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An Important, Sometimes Forgotten, Perspective

December 30, 2008
by Neal Ganguly
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I've read HCI's blogs with great interest, and am honored to be given a chance to share my perspectives with you as well. I'll start with a few level setting thoughts on community hospitals. According to the American Hospital Association, of the over 5,700 registered hospitals in the US, almost 3,000 are not-for profit, non-governmental community hospitals. This massive block should be able to wield a lot of power in the marketplace, yet the cottage-industry mentality of healthcare has left us fragmented, without alignment, and ill prepared to meet the integration demands of a changing healthcare environment. This poses significant challenges for community hospital based IT departments who are usually competing for funding with clinical departments. Limited funding & staffing make the prospect of major technology implementations a scary proposition for IT managers, and even when the funding is available, end-user expectations often outstrip reality.

Is it all doom and gloom? I believe the answer is no. Many community hospital's have recognized the need to build a strong technology infrastructure and are beginning to classify IT infrastructure as importantly as other utilities. Once that strong technology infrastructure is in place, the 'fun' can really begin. Themes like Patient Safety, Productivity, Physician Affinity, and maybe even (dare I say it?) Profitability can be explored. IT can be (actually, must be) an enabler for all of these themes. But we must also be able to prove value within our organizations. It's the challenge that I'm facing every day, and I'm sure many of you are as well. How do we integrate IT into the strategic direction of the organization? How do we demonstrate the value for IT investments? How do we defend the hiring of IT staff vs. clinical staff in a tight budget environment. In upcoming blogs, I'll talk about some of my thoughts on these challenges, and look forward to hearing from others to see where we can ultimately find best practice. I'll also dabble in some discussions on future items such as the concepts of the medical home, RHIOs, genomics, etc. You know - how will they impact community healthcare? Who will pay for these things? And other such concerns.

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