Healthcare News & Insights

Hospitals move forward with failing IT projects, report says

aging-infastructureIT teams are no strangers to complex and difficult projects, and that’s especially the case in healthcare organizations, which are adopting EHR software and other significant systems. Unfortunately, those projects often run into problems. 

And in many cases, senior IT leaders feel like they’re forced to move ahead with those projects even if they aren’t ready, according to a recent HealthsystemCIO.com survey of healthcare CIOs.

The majority (71%) have been involved in a software implementation or another project that stumbled out of the gate. And among those, 86% said they felt pressured to forge ahead despite the initial poor results.

Based on their own experiences, 57% of the surveyed CIOs said they weren’t surprised that the federal government went ahead with the launch of Healthcare.gov despite concerns leading up to the deadline that the website and the back-end infrastructure wouldn’t be ready. Many respondents wrote that they understand the pressure in place to meet the deadline despite the challenges.

Improve planning and manage expectations

Of course, the best way to make sure a project can be completed within the deadline and budget initially expected is to plan thoroughly and make sure expectations are as accurate as possible.

It helps to predict what problems might come up and factor those in to the planning. After all, it’s better to overestimate things and finish a project before the deadline and under budget than to ask for more time and money later.

Some of the most common reasons survey respondents said cause projects to fail or become delayed:

  • a failure to take into account the problems that would occur at the beginning of the project
  • a lack of resources
  • competing priorities within the organization
  • external factors, such as government mandates, and
  • a lack of appropriate testing.

In addition to watching out for those problems, here are some additional project management keys:

  • Pay attention to user requirements — Especially with software like an EHR system, it will be critical to have buy-in from the people actually using the system on a daily basis.
  • Put the right person in charge — IT projects must be led by someone who understands technical needs and requirements but also can communicate effectively with the other stakeholders and decisionmakers throughout the organization.
  • Reduce the size and complexity — When possible, it helps to break larger projects down into smaller pieces that can be completed individually. That will help keep problems from piling on top of each other and becoming insurmountable. This approach is especially helpful if each mini-project has its own benefits.

Adapt quickly

Often, it’s not possible to predict all of the challenges that will occur. That’s why IT teams must make sure they aren’t afraid to adjust the scope or expectations during the project timeline.

While the majority of CIOs have had bad experiences with a project in the past, those that didn’t said the key was to manage expectations within the organization and to make issues known as soon as IT becomes aware of them. Others said that a delay may not be received well, but a failed implementation will cause huge and lasting problems for the entire organization.

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