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The Makings of Modern Healthcare IT

Amit Bhagat

Pre-ACA, IT organizations in healthcare largely operated as reactive, tactical resources, unconnected to business goals or strategy. Post-ACA, it’s a whole different story. 

Strict new limits on premium increases and rules about the percentage of revenue that must be reserved for medical expenses and quality improvements have forced healthcare payors to find out how to do more with less. In this environment, a traditionally structured IT department might as well have a target on its back.

But all hope is not lost. In fact, our work with one longstanding client proves that there is a way forward for healthcare IT that serves to secure a vital role for their services in the future success of their organizations.   

Look Back to Move Forward

Like so many IT organizations, Information Systems and Technology at Arkansas BlueCross BlueShield had grown organically with the business—creating silos of information and barriers to communication. In combination with shifting regulatory, security and product marketing strategies driven by passage of the ACA, this had created a department burdened with extraordinary work demands and little coordination or direction for setting priorities—which, in turn, led to a reactive and sometimes defensive cultural mindset, highly resistant to change. 

As a result, IS&T at ABCBS was stuck in an all-to-familiar cycle of underutilized resources and missed opportunities, as well as a general sense of separation between the department and business stakeholders. 

Become Indispensable

The key to breaking this cycle of inefficiency is commitment to a strategy that renders IT indispensable. At ABCBS and any other healthcare IT organization stuck in this rut, that means top-to-bottom transformation.

The dramatic change in the structure and role of IT at ABCBS was guided by a carefully constructed roadmap strategy and Amitech’s proprietary change management practice that emphasizes data-driven interventions in four key elements: people, process, culture and technology.

Cement the Change

All too often, large, organizational IT transformations emphasize technology first with little thought given to people, process and culture—if any. But if you want long-term results, people, process and culture are where it’s at.

Vital first steps at ABCBS set a clear mission and vision for IS&T along with a compelling reason for change. These early steps worked to ensure quick buy-in from executives and mid-level management alike, creating and fostering a valuable support network for the transformation.  Followed by a leadership model built on the concept of “coach and lead” vs. “direct and tell,” these actions served to help drive and sustain lasting change in the department and across the wider organization. 

Connect with Value

Ultimately, modern healthcare IT must find a way to connect activity with real business value. The establishment of a new permanent department that integrated personnel from both IT and business divisions along with new processes for transparency and accountability were key ingredients in effectively aligning the IT strategy at ABCBS with business priorities. Only as a truly value-driven business partner was it possible for IS&T at ABCBS to earn a seat at the strategic planning table and begin to help drive the organization forward. Likewise, modern healthcare IT will need to follow suit in order to create an organizational structure capable of thriving in the midst of today’s shifting healthcare landscape.

For a more detailed look at the transformation of IS&T at Arkansas BlueCross BlueShield, please check out the full case study or contact us to discuss how their success could translate to your organization.