You could lose money, but we could lose lives

Although I've been a consultant now for several years, I cut my teeth in the Healthcare sector. My time in that field taught that though there are a wide variety of organizations in healthcare (non-profit, for-profit, hospitals, clinics, etc.), they all have one thing in common: when the decision-makers triage budgets, IT is classified as non-critical.

Why? The decision-makers do not view IT as directly linked with patient care. From the organization’s perspective, IT is a cost center.

It’s understandable; the decision-makers are almost always medical practitioners or administrators attuned to the voices of the care givers. We can debate who’s responsible for this disconnect, but the consequences are painfully obvious.

My previous experience naturally made me a good fit for healthcare organizations in need of expertise. One of my longest customer engagements was at a large health system. They were still in the beginning stages of ITIL adoption with many gaps in business service and application visibility. Unfortunately, a severe outage brought this problem to light.

Their patient access software went down, meaning that all patient admittance, maintenance, and discharge had to be completed with pen and paper. To a contemporary healthcare organization, that is very painful. Their application team quickly engaged with vendor support, but the burden became so great that the organization was forced to divert ambulances to other facilities.

That crisis had a financial impact on the organization and it put additional stress on the staff. Most important, it put lives at risk because critical need patients were forced to more distant facilities.

So, let’s get real. Yes, IT in healthcare does directly affect patient care. No, there is no outage-proof IT system. But this is not a terminal case! Rationalizing IT monitoring and automation tools will ensure your organization has the proper foundation to detect issues. ITSM dashboards can tie together those tools to provide critical insight into business service health, and allow organizations to take proactive actions to avoid some outages and mitigate others. After all, this may just save lives!

Steven Reif

Softential Consultant