As Healthcare Gets Complex, Healthcare IT Gets Complex.
Healthcare is an industry that leans heavily on technology. In addition to the obvious advanced-care tools, there’s a need for tighter communication to and collaboration with care providers who specialize. Because care is administered at different times, it needs technology to facilitate the movement of copious amounts of data between various care givers easily and efficiently.
More specialized tools for care and communication requires more specialization in IT. For example, often biomed and data analytics are sliced out as separate IT departments to support these tools. As the healthcare industry gets more complex, Healthcare IT gets more complicated in trying to support it. The increased complexity within healthcare and IT makes it challenging for IT to deliver quality services to the operation quickly. Connecting the right expertise with the right needs — within the given budget — isn’t always quick. Service standardization, such a service catalog adhering to the ITIL® framework, can help. But even better is taking those services which are standardized and creating automated processes. Through automation, support can be rendered quickly and with minimum resources, thereby freeing up resources to focus on less standardized work.
When looking for ideal areas to automate, there are four areas that lend themselves well to standardization and automation:
- Access provisioning
- Server provisioning
- Infrastructure configuration
- Workflow configuration ▾
Access provisioning is an area that greatly impacts new workers. It ensures they have access quickly to the tools and applications they need to do their job. A standardized process for deprovisioning can also help tighten up security and reduce internal IT maintenance efforts around user access. The keys to automating user access are ensuring roles are well defined and that the right tool is in place to manage user permissions through roles. Defining roles requires coordination with the business to ensure things are adequately captured. Once defined, tools such as Active Directory, SailPoint, and BeyondTrust can connect into a human resource management system and automatically adjust access with scripting support. By defining roles and automating the process to add, adjust, or remove roles to users, IT can quickly ensure providers have access to the tools and application they need to get their jobs done.
Of course, fully leveraging an application sometimes requires more than having the right permissions. Complex applications, such as electronic medical record systems and data analytics systems typically require multiple servers to host data and appropriate access to these data sets. Especially when it comes to data sets, the needs to house data can grow as applications become interconnected, and, in some cases, the requirements for accessing this data will vary over time as will the amount of data being stored. Although the server variety can seem overwhelming at first, often a closer look demonstrates that the necessary variety of configuration is limited. With the right server virtualization tools, such as vRealize Automation, a server configuration catalog is defined to enable quick access to new servers as needed. Further, monitoring automation can ensure these servers continue to perform and can just as easily be spun down when not in use.
In fact, there are many ways to automate infrastructure monitoring outside of server virtualization. Networking is another area where automated monitoring, updating, and patching can free up IT resource time, letting them focus on other areas. Tools, such as Splunk, help look for anomalies across disparate parts of the network, proactively identify solutions, and alert to perceived threats. Beyond simply improving security, these network automation tools help reduce downtime on the network. This becomes more critical as more and more healthcare applications are network dependent.
After defining services to automate, the next important step is to adequately design the workflows and tie them into service management systems, such as ServiceNow. When thinking through a services workflow, it’s important to think through how it works both today and how that will change with automation in place. Start by thinking through what the potential triggers for an automated service are. Will these be triggered by a service ticket, and if so, who puts in the request? Will other automated services potentially trigger the request? Next, think through the staff who supplies the inputs in the manual process today and how much of that work can be automated. Sometimes, this will lead to a split workflow where a portion of a request goes to a person and a portion is picked up by automation. In these cases, the sequencing of various task is important to define.
Empower Your Staff to Prepare for the Future.
Finally, as task are automated, staff should be aware of where to put their focus next. In many cases, there may be further automation efforts that can be achieved. Often though, especially as the pace of change in healthcare quickens, there are new initiatives that require IT support in designing solutions. Having the right automation expertise in place to ‘keep the lights on’ can empower staff to help find creative solutions to these problems without sacrificing the efficiency and security of the technical environment.
The right automation strategy frees up staff time and accelerates the value IT brings to the organization. Advizex can help. ▪