5 tips for creating a strategic plan for IT

A strategic plan is crucial to the success of an organization's IT, but today's healthcare landscape is calling for a more patient-centered approach to planning for information technology. In fact, Sue Sutton, president and CEO of Tower Strategies, believes the future of IT planning should focus on an inclusive approach -- all while optimizing workflows, playing up social media, and keeping staff needs in mind.

Sutton breaks down five tips for creating a strategic plan for IT. 

1. Think about the patient experience. What's interesting right now, said Sutton, is how patient experience is one of the "major" challenges in most healthcare organizations. "And many organizations haven't thought through how information technology can support and improve the patient experience," she said. When considering the cultural change the organization is bound to experience when taking on new IT, Sutton said it's crucial to consider what can be done electronically to support patients, whether they're in the facility or not. "This is through kiosks, tablet devices, and more," she said. Another tip she suggested was employing patient focus groups to gauge what patients want to see most when it comes to hospital IT. "I'm not sure that IT [departments have] really thought about [the fact] that one of their customers is really the patients," she said. "They've been thinking their customers are the staff. There are so many tools that are patient-facing or potentially patient-facing that they haven't leveraged."

2. Consider best practices. Sutton looked to other industries to illustrate the level of care healthcare organizations should demonstrate through their use of IT. For example, she said, "the Ritz Carlton [tries] to say your name 11 times before you get to your room. There's a lot of technology that's available to help get to know the patient better." Based on what she's seeing, the Web is often used as a first point of engagement. "And after answering a couple questions, we can begin personalizing a patient's information and the care we're providing to them," she said. "After we know more about you, we can begin to tell you information based on the stages of your treatment." For example, she continued, a patient would receive different information via the Web for their first consultation, as opposed to their first round of treatment for, say, cancer. "At that point, we should be talking to you about what our organization offers, what teams you'll be working with. When it's time for your first visit, it's how you should prepare and when you get into treatment," she said. "It's a different thing."

[See also: Strategic Plan missing outcomes measurement.]