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Jul 28, 2016 5:30:01 PM · by David Kushan

What Does it Mean to be Agile in Healthcare IT?

With the mandates from the Affordable Care Act of 2010, healthcare organizations, including hospitals, small medical practices and pharmacies, must build and manage a robust IT infrastructure. Whether it is creating compliant workflows, reporting clinical outcomes, selecting an EHR system, or optimizing existing systems, project managers need to be aware of the best approaches for leading the way on the development and maintenance of healthcare IT.

When trying to develop the best methodology for your organization’s projects, it’s important to consider the differences between the traditional Waterfall method and the successor Agile method. Although Waterfall methodology can be initially useful in creating the documentation necessary for project HIPAA compliance, Agile management might prove to be the more beneficial approach depending on your situation.

Agility Is Critical for Healthcare IT

Since a good portion of healthcare IT is guided by federal standards, the flexibility that comes with Agile remains key for healthcare IT projects. New regulations may seem like they are set in stone, but in fact they can often change quickly due to either unforeseen practical consequences discovered during widespread implementation or changes in the political environment. Whereas such changes would disrupt a project being managed using the traditional waterfall method, leading to another long planning period, Agile’s focus on bite-size sub-projects make it more adaptable. In a volatile environment of regulatory shifts, important discoveries in the medical world, new best practices for care delivery, and the constantly changing technology used by patients, Agile allows for faster re-prioritization, saving time and money.

Provides Faster Project ROI

Agile allows a project to be split into small chunks of unique tasks (iterations or sprints), leading to frequent product deliveries that demonstrate ROI to business partners, from providers to administrative staff.  As soon as these partners have the product in hand, it begins to deliver value to the organization. This allows products to be implemented to meet regulatory deadlines and then further tailored as their use in real world experiences point the way to more elegant and effective solutions.

Within healthcare, IT can also be used in the process of capturing problems. Faster deployment of component parts of systems means that this process can start sooner. By being able to map large sets of data, patient care trends can be noted and further changes instituted.

Keeps Stakeholders Involved in the Process

When intended business partners are engaged, they are most likely to be onboard with the implementation and use of a new platform or system. The constant feedback from health care practitioners and administrative staff is beneficial to achieving solutions that work in tandem with the goals of quality patient care and optimizing the costs of delivery.

With the busy schedules of providers and the challenges of insurance reimbursement, the ability to frequently assess the practical effect of every product can be essential, spotting problems early, saving time, and ensuring IT is effective as possible.

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