Healthcare IT projects are expensive, expansive, and rife with potential complications, which is why there’s very little room for error.

Keeping an eye on the project’s ROI (return on investment) becomes paramount: is all of the money being spent on computers and technical equipment going right into a fire, or is it paying dividends in productivity and efficiency?

How can HIT professionals and hospital admin ensure that they’re getting the most out of their initial (and ongoing) investment? How can we deploy new technology to maximum effect?

1.) Employees Aren’t Being Trained Properly (Or Enough)

You can outfit a hospital with the latest and shiniest computers and high-tech gadgets, but if the staff hasn’t been trained how to use them, they’ll lay fallow as clinicians revert back to their default workflows.

We’ve spoken to HIT directors who’ve implemented useful devices like medical cart computers with hot-swappable batteries, which would allow nurses to use the terminals non-stop without having to stop and charge them. However, instead of using the hot-swap battery chargers to keep the computers on the move, the nurses would end up plugging the battery-powered computers right into the wall — much how they did the old, heavy, powered carts they were designed to replace.

This prevented the new cart computers from being available 24/7 for mobile duty, which was the point of the upgrade to begin with. This isn’t a case of the nurses making a mistake — it’s a problem with a lack of training when implementing a new tech solution.

Advice on effective tech training could take up its own blog, so we’ll just cover some of the most vital areas. Tech training for clinicians needs to cover every learning style, from kinetic (hands-on) to aural to visual thinkers. A test isn’t enough, neither is a lecture. Everyone being trained on the new devices needs to also physically get their hands on the product, and they need to use it multiple times (with and without direct guidance) before it can sink in properly.

Another key training method is to use the computers at your disposal for training. Step-by-step interactive walkthroughs can do wonders for guided learning, even without a trainer on hand (or as a refresher whenever the clinicians need a reminder, some they can access on their own).

Just remember: the most advanced computer or medical tablet, in the hands of the untrained, is a spectacularly expensive paperweight and nothing more.

2.) The Wrong Equipment for the Right Job

Another common cause of the ROI ratio going sideways is underestimating the technical or durability needs of the project. To use an old phrase, the problem is often “sending a boy to a man’s job.” Or a “girl to do a woman’s job,” no reason to be exclusive.

Whatever you call it, the problem often comes from a tug-of-war between the budget and the workload. The HIT manager knows that —  let’s say in a hospital — you need strong processing power in a medical computer to run modern HIT programs. You also need something that’s IEC-60601 rated for near-patient use, and it’d be handy to have an IP65 sealed device for easy cleaning.

However, if the budget is tightly controlled, and an administrator thinks a cheaper consumer-model tablet or computer can do the job, those are the devices that might end up getting purchased.

While the initial investment for something like an Android tablet or standard thin-client computer is far lower, this is a near-sighted approach to a long-term money-saving strategy. Purpose-built medical computers and medical grade tablets tend to last longer, meaning they’re getting replaced far less often than something like an iPad or a Dell. Fanless, medical-grade computers tend to have less moving parts (which are the parts most likely to breakdown). They’re also made of military-grade parts that have greater durability and are IP65 sealed to prevent both dust-collection damaging internal parts and water or liquid damage.

These ratings also generally allow medical computers and medical tablets to go where consumer-grade products can’t, like inside the sterile field of an operating room. Shelling out fewer bucks for a consumer-grade computer, installing it in medical devices or on carts, and then discovering too-late that they have severely limited access to due to laws and regulations will end up costing a hospital far more than just going with the right computer in the first place.

3.) Third-Party Peripherals Cost Extra

One of the dangers of any facility-wide upgrade is the very real fear of being nickel-and-dimed to death by unforeseen expenses after the initial install. And with massive projects, it’s not a sin to forget a little bit here and there: we’re only human.

However, revamping all of the computers in a hospital or doctor’s office isn’t the end of the upgrade. Peripherals like mice, keyboards, barcode scanners, RFID scanners, fingerprint scanner, and portable printers tend to gum up the works with compatibility and power issues.

Which is why it’s so important to seek out medical computers with the ability to power peripherals on their own, without needing an AC jack in something like a heavy powered cart. When switching to a lighter cart or smaller solution, it’s important to remember that each individual peripheral needs its own power source.

Some all-in-one medical computers even come with integrated barcode, RFID, or biometric scanners, eliminating the all-too-common problem of losing (and replacing) standalone peripherals.

And considering that computers-on-wheels (or the much-beloved “COW” acronym), are vastly preferred by both doctor’s and nurse’s alike to other forms of medical computer, having a light, mobile, all-in-one solution that can actually contain and power almost all peripherals is a great thing.   

4.) Not Prepared for Future Support

And of course, one of the most obvious (but still important to mention) aspects of getting the ROI on your initial HIT investment is to plan for continuing support. Obviously, an HIT manager and their team are going to be do all of the support planning (and much of the actual hands-on support).

This doesn’t just apply to eventual glitches or breakdowns you’re going to have to repair; though that will happen too. It’s also ongoing support for the staff members. Ask anyone that has worked in IT, and they will tell you that the ideal situation is that we train the staff members once and they learn everything they need to know about the new device (and their new workflow). But we know that’s closer to a fantasy than real life.

Providing ongoing training, refresher courses, and an open-door policy on technical questions for nurses and doctors will go a long way to ensuring that the bevy of shiny new devices doesn’t go to seed in a storage closet somewhere.

On the technical side of ongoing support, double-check that the vendor for your medical computers, tablets, and devices offers their own phone and online support apparatus to help the IT team when they need it most.

Hitting the ROI, Every Time

The job of the HIT manager is plate-spinning: it always has been, and always will be. There are a million tech problems popping up in every sector at any given time, and it’s the HIT manager’s job to take the heat for it.

However, taking just a few of these steps for a big project can go miles toward saving the hospital, doctor’s office, or other facilities a boatload of unnecessarily-spent cash. Hit that HIT ROI as soon as possible, and as often as possible.

To learn more about HIT projects and implementing medical grade computers to maximum effect, contact Cybernet Manufacturing today.