Last week I caught up with an old friend, Angus Douglas.  We worked together many years ago at Corometrics.  Now he's leading a new executive level sales team at GE Healthcare.  One of the interesting things that came out of our conversation was:

Hospital use models must change to get the benefits of new investments in technology.

We talked about clinical information systems, hospital-wide monitoring, wireless medical devices and other new areas.  Adopting any of these technologies require a critical look at workflow and how it can be adjusted to gain maximum benefit.

Some hospitals do workflow assessments even before they've decided to buy anything; determining need before the solution.  Others do their assessment after selecting a specific application or technology.  Most hospitals purchase a system and rely on the vendor's implementation process to deliver optimal results. 

Vendors have a love hate thing with implementation.  They want happy customers getting the most from their purchase.  But, they live and die by quickly moving on and selling the next customer. In an effort to cut the best deal, hospitals negotiate hard, and implementation services frequently get discounted or provided at no charge.  This makes it very difficult for vendors to justify and provide all the workflow analysis and process reengineering they would like. (Having been on the vendor side, I know senior management constantly asks for justification on services that generate little revenue and no profit -- I know the money all goes into the same pocket, but they don't look at it that way.)  Vendors have even more difficulty providing pre sale consulting because hospitals consider that part of the cost of sales -- and given vendor's interests, that's not unreasonable.

Independent consultants can help assess needs by identifying work and patient flow bottlenecks and prospective solutions, before a solution is purchased or implemented.  Identifying new use models and workflows before implementation is always quicker and easier than after.  However, if new investments aren't providing expected benefits, insufficiently reengineered use models are probably the culprit.

When it comes to reengineering processes, starting earlier the better, but better late than never...