Reform Means a New Way of Thinking About Health Care IT

Lora Bentley

Now that health care reform is the law, health care organizations are scrambling to determine what they need to do to meet requirements, how long they have to do it, and how much it will cost. But Glenn Whitfield, the director of process improvement services at Dean Dorton Ford, says many of them are asking the wrong question.


Instead of how they are going to do those things - and pay for them - within their existing business models and systems, Whitfield says they should be exploring how they can "change [their] business models and processes to meet the new requirements." He writes:

The regulation ...[lays] out new means of reimbursement, coverage requirements, and tax implications, which will become very disruptive to organizations that continue to operate the way they always have. To meet the needs of this new "disruptive regulation" will require all involved in health care to become very innovative in their approach to delivering and providing care for patients.

In other words, the organizations that think outside the box will make the transition much more easily than those that cannot.


Would not the same approach work for those who are trying to wrap their brains around the requirements to qualify for federal incentive dollars under the HITECH Act? Just last week there were reports that many health care organizations are already convinced it will be impossible to qualify, so they're asking regulators to reconsider the requirements, to give them more time, or anything else that will make the process easier.


I'm not in the business of health care, nor will I pretend to know enough about the new requirements to know what will work and what won't. I'm just wondering whether a new way of thinking about the problem might make a difference. In a different post, Whitfield suggests it might. Quoting Arizona State University's Raghu Santanam, an associate professor in the W.P. Carey School of Business, he says:

Installing technology without first analyzing and improving current processes almost always leads to increased inefficiency and higher costs... Apparently, Professor Santanam agrees, "Most hospitals still aren't rethinking how they do things... They may need to completely reexamine their processes to maximize the new technology."

Most of the time, companies look for technology that can easily "plug and play" with their existng infrastructure, but with regulation as disruptive as health care reform and the HITECH Act, plug-and-play probably won't cut it.

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