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Heavy Lifting — The ARRA Program Manager

July 22, 2009
by Pam Arlotto
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As hospitals and physician practices begin the “heavy-lifting” associated with ARRA, it is important to recognize the reality of the effort ahead of us. In order to demonstrate “meaningful use”, providers will have to dramatically change the way they plan for and deploy information technology. To be effective, they must plan for:

§ Increased speed of execution

§ Increased number of simultaneous projects

§ Expanded interdependencies between internal and external stakeholders as we move beyond CPOE to health information exchange, quality metric reporting and care coordination

§ Heightened accountability and reporting requirements

All of this will occur as the specificity around the requirements and how CMS will execute upon them become clearer over the next 12 to 18 months. In order to address this, we are recommending to clients the creation of a new role: The ARRA Program Manager. Many organizations have strong project managers in place to ensure the application implementations occur on time, on budget and with successful results. Program managers take it a step further. They have a broad scope that orchestrates multiple projects. Specifically, the role is to:

§ Ensure the “right” projects are done in accordance with decisions of the governance committee

§ Exploit economies of scale across projects

§ Coordinate the sponsorship of executives across the organization

§ Serve as a communications conduit across organization boundaries

§ Reduce coordination cost and risks

§ Aggregate results to ensure alignment with strategic goals

An ARRA Program Manager should part of the executive team and have the ability/resources to:

§ Report initiatives to the CEO and Board

§ Address strategic impact to organization

§ Collaborate with peers and focus decision making priorities

§ Communicate key messages and positions

§ Advocate at local, state, regional and federal levels

§ Consolidate operational, clinical, financial, informational, legal and technological implications

§ Lead an integrated approach including quality metric, data definition and integrity, process redesign, change management and information technology is assured

§ Coordinate and negotiate with multiple third parties

§ Lead assessment, planning and deployment stages

When asked who should be the ARRA Program Manager, we often give a typical consulting answer “it depends”. In some cases it falls to the CIO, in others the COO, and in others the CMO. We have one CEO who has taken on the responsibility. The key is that the individual has the time, accountability and capability to lead the organization through the “heavy lifting” of ARRA.

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