Healthcare News & Insights

9 critical needs for successful IT projects

Implementing a health IT system is a big project that requires careful planning to avoid expensive mistakes. Here’s a list of best practices all organizations can use for their IT projects.

The list was compiled by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) based on interviews with federal CIOs and other officials.

The GAO looked at seven successful government IT projects, including the Department of Veterans Affairs’ Occupational Health Record-keeping System. These are factors they had in common which were critical to the projects’ success:

1. People in charge of the project were actively engaged with stakeholders — In the case of health IT, that means doctors, administrative staff and anyone else that will use the system. In the projects studied, stakeholders reviewed vendor contracts, attended decision-making meetings and were notified of problems and concerns with the project as soon as they came up.

2. Project staff had the necessary knowledge and skills — That includes both the technical skills required to implement the system and the business skills needed to research vendors and negotiate contracts.

3. Senior management supported the project — This is essential in order for the project to get the necessary funding, information and time required to effectively complete the project. Also, if top level management doesn’t support the project it’s less likely the lower levels of the organization will do the same. Project staff can help by reaching out to top management to explain the benefits of the implementation.

4. End users and stakeholders communicated their requirements early on — One way to jeopardize an IT project is to find out that the system being implemented won’t meet user requirements well into the planning stages. Essentially that means the planning must start over from the beginning. The GAO report notes that in the VA’s electronic records project, end users began identifying their requirements a full three years before the system was implemented.

5. Users were involved in product demos and testing — Major IT systems must be tested by end users before they go online. But it’s not enough to wait until the final test before official implementation — for example, users should help project teams view product demos when vendors are being selected, and test in-house software while it’s being developed.

6. Project personnel was consistent — This includes in-house employees, as well as contractors the organization works with. Changing team members will slow the project down because will new people will need to brought up to speed, and having a group that works well together is critical to a successful project.

7. Clear priorities were identified and followed — One system may not be able to do every single thing an organization wants. That’s why the needs and wishes of end users, management and IT must be clearly prioritized.

8. The organization maintained regular communication with vendors and contractors — Organizations understand the importance of internal communication during big projects. But the hard part is often regularly staying in touch with outside partners involved in the project.

9. The project had a big enough budget — Of course, for a project to be completed, the organization must be able to pay for it. That’s why getting top-level management on board and justifying spending is critical.

To read the GAO’s full report, download it here.

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