Closing the Gap Between Your Clinical and IT Staff

Lorie Richardson

By Lorie Richardson, Director, Acct Mgmt., Hayes Management Consulting
Twitter: @HayesManagement

It’s easy to assume that there is little to no intersection in the day-to-day duties of your IT staff and your clinical staff. And, in large part, you are correct in this assumption, except for when it comes to patient satisfaction and safety. Creating an environment of communication for these two essential departments can improve teamwork, align priorities and in the end save your organization time and money.

Here are ten simple steps that we have seen work firsthand to close the gap and maximize communication between your IT clinical staff.

  1. Increase facetime: Do not rely solely on email. Pick up the phone or visit colleagues whenever possible. Have a face-to-face meeting with providers and other clinical staff regularly. In person meetings can help build relationships between the two departments more effectively and faster than email.
  2. Assign point person: When possible, assign an IT “point person” for a particular unit or practice. This promotes a relationship between the two departments. Having a point person for clinical staff to work with can build trust with the IT department
  3. Communicate often: Follow up with IT and tell them if the resolution they provided worked or not. f the resolution provided does not work, do not just let it sit for days. Communicate immediately, so that they can look at it again. Unless you report issues, IT staff assumes that you are happy. With that being said, it is equally important to report positive outcomes. Do not be afraid to acknowledge staff for their quick response or helpful hand.
  4. Initiate content policy: Have a policy for content requests, content customizations, etc. Obtain feedback on drafts prior to using valuable time and money on changes or customizations. Test and get approval for clinical content PRIOR to putting it into production. This will help decrease user frustration.
  5. Have a follow through process: Connect any unanswered questions to someone who knows and follow through. It is okay to not know the answer to a question as long as you follow through on finding the answer. Building an IT “knowledge bank” can help IT staff quickly solve problems and saves time and money.
  6. Do your homework: When contacting IT support, offer as much information as possible. Give specific examples, send screenshots and offer any information on what, if anything, was attempted to resolve the issue. The more information that you communicate, the faster your IT staff will be able to resolve your issue.
  7. Don’t forget to listen: Keep an open mind and listen! Clinical staff may need to capture certain information, while IT staff may not be able to accommodate certain requests. Communication is key to understanding each other’s needs.
  8. Plan customizations carefully: It is important to make clear to all involved (including the clinicians) in the beginning what the plan is for customization; what will it be, when will it happen, how much of it will happen, and what is the plan and schedule for post-go-live reassessment and optimization. Often, organizations (IT and/or clinicians) want to incorporate many customizations into the initial system. While the clinicians and clinical staff may use some of these customized tools, it is very common that they do not end up using a large majority of them once they are live and understand the functionality of the system. While customized build is often necessary, it is good to remember that you really ‘don’t know what you don’t know’ and it can be beneficial (as well as time and money saving) to customize necessary items before go live and then reassess for further customization after go-live.
  9. Report problems as they happen: Try to report problems WHEN it is happening. Sometimes seeing it in person will help your IT staff narrow down the root cause of the problem.
  10. Start small: Strive to begin projects with small wins! This will help build enthusiasm, unity and credibility between departments.

Learning new software, go-lives and changing workflows can be challenging for all involved. Frustration levels can run high and it’s tempting to assign blame. By working as a team, communicating often and effectively you can bridge the gap between departments and work together towards the shared goal of doing the best job for your patients.

This article was originally published in Hayes’ Healthcare Blog and is republished here with permission.