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Balancing Health IT Infrastructure Budget with Innovation

Cooperation and realistic timelines are key to working within a strict health IT infrastructure budget.

health IT infrastructure budget

Source: Thinkstock

By Elizabeth O'Dowd

- Organizations are often caught between a rock and a hard place when it comes to balancing a health IT infrastructure budget.

Recent technological innovations can improve clinician workflow, patient care, and business revenue, but proving that certain infrastructure additions or upgrades are needed can be a hard sell, especially with shrinking IT budgets.

Improving IT infrastructure goes hand and hand with value-based care. Cutting cost while improving patient care and reducing return visits is a balancing act.

Value-based care is the number one driver of health IT growth, with data and analytics as the biggest spend category, according a Damonintel report. The increasing focus on AI and cognitive computing in unlocking insights to drive improved healthcare delivery is key in data and analytics spending.

Organizations that do not construct a solid and buildable infrastructure foundation will never be able to take advantage of advanced layers of technology, including analytics and artificial intelligence.

The big picture of upgrading a health IT infrastructure system is daunting. Many IT infrastructure tools can have high upfront costs. Building and repurposing digital tools and applications to make them compatible with mobile devices and flexible enough to handle future interoperability can be expensive and time consuming.

Viewing an entire IT infrastructure as one project is also overwhelming. Grouping network, storage, cloud, and virtualization together can make it impossible to know where to start upgrading and shield smaller and more accessible problems from view. Not planning for an infrastructure upgrade can lead to wasted time on projects that are not as urgent and purchasing the wrong tools.

Healthcare organizations cannot afford to waste resources on projects that are not done correctly in the right order or don’t have the promise of a positive ROI within the next several years. Organizations need to seriously consider how they can benefit from emerging technology without overspending.

Organizations need to assess their current infrastructure. What legacy systems are slowing down progress and which systems are relatively new and easier to work with?

The main goal should be to unify health IT systems so they work better together over time. This simplifies how they work and can also decrease redundancies and declutter operations. Organizations tend to have many different computer systems, and investing capital into simplifying these systems can be worthwhile.

Untangling current infrastructure and prioritizing what needs to be replaced first to support more innovative technology can be a good place to start.

Once organizations identify the weak spots in their infrastructure, planning a realistic timeline to replace these systems is the next step.

A realistic timeline includes a realistic budget. These upgrade projects can take years, and forming a good relationship with the financial department is critical. This may include a proof of concept on how workflow and end-user experience will improve.

Financial executives understand the end-user perspective better because they typically are end users themselves. Gaining a financial perspective to upgrades can be valuable to the IT department as well.

Networks will constantly grow as more tools are added. Seeing this growth from a business perspective can help IT executives make more informed decisions on how to roll out upgrades.

Once a budget timeline is in place, taking a proactive approach to upgrades can save organizations grief down the road. Waiting for systems to fail before they are replaced can lead to security breaches that can put patient data at risk, as well as network outages that can put patients in danger.

Understanding which systems will most likely fail first and how much of the infrastructure depends on them can help organizations be proactive with upgrading and replacing them.

While having a realistic timeline can help move the projects along, it’s important to make sure that each upgrade, integration, and migration is done correctly the first time so resources are not wasted.

Forming partnerships with vendors that have experience in the healthcare space can help organizations make transitions to new IT systems right the first time. While vendor partnerships may require more funds upfront, taking some of the burden off IT staff and consulting with vendors can simplify the process and cut back on complications.

Quick fixes are no longer going to help organizations move forward with their digital transformations. Modern infrastructure is needed to take advantage of the technology that will help improve patient care. Planning improvements around budgets and legacy systems will help organizations build a more scalable health IT infrastructure for current and future technology. 

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