26 ways to grow your healthcare IT business

As healthcare reform continues to dominate the headlines, government contractors will be called upon to implement whatever government initiatives come to pass — that much is clear. The question for contractors now is: What does it take to succeed in this space? We brought that question to 11 industry leaders in healthcare IT. Here are 26 best practices they shared with us:

1.) Recognize healthcare IT as more than an IT opportunity.
Innovation doesn’t begin at a keyboard; it begins from a clinic floor. For contractors, that means garnering feedback from physicians, nurses, informaticists, and other key players who know the ins and outs of business processes and workflow.

2.) Maintain specific focus on each and every customer.
No two customers are the same. So, it’s essential to think beyond one-size-fits-all solutions. They don’t exist. Every case requires coming up with solutions that mesh with a particular customer’s business processes.

3.) Help your team see the larger picture.
That’s especially true for your software development team. Many may be fresh out of college. Or a few years out. Remind them that what they do could impact their grandparents and parents, and eventually, them.

4.) Speak the language of your customers.
Speaking that language requires you go beyond discussion of IT technology implementation to put yourself in your client’s environment. Gaining that familiarity also requires you bring clinicians to the table.

5.) Participate in the standards-setting conversation.
A lot of states have put together workshops to help determine how they’ll spend government healthcare IT funds as it comes down the pike. Get involved in standards committees and workshops; they’re a great forum to get your ideas heard.

6.) Broaden your vision of potential health IT partners.
Healthcare IT is presenting partnership opportunities that companies might not otherwise have considered. So, broadening your vision of potential healthcare IT partners will be key.

7.) Keep in mind that web based-information technologies are the future.
Top tools include personal health records, patient portals, and electronic medical records. They’re all the wave of the future.

8.) Develop domain expertise capability.
All the technology expertise in the world won’t mean much unless it’s accompanied by domain expertise. That’s especially true when dealing with the VA, DoD, and other federal agencies.

9.) Proactively bring innovation to the table.
It’s easy to loosen the reins and ask government customers, “What would you look me to do?” But what they really want is innovation. That requires you looking over the horizon and pointing customers to where you think healthcare is headed next. Don’t just respond to the Federal Register. Make it a point to proactively bring ideas and technologies to the table.

10.) View yourself as long-term partner.
Beyond the immediate need, think of yourself as a long-term partner. Bid on those opportunities. Because, if you’re going to deploy resources and systems, you’ll want to be there for the long run.

11.) Demonstrate a multidisciplinary approach to technology.
When it comes to deploying information technology, having a multidisciplinary approach is essential. Are your current investment initiatives adequately addressing that need?

12.) Embrace open source as the wave of the future.
The proprietary nature of systems is becoming increasingly obsolete. Which means your customers are embracing open source at a rapid rate, and so should you.

13.) Wear two hats — as a taxpayer and investment collaborator.
The complex nature of healthcare requires viewing it from various vantage points. As a taxpayer, on the one hand; and an investment collaborator, on the other.

14.) Put yourself in the beneficiary’s shoes.
Whether the beneficiary is a military health personnel, veteran, or child support recipient, it’s critical to envision what can help meet a customer’s mission objectives.

15.) Keep in mind medical records aren’t the only game in town.
Contractors will play an increasing role in data analytics. It’s of importance to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, for instance, which needs all the help it can get leveraging solutions to help detect instances of fraud, waste, and abuse in reimbursement programs.

16.) Healthcare IT isn’t just about the providers.
The public is getting more sophisticated about managing their own health. With that comes a growing demand for tools that can help individuals better understand their particular set of health challenges and how to address them in between doctor visits.

17.) Get to know the big players.
If ever there was a time for small businesses to develop relationships with primes, this is it. Many big players have significant small business set-asides for healthcare IT.

18.) Offer a combination of technologies. It’s critical to bring the power of a combination of technologies — information management, services, and security — forward, in order to support customer mission and goals.

19.) Leverage commercial best practices. We’re likely to see a drive toward adoption of commercial best practices within both commercial and government spaces. There will also be more data sharing among government agencies whose missions are interconnected.

20.) Focus on cybersecurity. Whatever the outcome with healthcare reform legislation, it’s undeniable that security will play an important role in the implementation of healthcare reform as well as in current initiatives being undertaken by federal agencies.

21.) Look to other industries. Cybersecurity, cloud computing, and identity management — all critical to the healthcare IT conversation —are used in other industries, such as the financial community. Look to those industries for best practices.

22.) Draw on expertise from commercial and global markets. Just being a government healthcare contractor isn’t enough to stay competitive. Commercial, government, and global healthcare practices are all interrelated. Each has similar problems. Learn about them for crossover purposes.

23.) Look beyond hardware or software affiliations. System integrators will continue to play a critical role in bringing “best of market” solutions to government clients. Don’t let proposed solutions be determined first and foremost by hardware or software affiliations, however.

24.) Get the sociology right. In many ways, the technology aspect of healthcare IT is easy; much harder is the sociology of it. Which means that approaching an EHR or HIE project as a purely technology project will sow the “seeds of failure.”

25.) Remember the end goal. Remember the ultimate mission isn’t a technological solution; it’s to improve healthcare and lower costs. That’s the fundamental outcome that needs to emerge from electronic health records.

26.) Stay actively involved. It’s not enough to preside over a project. You have to stay actively involved in its implementation and in customer reaction. Also be sure to have on-the-ground intelligence. You need people you can trust to deliver good news and the bad.

What would you add to the list? Tell us here.

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