You can’t fix what’s broken if you don’t fully understand your customers’ processes.
These days, you don’t have to hunt for interesting, industry-challenging topics; it’s more like you must pick and choose. One dominating issue of the past year, and most likely in 2021, is how work gets done—moreover, how a modern workplace works for the knowledge worker rather than the other way around.
One of the leading German IT publications published an interesting—or should I rather say, shocking—article a few days ago. Freely translated, the headline reads: “IT Deficit in Hospitals: From the 70s to the 2020s.”
And summed up in a few words, the article talks about how IT in hospitals works. Or rather not. Cutting the long story/interview short, it’s not that they lack technology. They have computers, more or less modern ones; they also have any other office hardware you can imagine they might need. They also have software, all sorts of it, from word-processing across to specialized hospital software.
Yet, they lack processes, more precisely processes that connect the many pieces, integrate them, and make them work for the staff, rather than having the team find workarounds to make what they have work for them. And they are desperate for improved security for their data, from data entry to the network and the output-device side of things. Not to mention telemedicine’s integration with whatever else, for example, Word or any other hospital-centric solution the teams are using. But above all, what they need are timely support and services.
Shortly before I stumbled upon the article, a friend of mine called to pick my brain regarding a process and software integration model for state health authorities he is currently working on to get my thoughts on the staff-hours they have been quoted and the pool of experts I would bring on board. We both agreed that their project couldn’t be successful without having a person familiar with the actual medical processes involved. Ideally, this would be someone who is, at the same time, versed in using modern IT technologies and software solutions, as well as be on hand following release and implementation and available for training and ongoing support.
Tackling projects outside our core expertise quickly leads to assumptions. That’s how it works in the office for company A, and it’ll work for company B just the same. Wrong. Even with a reliable project team, we often miss the point. What we are building is not reflecting what’s going on daily in stressful situations or in exceptional situations like the coronavirus work-overload hospitals are currently facing.
And no, the argument that “we haven’t seen anything like this before” doesn’t count. Hospitals are, to a certain extent, prepared to deal with exceptional health care situations, and only their experts will know, and in the case of emergency, direct the IT team on what to do. These are the people who can help select the best possible hardware and software and assist with their implementation.
Let me get back to my brain-picking situation. One element of that particular project is an extensive database, connecting multiple independent first responder services, other emergency services, hospitals, and other health care providers. Only someone familiar with their “business” would know how they enter data when there’s enough time, when there isn’t, but most importantly, how they retrieve data, and how and what are they looking for. The next level of this project is to build reports and, ultimately, predictions/data modeling. Again, depending on who you are and what you want to read from this data, only the experts in their fields will help you build this next step to their satisfaction or ready the tools for them to extract the information they require.
As if we don’t know all that!
Going back to the hospital and describing its transformation in 2020 as a leapfrog from the 70s into the 21st century, those hospitals, their partners, and to a certain extent, their IT teams thought they knew it all. In theory, they did, but in reality, there’s still a long way to make technology work for the team on the hospital floor. As for the database project, they brought a medic on board who, at the same time, turns out to be a bit of an IT geek. So far, the project looks like a huge success.
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