A common attitude in health care is, "we want to automate, but we don't want to change the way we do anything." This works for some technologies, like dropping wireless phones or Vocera badges into your nursing units, but usually effective automation requires change.

And when contemplating a technology solution to operational problems, a methodical needs assessment, vendor selection and implementation process has benefits that extend way beyond the ROI for the technology in question. The following story is a great example.

Hospitals in Arizona (4 hours, 57 minutes), Maryland (4 hours, 7
minutes), Utah (4 hours, 5 minutes), New York (3 hours, 58 minutes),
and Florida (3 hours, 57 minutes) are among the worst, with wait times
near or exceeding four hours.

But at Spectrum Health Hospital
in Grand Rapids, Mich., where they often run at 105 percent capacity,
they've changed that with a massive ER expansion and more staff.

Patients are now color-coded and fast-tracked on an elaborate computer system, with the wait time from door-to-doctor cut from eight hours to just 23 minutes.

While the focus of the story - and many similar stories - is on technology like restaurant-style pagers for patients, indoor positioning systems, and workflow applications (not to mention a facility expansion and additional staff), it is the operational changes facilitated by a good needs assessment, the right solution(s), and good implementation that deliver dramatic improvements.

These kinds of stories make the news because, well, it's really not that easy to pull off. Pictured right is the Code Blue hospitality pager (labeling not intended for use in hospitals).

[Hat tip: iHealthBeat]