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How healthcare CIOs can sell IT to hospital boards

Brian Eastwood | Oct. 22, 2013
Miami Children's Hospital has invested heavily in technology -- from patient-facing mobile apps to a telehealth center with a global reach. CIO Edward Martinez says getting the hospital board to see the benefits of such technology means putting IT strategy in the context of business strategy.

Ask IT leaders in any industry for advice on encouraging their organizations to innovate and, at some point, the conversation invariably turns to convincing other C-level executives and the board of directors that a particular investment is worth the time, money and risk.

This is particularly tough for healthcare CIOs. The cost of maintaining legacy electronic health record (EHR) systems, not to mention implementing what's needed to meet the demands of HIPAA, meaningful use and the ICD-10 conversion, often leaves little, if any, room for investment in new technology such as mobile health and telehealth.

It can be done, though - and Edward Martinez, senior vice president and CIO of Miami Children's Hospital, knows what it takes to get there.

'Small Wins' Show Hospital Board Benefits of IT Investment
Miami Children's Hospital CIO Edward Martinez.

A little more than two years ago, Miami Children's board of directors decided it was time to overhaul the facility's entire IT environment, from infrastructure to applications. Martinez knew he couldn't just request funding, especially since the amount of money needed for such an overhaul could easily pay for a new building instead. So he helped form an IT governance committee - with membership that included attorneys, IT pros and marketers - which was asked to place IT strategy in the contest of long-term corporate goals.

Everyone knew that the hospital provided "great medicine," Martinez says, It was up to the governance committee, then, to convince the board that Miami Children's could bring more to the table. It did this by touting innovation as a way to improve market share, he says.

"For them, it was [important] to understand that using technology the way we're using it only makes it better for the patient," Martinez says.

This meant selling the board on mobility and patient engagement. Mobility made sense, given the popularity of the smartphone, but it did take some work to shift the organization from a standard patient portal to a more mobile experience.

Progress here came in the form of "small wins," Martinez says, with apps that help patients navigate through the hospital, order food from their bed or read medical research on their condition. When it's time for a follow-up visit, patients can sign forms electronically before they arrive, too.

These apps succeeded in showing the board of directors the value of investing in IT, Martinez says. This had a twofold effect. For starters, it paved the way for more robust mobile apps. This includes videos links within patient discharge instructions that can, for example, show a parent how to administer insulin to a child recently diagnosed with diabetes. This takes a complex process that used to require calling a pediatrician hotline or even making a follow-up appointment and now solves it in a matter of minutes, he says.


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