A small but prominent contingent of healthcare delivery organizations sees customer satisfaction and retention as the most important business driver of e-health development. But cost reduction and productivity improvement are not far behind, according to a new study.
The organizations that responded to a survey by Long Beach, Calif.-based First Consulting Group also are looking to e-health initiatives to improve physician satisfaction and foster a competitive advantage.
The 24 respondent organizations are all part of the 30-member Scottsdale Institute, a Minneapolis-based not-for-profit forum for information exchange and problem-solving among major organizations seeking to improve operations through information management. As such, the respondents are "probably somewhat ahead of the pack" in the healthcare industry but are still in the early stages of evolving their e-health strategies, says Jane Metzger, a vice president with the Boston office of First Consulting Group.
The organizations could hit some turbulence once they get beyond the stage of establishing a Web foothold in their markets, according to the study. "The stated ambitions of these organizations -- particularly the interest in cost reduction and productivity increase -- raise the prospect that some of them will encounter obstacles to broader development as their traditional management structures conflict with the nontraditional demands of business transformation through e-health," the study says.
Once the relatively simple Web-site development stage is completed, "the more interactive and integrative processes, with issues like workflow change, organizational readiness, governance, certainly integrating legacy systems, will become very important," Metzger says.
But like any sophisticated information technology, the real value of harnessing e-health is in re-engineering the processes of healthcare delivery that have impeded effectiveness and efficiency. That raises the prospect that information systems departments may not be the proper focus of leadership in these transformational Internet technology initiatives, she says.
The Scottsdale Institute members ascribed high importance to many factors in the overall success of e-health initiatives, with security and confidentiality leading the way and technical infrastructure second (See chart). However, the survey revealed substantial gaps between success factors cited by respondents and their ability to execute them, Metzger says.
The senior executive accountable for e-health operations completed the survey, and that executive was the chief information officer in more than half the organizations. Respondents had great confidence in their ability to handle security and technical requirements, but they were far less confident about being able to pull off operational objectives.
They were most skeptical of their organization's ability to implement workflow change, the study says, adding, "This leads us to the issue of reporting relationships: Will e-health efforts run from within IS be as successful in implementing advanced e-services and functions?"
Scottsdale Institute members include Allina Health System, Minneapolis; Baylor Health Care System, Dallas; and BJC Health System, St. Louis.