Hospitals and health systems are in the unique position of serving several customers and end users with their …
Sometimes it is easier to point to examples of what not to do when it comes to identifying what makes for strong healthcare IT implementation consultant. Many of us have experienced the endless finger-pointing, hapless leadership, or perhaps worse, the militant demands rooted in unrealistic (and unfair) expectations of project resources. Because the project leader sets the tone and outlook of the whole endeavor, this role is vital in the overall health of efforts. Let’s dive into some of the key traits that mark a great Technical Project Manager for EHR implementation projects.
1. Cultivates A Team Approach To Healthcare IT Implementations
This one may seem obvious, but that doesn’t mean that cultivating team spirit is the norm in technical project management. Yet, it’s a critical early step for setting up the whole EHR implementation project for success. The paramount goal on this front is to avoid the common mistake of creating an “us versus them” attitude, especially creating artificial seams between the development team and the front-end/business-oriented folks. This pursuit not only encourages open communication and collaboration but prevents silos of workstreams that aren’t meaningfully executed to benefit the overall goal and could end up threatening the budget and deliverables.
2. Willing To Ask “Dumb” Questions
It sounds counterintuitive, but it’s often the wisest person in the room who is willing to ask the “dumb” questions. Especially in a complex healthcare IT integration project spanning vendors and healthcare organizations, there will be areas where a given resource is less familiar. It’s the job of the technical project manager to lead by example, asking for more information when something is unclear and pressing on when a response isn’t satisfactory in resolving the concern. Speaking in technical jargon or healthcare-ese inevitably contributes to confusion and the aforementioned disconnects of disparate teams that we’re working so hard to avoid. Project Managers overseeing EHR implementations may, for example, create a reference vocabulary document to this end to help align developers, operational stakeholders, trainers, and vendor partners.
3. Owns Accountability For The Project Budget
Managing the budget and timeline of healthcare IT implementations falls under the umbrella of technical project management. This is essential. The project cannot be successful or effectively driven if the leader(s) don’t have visibility to what funds are allocated to who and for what. Owning accountability for the project’s financial plan – and adherence to it – allows for PMs to manage resources optimally, identifying where plans are diverging from reality. It may not be the PM’s fault if certain resources are running hot or waffling project requirements are costing the team time and money, but the Technical PM will respond to these factors to keep this project on course, only when they’re aware that they’re happening.
4. Encourages Ownership Of Implementation Tasks
Technical Project Managers set the stage for EHR implementations that encourage adoption and drive improvements to patient care delivery. Creating an environment of ownership and accountability is the best way for experienced PMs to unite teams of competent healthcare IT professionals, each in their own domain, to work together and show up. Every task and milestone on the project plan should have an owner, an estimate of effort, and a list of dependencies or risks. Owners may not be able to mitigate every single risk, but asking for this level of commitment and forethought from team members helps to pave a path of awareness and proactivity. This isn’t about assigning blame, but rather knowing exactly with whom the PM can correspond regarding certain tasks to gather updates, offer assistance, and even provide mentoring when appropriate. The approach is servant leadership to inspire the same in others, and this posturing is highly effective for driving teams that deliver on time, on budget, and still on speaking terms.
5. Projects Confidence To Client And Stakeholders
We’ll wrap up this discussion of optimal traits of a Technical Project Manager with the reminder that one of the key responsibilities of the PM is to serve as the interface between clients and project team members. The dev team may have no desire to sit through operational meetings on a regular basis, but the PM may derive value from connecting project plan milestones with health system initiatives and needs. Communicating this information back to the team in a digest, of sorts, gets everyone on the same page while maintaining focus where it is most effective. And in the face of looming issues, the Project Manager can tap into their skill set to confidently present the concern, suggest mitigation strategies, and shift course as needed to press on. Internal meetings can be candid and raw, while client-facing updates are articulated in a way that facilitates resolution and respect without breaching professionalism and team trust.
A great Technical Project Manager can make or break a healthcare IT implementation project, so choose well and reap the benefits of strong leadership!