From the coming of ICD-10 to health information exchange compatibility to meaningful use mandates, it’s no surprise that healthcare IT organizations and the project management offices who support them can find it a struggle to keep up with the pace of change.

Unfortunately, the stakes of doing so continue to grow. Failure to comply with regulatory deadlines or to adequately prepare for the additional level of specificity that ICD-10 will require can result in withholding of federal subsidies and drops in revenue.

While there are certainly challenges, it’s also a time when project management can really shine by keeping projects, goals and resources aligned and on-budget. Here are three steps that project and program managers can take now to deliver more value to their organizations and allow hospitals to keep their focus where it really matters—on delivering high-quality patient care.

Create a consolidated view of all projects. With so many initiatives in play, from transitioning to electronic medical records, to clinical documentation improvement, to streamlining billing systems, it’s critical for project managers to have a holistic view of all in-progress and planned projects with simplified reports to be shared among all stakeholders.

Having this “single source of truth” promotes transparency and ensures all project needs and goals are weighed appropriately when prioritizing, and helps prevent the “leapfrogging” of projects based on political maneuvering or the addition of distracting ad-hoc projects that are lower in priority.  Eliminating duplicate work is also another benefit of having more consolidated views of your project portfolio.

Gain visibility into resource capacity and demand. As lists of requirements grow and more deadlines and initiatives are added to hospitals’ project mixes, there’s no time like the present to establish an effective evaluation and planning process for staffing resources.

Spend the time necessary now to undertake an inventory of the skills, experience, availability and current (and future) workload of your staff, so you’ll be better able to forecast what’s required to meet needs as new projects are added and others end. This is of particular importance in preparing for the likely impact to productivity that ICD-10 will bring.

Once you quantify your true resource capacity needs for planned projects and gain a realistic understanding of what available resources can handle in the future, you can set the right expectations and accurately communicate what the organization can and cannot complete given resource constraints. Having the ability to increase the efficiency of your resources starts by having a good understanding of your capacity and demand. 

Ensure accountability. Finally, with a comprehensive view of all projects and a solid handle on resource capacity, you can close the loop by re-iterating accountability as a top priority. Make sure that all hospital or clinic locations and service lines are making adequate progress on their initiatives, and if they are not, involve the appropriate stakeholders to help make course corrections. 

Making accountability an expected part of the project management process will improve performance across your healthcare organization, as stakeholders, as well as employees, know that milestones and expectations will be followed up on.

Additionally, gaining greater transparency into the project pipeline and staffing levels will support more realistic forecasting and assumptions. Since some hospitals and other healthcare organizations are relatively new to formally managing IT projects as part of their compliance initiatives, this step is particularly important in ensuring that goals are achievable, which helps to cultivate a culture of trust and improved performance over time.

While the project management landscape for healthcare organizations is certainly changing rapidly, proactive project management can help keep IT departments, hospital administrators and other stakeholders on track. New project portfolio management technology solutions also can help automate much of the planning, tracking and forecasting workload.

With greater project visibility, a better understanding of resource capacity and a culture of accountability, project managers can help their organizations focus on their true core competency--quality patient care.

Tushar Patel is vice president of marketing at Innotas, a vendor of cloud-based IT project and portfolio management software.

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