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10 Steps to Prepare for 2020 – Big Challenges – Bigger Opportunities

It’s that time of year again when prognosticators and futurists compile a top 10 list for the upcoming year. Please joining me in welcoming 2020 with a call to action for our wonderfully challenging and opportunity rich healthcare IT environment.

Before starting the list of recommended actions, I suggest that we IT professionals change the way we refer to ourselves — now, even before the turn of the year. Please join me in a self-directed evolution by shifting our reference from IT to Digital Services. That change would suggest using the title CDSO instead of the familiar CIO. The rationale for doing so, though relatively obvious, will be suggested in another blog.

Digital Service (DS) leaders will need a steady hand on the rudder to lead their organizations through some rough waters. Some of the themes below are repeated from last year…they still deserve your attention and efforts.

  1. Encourage innovation in nominal processes. Challenge the status quo, respectfully. Rely upon the wisdom of the people closest to where the productive work occurs. All DS professionals know how innovative users can be after digital solutions are implemented. Deploy solutions quickly and adjust rapidly. If you’re exploring outside innovations, remember pragmatism, practicality, and sustainability. Shiny objects are great and bring the promise of future gains; improving efficiency brings immediate and real gains.
  2. Embrace AI, cautiously. Every week, there are new articles about applied healthcare AI outperforming humans in many areas including medical image review, diagnosing some conditions, curtailing opioid abuse, and identifying cyber threats. There are, however, critics who understandably want more diligence from AI scientists, insisting on the same level of rigor and scrutiny applied to AI that is required of scientists engaged in traditional streams of clinical research.
  3. Address unhappiness with EHRs and other IT products and services. Poorly implemented HIT will continue to contribute to caregiver burnout if we don’t make changes with a renewed sense of urgency. Read Atul Gawande’s “Why Doctors Hate Their Computers” in November 12, 2018 issue of the New Yorker. It should inspire you to action. If you read it last year, read it again.
  4. Revisit your ERP (enterprise resource planning) solutions. The focus on EHRs was understandable and appropriate, but ERPs have largely been ignored. There are so many reports about the value that can be squeezed from reimplementing old ERPs or installing new ones.
  5. Implement and manage practical and pragmatic governance for data, information, and knowledge. The warning signs are everywhere – we’re in the midst of a data tsunami. We are, however, ill-prepared to harness the energy of the tsunami. We must more quickly refine data, transforming it into useful information and, ultimately, creating and sharing knowledge. Prepare for the surge. To generate enthusiasm for governance, 1) create a compelling value proposition, 2) generate organizational will to ensure efforts will persevere, and 3) share your successes early and often.
  6. Address the increasingly important Social Determinants of Health (SDOH). The data, though absolutely critical, is but one aspect of SDOH. Make sure your organization can ingest, understand, and use them. It’s the action plans that you develop from understanding the impact of SDOH on your patient that are important and will change lives. Invest in your social services community. Incorporate community services into patient and family lifeflows. To do so find a facilitator like
  7. Research outsourcing, again. Many of the skillsets and activities housed in the traditional Data Center have reached commodity status. Let someone else concentrate on those items so that you can focus on true value-adding products and services. The digital planning horizon is one of immediacy. You must bring agility, mobility, flexibility, and digital ability to all your stakeholders.
  8. Protect the sacred trust that patients and families have placed with providers. Even though cybersecurity capabilities have improved, so have the tools of the bad actors. Continued diligence and focus on the human factors is crucial. Create or enhance a culture of security and privacy.
  9. Earn your seat on the Executive Council. Digital Services requires you to lead, not just support or enable. Focus your thoughts and actions on alignment with the Mission and Vision in support of your financial and strategic plans. Information technology fans who can evolve and collaborate will succeed. Do you have the singular ability to champion, innovate, and lead clinical, administrative, and financial operations alone? No one does. Collaborate, coordinate, and communicate.
  10. Do a self-assessment. Use the new year as an opportunity to inventory your life, professionally and personally. Create a Life List (not a bucket list) of what to do with a fresh restart. We can all be our better selves. You may expect the best from others, but it’s more important to demand the best of yourself. Invest in yourself. Learn, teach, work, play, sleep, laugh, cry, talk, listen – exercise your mind and body. Sometimes the most selfless thing you can do is to focus on your own well-being. Become your best self, and if you fall short occasionally be as compassionate and forgiving of yourself as you are of others. Commit to a regular review of your life-work balance. Adjust as necessary. A better you makes a better us. A better us provides better care.

Hurrah for 2020! Let’s make the best of these opportunities to improve the health and care in our communities, our nation, and our world.

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