[ Tuesday, March 15, 2005 ]


PriceWaterhouseCoopers' Report: I've spent the last few mornings on the exercise bike reading this report (brief, free registration required) from PWC on the potentially transformative effects of technology on healthcare delivery. Their idea was to target hospitals that are particularly technologically advanced (what they call "digital hospitals") and see what has worked for them and what hasn't. There are some not-unreasonable, but not proven, assumptions built into the report: technology will improve processes, there will be a tangible return on technology investment, etc. But their conclusion is that if you do it right, moving to a "digital hospital" will be good for everyone. Of course, a key is in the "doing it right," which is probably something PWC is pretty sure they can help you with.

A few of the points made:
  1. It's easier to do at a new hospital than an old one. While you can't get one stop shopping, the more ingrained your legacy systems, the harder it is to get cross-departmental integration.
  2. You've got to spend money to make money, and you won't make money right away.
  3. Process is very important. Perhaps more important than anything else.
  4. You've got to get your workforce involved, since it won't work if they won't work with it.
  5. You're going to have some people who are key to making integration work that you will have no control or influence over; mainly, doctors. But, you will also be able to attract new doctors better if you're more digital.
  6. Some expected benefits will not occur or will not be as great as expected, but other unexpected benefits will occur.
  7. You need a big, broad, overall strategic plan, and constant push, to make it happen, starting from the board of directors and going all the way down.

Also, there are these points:

  1. Defining the "digital hospital" is a "blind men and the elephant" exercise.
  2. Unless you're starting off new, moving toward technical integration is a non-linear, multidimensional continuum.
  3. The continuum is affected by the "network effect:" having one fax machine is completely worthless, if nobody else has one. If one other person has one, you have more utility, but if many people have them (and they are compatible), the value is huge.
  4. The continuum is also affected by the "tipping point:" there gets to be a point where you have to have the technology to stay in the game. One example is a bank without ATMs; another is the fact that PCs all now have cd drives, so software (which used to come with a cd and a diskette) now only comes with a cd.
  5. Some of the benefits will be hard to quantify. A responsive and adaptive organization may be attractive to new physicians and a better community citizen, but it will be hard to quantify that.

It's a bit of a slog going through the whole report, and it's definitely a work of consultant-speak. But it's worth a read if you've got nothing better to do (like when you're on the treadmill going nowhere watching SportsCenter).

Jeff [10:59 AM]

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