Healthcare IT

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How IT functions as the rock tumbler in your healthcare organization

People of a certain age may remember the rock tumbler: a crude machine for smoothing and polishing rough surfaces. Steve Jobs pointed out a rock tumbler is analogous to the process of turning innovation into reality.

When Jobs was growing up, he used to cut the lawn for a neighborhood gentleman. One day, the man pulled out an old rock tumbler-one of those coffee cans with a belt that’s connected to an electric motor-and asked Jobs to grab rocks from the garden. The two added rocks, fluid and grit, closed the tumbler, and then turned it on. After a few days of letting it spin, they opened it up and found the ordinary garden rocks turned into polished stones.

In later years, Jobs borrowed this concept to explain how the rock tumbler is quite analogous to the process of turning product development andinnovation into reality, and it’s only when you go through that process that an idea comes to fruition. And, oftentimes, the final outcome doesn’t reflect your original idea; it’s better.

You may not realize you have your very own rock tumbler within your healthcare organization-specifically, your IT department. Healthcare IT contains and can drive forward all the different resources-the grit, the lubricant and the rocks, if you will-necessary to take ideas and polish them so you are left with business-impacting and outcome-creating solutions.

Where healthcare organizations often fail when it comes to innovation isn’t in coming up with good ideas; in fact, most organizations can come up with a lot of great ideas. The problem comes in two places: choosing which ideas to pursue and driving the execution to come up with an end result. IT is perfectly positioned to sidestep these two challenges and become the steward for innovation.

Let’s take a look at why:

  • IT has greater visibility across the organization than perhaps any other department, including finance. This is the team that understands the intricacies of every process-who the users are and what they do day in and day out-and the tools that enable these processes.
  • IT has a pre-developed affinity for the technology. Not only are these the employees who are aware of the technologies, but they understand the implications such technologies have on the existing processes and infrastructure.
  • There are no other departments that have as much experience with project management as IT, except maybe in the construction industry. IT understands how to set schedules, meet deadlines, implement and deliver.

Let’s face it: The world around us is transforming at a breakneck pace, driven largely by mega trends like social, mobile, data and the Cloud. If a business doesn’t evolve at a similar pace, it will become extinct.

Just consider the following: 75 years ago, a Fortune 500 company had a 50-year or longer lifespan. Now the average lifespan is less than 15 years. That’s because the business landscape is evolving so rapidly in the face of technological advances that, if you are not evolving with it, you fall behind. There’s this implied mandate that if we are not innovating and evolving, then we are in some state of decay.

So let your IT become the department that helps your healthcare organization innovate, whether it’s in the way you deliver IT services or the way you transform the business all together. For your company to become a true business innovator, you must build mindshare and credibility around support for your rock tumbler-your IT department.

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About Author

Chris Poe

As Atrion's chief technology and innovation officer, Chris Poe is responsible for carving a roadmap for the company, particularly as it pertains to technology; redefining the term "IT" (Chris posits the "I" should stand for "innovation"); and fostering a corporate culture centered on innovation. An accomplished public speaker and technology luminary, Chris is a champion for innovation. In 2014, he conceptualized the IS Innovation Forum, dedicated to exploring the notion of IT assuming an innovation leadership position. He is also a member of Vistage International and the Cisco Systems Americas Partner Technical Advisory Board.

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