Five steps lead to more satisfying Internet experience

February 11, 2002

Despite the bursting of the dot-com bubble, healthcare providers are still depending on the Internet to expand access to services, improve business intelligence, streamline operations, and deepen relationships between physicians and patients. Hospitals

Despite the bursting of the dot-com bubble, healthcare providers are still depending on the Internet to expand access to services, improve business intelligence, streamline operations, and deepen relationships between physicians and patients.

Hospitals do not accomplish these objectives by delegating their Internet presence to a programmer in the IT department. Yet Internet infrastructure, Web sites, and other e-health capabilities at many hospitals often evolve without benefit of adequate vision or planning.

"Without a comprehensive Internet strategy, initiatives pursued by separate departments result in inconsistent functionality, different technologies, and a different look and feel," said Michael Tressler, vice president of business development at StoneBridge Group, a Minneapolis IT management consulting firm.

Typically, a hospital's Internet organizational structure and responsibility is spread across several departments. Lack of planning and insufficient, inconsistent staffing result. The eagerness of departments to get on board the Internet Express often generates a backlog of uncoordinated ideas and initiatives that aren't properly prioritized or synchronized with enterprise strategies, he said.

Tressler's poster session at the January Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society meeting in Atlanta offered IT departments a five-step approach to the development of an effective Internet strategy:

?Define a current state of existing capabilities, organization and staffing, and current and future initiatives
?Prioritize, integrate, and align all existing capabilities and future initiatives
?Define an optimal organizational structure and staffing model
?Develop an approach, plan, and budget
?Facilitate review, approval, and promotion of the Internet strategy


"Focus on quick deliverables, preferably with quarterly releases," he said. "Select a key manager from all affected departments to define a steering committee of stakeholders, then allocate a dedicated program manager who reports directly to the sponsor."

Staffing levels must be sufficient.

"Staff assigned to the Internet often have other duties that result in lack of focus," Tressler said. "Optimally, the staff will be dedicated to the program and have no competing responsibilities."