One of the biggest risks in any kind of clinical project is getting an adequate level of buy-in. It’s obvious that the more you can involve clinicians, both before the project starts and while it is running, the better your long-term outcome is likely to be.
The general view is that it is easy to get nurses and allied health professionals involved in projects, and almost impossible to get doctors involved in any meaningful way.
Of course nurses make fabulous project participants. They often know more about how things run in their department than any of the other staff, and they’re connected right through the hospital.
But the pushback, if and when it comes, rarely starts with nursing staff. It starts with medical specialists who are:
So these people have to be on board.
Which means you need at least one senior medical specialist who is happy with the system chosen, who has been to the training, and who is ready to stand up and defend it to their colleagues, and hopefully also educate them about the benefits they will see once they make some time to get used to the new way of doing things.
People in our industry talk a lot about how “healthcare is different”. Like most generalisations, it’s not entirely true, but there are certainly some key differences.
This is highly apparent when new systems are installed in hospitals. Imagine if XYZ Bank was installing a new banking system, and the local XYZ branch manager at Strathfield complained in the papers about what a dud system it was, and how head office were a bunch of clowns… You can imagine the outcome for that person.
Translate that into healthcare, to a senior specialist at Strathfield Hospital complaining to the local newspaper about the new EMR. Most likely the outcome would be completely different.
I am not saying that’s a bad thing altogether. Any decent system ought to be defensible, and we as implementers should be willing to be held to account if we have got things wrong.
The more important point is that it’s these hierarchical differences that are often not well understood by people coming into ICT projects from other industries. They can be labouring under the illusion that it is acceptable for ICT staff to tell clinical staff what to do on projects.
They can also frequently fail to understand that ICT systems can become a bargaining point in the usually complex, and often fraught, relationship between hardworking clinicians and equally hardworking hospital and area managers.
An overbalance of external ICT staff without health experience working on a project spells trouble.
The truth is, you really need clinical staff telling clinical staff what to do – or, even better, showing them what to do.
Finding the right person or persons for this is not easy. The person you do not want is “The IT Doctor” – that guy or girl who “knows a lot about IT” and probably writes code in their spare time.
The person you want in this communication role should be a well-known specialist and highly regarded for their clinical expertise and experience.