CIOs call for value of IT in driving innovation to be communicated

By Armin Scheuer
10:07 AM

Although health ICT investments in Italy are expected to have increased by 17 percent this year, most hospital directors remain skeptical as to whether IT investments are sustainable, according to Tommaso Piazza, Chief Information Officer of ISMETT, speaking at the HIMSS Europe Health IT Leadership Summit in Rome.

Piazza said that the value of IT could not be traced to financial aspects alone; it must also be linked to the healthcare goals set by governments. This can help position CIOs in a strategic role for managing healthcare enterprises.

"Companies that can communicate effectively about the value of IT are able to create more value from IT," Piazza said. "We need to demonstrate that IT is able to provide the right services, at the right level of quality, at a competitive price. And we need to let the rest of the organization know about it."

Financial indicators important to hospital directors include the role of IT with regard to cost control, operational excellence, customer satisfaction and business impact. Piazza went on to applaud the "eHealth for a Healthier Europe!" study conducted by Gartner on behalf of the Ministry of Health and Social Affairs in Sweden. This study provides a model for linking eHealth technologies with political goals and potential benefits and provides recommendations for five political goals, including patient safety, quality of care and patient empowerment. It also proposes suitable technologies for achieving these goals based on documented, qualified benefits.

Piazza said that if the political goal were patient safety, the number of adverse drug events could be reduced by 15 percent through the adoption of CPOE.

"By connecting IT projects and results to business and business performance, HIT executives can assume a central role in the organization and can make considerable cost savings," he concluded. 

Creating a mobile hospital

A presentation by Arve Solumso from St. Olavs Hospital in Norway focused on the potential of IT to strategically change the processes of an entire hospital. St. Olavs have introduced wireless technologies throughout to ensure the high availability of specialized staff and increase mobility. St. Olavs' IT infrastructure comprises 5,250 personal computers, 3,200 mobile phones, 1,500 wireless access points, 930 patient terminals, 150 servers, etc., much like any "normal company". In addition, medical equipment such as portable ultrasound machines is included in ICT planning.

ID cards give nurses and doctors access to all computers on the campus. Nurses can be localized within the hospital through IP phones. They can receive messages and work orders on their phones and be directed to the closest point of action.

Salumso said that while wireless equipment had led to a better service experience, it came with a price tag attached. This can only be justified if processes and service optimization are considered in the implementation strategy.

"The availability of technology alone does not increase productivity. But if combined with process optimization, it can lead to productivity gains of 5 percent," he said, adding that it was wiser to invest partly in IT and partly in process optimization rather than a considerable amount in one area alone.

"I'm not sure if this will work for all hospitals, but I believe it should," Solumso said.

The HIMSS Europe 2010 Health IT Leadership Summit took place in Rome from September 30th to October 1st. The next major HIMSS Europe event will be eHealth Week in Budapest from May 7-13, 2011. It will host The World of Health IT as well as the European Commission's High-Level Meeting on eHealth, among other events.