Goal Setting for Safe Use of Health IT

By Larry Ozeran MD, President, Clinical Informatics Inc.

HIMSS is launching a blog series on health IT and patient safety to help providers and hospitals identify potential risks to patient safety that have resulted from problems with EHR implementations and mitigate those risks through proactive measures. Here is the first installment.  Jonathan French

In healthcare, we seek to minimize uncertainty despite the complex environment.   In health IT, we need to ensure that our goals support the broader goals of our organization.  To be useful in getting to the preferred destination, design goals as specific, measurable,  actionable, realistic, and timed (SMART).

If your organization wants to address HIPAA privacy and security compliance, especially considering the rapid expansion of mobile devices, you might set a HIPAA compliance goal. Your organization may arrive at a different solution, but here is one way to define such a goal:

  1. Within 90 days, we will complete an assessment of available options for secure messaging on mobile devices, which includes a simple and effective authentication process, easily monitored audit trails, and encryption of data in transit and at rest.
  2. At our staff meeting next week, we will name two team members with defined duties and metrics of progress that they will share with each other weekly and with the larger group monthly.
  3. Our budget for the purchase is $50,000, which may limit available options.
  4. Our CIO will be the sponsor of this project.

An individual or group can set the goal with specific outcomes. A group will take longer, but may identify options and parameters that a single person might not consider in isolation. Each organization’s culture tends toward one style. Regardless of the method used, the result of the goal setting process must identify:

• A specific outcome,

• In a defined period of time,

• For a set budget,

• With defined personnel, and

•A responsible leader (preferably from the C-suite).

Sometimes, after a project gets under way, the goal is forgotten as the focus turns to the specific metrics, deliverables, and timelines. Always have a periodic check built into your project timelines, where you ask key questions, like:

• Are we still focused on the goal?

• Do we need different resources or different people?

• Is our budget adequate? If not, can it be increased or do we need to scale back?

It is OK to be wrong sometimes. As long as you have the process in place to periodically reassess, you can rectify those errors quickly and cheaply.

What is both more expensive, and sometimes paralyzing, is to try to do everything right and wait to start until you have devised the perfect plan. Perfection is the enemy of good enough, and it stymies many otherwise good intentions from ever reaching fruition.

To review:

•Identify your goal.

•Develop and execute a plan for achieving your goal.

•Periodically reassess your situation while remaining focused on your goal.

•Know when you are there and celebrate.

It is human nature to complain. Do not forget to compliment. Celebrating success after hard work can energize your team for its next goal.

What are some of your experiences with setting goals? What are some tripping points you experienced? How would you advise a facility just starting to implement health IT?

Next week, we will discuss the role that vendors play in ensuring patient safety during a health IT implementation.

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