Achieve Quality Improvement through IT Integration

Information Technology (IT) integration in healthcare is an increasingly important component for clinician compliance and the provision of quality care. IT integration allows for standardized protocols and flow of communication between all clinical and operational work streams.What is IT integration, and what are its functionalities for healthcare provider organizations? IT integration in healthcare means to build a more effective and efficient healthcare system that takes a patient-centered focus, and better meets the needs of the population served.

The landmark Institute of Medicine report, Crossing the Quality Chasm: A New Health System for the 21st Century, implies that significant structural changes, such as integrated care delivery, are needed to improve care coordination and achieve continuous quality improvement and accountability. [i]There are several principles of integration, but primarily the focus is to streamline clinical care and electronic billing. One principle of integrated health systems is the comprehensive scope of coverage of clinical and health-related services. Integrated health systems assume the responsibility to plan for, provide/purchase, and coordinate all core services along the continuum of health for the population served. Patient focus is reflected by population-based needs assessments that drive service planning and information management and the desire to redesign internal processes to improve patient satisfaction/outcomes and business target areas. The use of state-of-the-art system-wide computerized information systems that allow data management and active tracking of use and outcomes is necessary to be sufficient and provide support. Electronic health records (EHR) link consumers, payers, and providers across the continuum of care and provide relevant information to these stakeholder groups. It is essential that information can be accessed from anywhere in the health system, even in remote locations, to facilitate seamless communication between care providers. The information system should also enable system-wide patient registration and scheduling coordination as well as the management of clinical data. The ability to integrate clinical and financial information is viewed as crucial for monitoring cost-effectiveness and facilitating service planning. [ii]Coker plays a significant role when working with provider groups or hospitals in developing a fundamental IT integration method. We take the time to review the current Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) services and EHR system used in the organization. Coker’s team of experts identify the positives and the negatives of the systems in use to assist with the appropriate action plan.

Some of our integration steps or plans consist of the following:

  • Determine Integration Priorities: IT integration plans use the corporate objectives of the deal to inform prioritization and sequencing of the IT activities.
  • Assess the Impact on the current IT Staff: This assessment identifies tools beyond communication to address retention risks.
  • Create a Governance Structure: The set-up of an integration team, led by a senior IT leader who is responsible for coordinating all IT activities in both companies, and serving as a liaison to the corporate integration teams.
  • Collect Necessary Data for Integration: Define a standard language to classify all technologies and applications, which will save time and money in detailed data collection.
  • Develop and Communicate Integration Plan: IT integration plans are developed early in the process to give the necessary information to all the team about the costs of integration and the impact on business unit resources.

Following the steps above allows Coker and our client to avoid any gaps or pitfalls that can occur during such an essential part of any IT integration project. We encourage and implement communication throughout the project to allow our clients use an “open door” policy. Coker emphasizes the policy of ensuring the client is engaged and heard during integration. It is vital that all who are involved feel we are teaching and coaching them along the way to ensure that the client knows they have a voice in the project. We believe in empowering our clients to be part of the team every step of the way.We’ve learned that most successful projects are those that are allotted sufficient time for planning and are followed by the implementation of what was developed.

Coker has communicated and created a realistic integration time frame. Depending on the type of an integration project, whether a new installation or modification, we believe it is integral to provide a schedule that is fair and transparent to the client. Our goal when integrating systems is to set a realistic timeline that allows for the proper planning. We feel that honoring the schedule will assist in providing topnotch services. Though even the best plans can experience delays, with a realistic plan, we can be prepared for the unexpected and respond quickly. During the IT Integration process and after, Coker will maintain, monitor, and measure key system performances to ensure support. It is well known for most IT projects that developing and implementing integrated EDI and EHR systems can be time-consuming, complicated, and costly. Designing and implementing poor IT integration systems as evidenced by scantly used by providers, lack of common standards, poor technology solutions, and ineffective leadership can contribute to the failure of integration projects. It is Coker’s goal and desire to be a helpful resource when assisting clients on such a significant project.

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