing to optimize efficiency?
• Technologies (current and planned) – Are your operating systems out of date on some workstations? What about warranties? Are you using tiered storage to control your storage costs; should you be? Will your EHR require any major updates this year that may affect infrastructure needs?
2. Strategic Initiatives
Start by identifying major practice initiatives for the next 18-36 months and how they might be affected by IT. For instance, adding clinic locations, staff or merging with another practice could have significant IT implications. This might include additional server or storage infrastructure, remote access needs or network connection and management, to name a few.
In this section, also identify future plans directly related to technology. This includes new initiatives you’d like to implement in the next 18-36 months. Engage your IT partners in this discussion, as they likely have valuable insight into what similar practices are finding success with. Service providers will also have a pulse on upcoming technology trends and how they could benefit your practice; incorporate these future needs into your planning, if appropriate.
Each initiative, new technology, existing infrastructure change and staff requirement should have an associated budget or cost. In addition to these line items, take the time to consider how payments or financing can affect your practice’s cash flow. For instance, many practices find that IT as a monthly, operating expense is more manageable and predictable than large, upfront, capital expenses.
Your roadmap should include a timeline that aligns with your priorities, budget and staff capacity. This timeline will provide visibility throughout the organization on when to expect projects to start, finish and hit the balance sheet.
IT’S TIME TO GET STARTED!
Investing time and energy into creating your IT roadmap will save your practice time, money and stress down the road. In addition, because of its strategic nature, it can be a powerful tool in building consensus, team-building and accountability among your executive team, IT department and service providers.
Netgain developed a free, detailed guide to creating your IT roadmap. It includes a recommended outline, technology assessment details, how a real ophthalmology practice is using their roadmap and other guidelines to help you get started.
Download your guide here.