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4 Steps for a Successful Healthcare IT Project Go-Live

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When President Obama was in office, he promised to make quality, affordable health care a right. Healthcare.gov was the access point built for millions of Americans to access this right, at a cost of more than $700M. Yet when Healthcare.gov launched in October 2013, it failed within the first two hours. Only six people successfully signed up for healthcare through Healthcare.gov on its first day. One of the major faults of this go-live strategy was that website technicians responsible for addressing site issues used the same login feature that the general public did. When that login feature was overwhelmed by demand, even the go live team couldn’t log in to help.

Go lives are an incredibly important step in the launch of an IT project. Leading up to go-live you have probably invested considerable sums and resources into upgrading or implementing new technology. Go live is the very last step in a long race, and often a very visible one. Get something wrong here, and it can impact the quality of patient care, cause declines in staff productivity and revenue, and give the appearance to patients that your organization is disorganized and chaotic.

One of your go-live goals should be to have your systems and users performing at optimal speed asap. Good training is critical, as is identifying potential roadblocks and working through them before you flip the switch.

Many internal technology teams are capable of leading organizations through these transitions. But one primary benefit of working with a partner that specializes in go-lives is that they will have deep experience in your process specifically. To coin a phrase, they’ve seen it all. If you want to ensure a smooth transition and avoid surprises, outsourcing is definitely worth investigating.

However you decide to lead your go live, these four steps will ensure you’re off to a good start.

1. Set Goals

Envision two to four program goals ahead of time, as well as how you’ll measure success. It’s hard to overstate how much value this step will add to your project. You’ll be amazed at how many questions arise, and how much better defined your goals are after going through this process.

Follow the SMART methodology. Each goal should be Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-Bound.

Carson-Tahoe is an award-winning health system based in the West, with over 2000 employees at 21 locations. In March 2020, as hospitals began admitting the first waves of COVID cases, Carson-Tahoe began work on an Epic implementation that they believed would help them transform care delivery.

Carson-Tahoe wanted as little disruption to their staff and patients as possible. They looked for a partner that could handle logistics, on-site support, help desk triaging, and remote activation services all while taking precautions with COVID.

2. Define a Single Owner

Make sure there is a single person with designated accountability in each stakeholder area. Get their consent to be the project authority for their stakeholder area. We recommend engaging leaders in each of these stakeholder areas:

  • Physicians
  • Nurses
  • Technology
  • Ancillary Labs, Radiology, Dieticians
  • Revenue Cycle and Finance
  • Ambulatory

When IT consultants were hired to fix what went wrong with Healthcare.gov, they found that no clear leaders were defined. It led to oversights, errors and lengthy delays in resolving problems or approving plans to move forward.

3. Create a Communication Plan

Set up a system for keeping everyone informed. This can involve project management tools, status updates, progress dashboards, distribution lists and more.

For Carson-Tahoe’s Epic go-live, Futura provided a communication framework that included:

  • Shift changeover touchpoints. This was an opportunity for the members of each departing shift to pass on learnings from that period to the incoming shift.
  • Helpdesk ticket tracking
  • User surveys to assess user proficiency and identify user-experience issues
  • Quality analytics dashboards to monitor improvement against goals
  • Unit-specific metrics reporting. This focused on the volumes of staff assigned to each unit as well as the volume of help tickets for that unit. This reduces waste and allows managers to dynamically scale up or scale down location-specific resources to align with needs. 
  • Cost analytics. This allows managers to actively monitor the cost of resources deployed, in order to keep program spending goals on track. 

 4. Establish Support and Training

The success of any go-live is heavily dependent on end-user preparation. Carson Tahoe employees were required to train and test prior to go-live for access to the program, which ensured that all end-users had a good level of proficiency headed into go-live day. It’s recommended that end-user training take place not more than 60 days prior to go-live. Much longer than that, and you risk having end-users forget key points in their training.

Prompted by COVID security requirements, Futura adapted its typical activation program for Carson-Tahoe into a hybrid model, including both on-site and virtual support. This model drastically reduced the amount of new people Carson-Tahoe’s staff needed to physically interact with and worked so well that we now recommend it for all go-live activations.

Significant resources are required for activation tech support throughout the transition. For Carson-Tahoe’s go-live Futura deployed more than 60 additional staff for 28 days, and a large implementation can involve as many as 500 additional staff. Each on-site resource will need logistical support in the areas of lodging, airfare and transportation to and from your facility and their hotel. This logistical planning itself is a time-consuming project, and another benefit to outsourcing your go-live is that you can take this piece of the planning off your plate. If you do work with a partner on your go-live, ask them where additional savings can be achieved, specifically with respect to resource planning. A good activation vendor will have a plan that projects demand and will be willing to pass savings along to you when demand scales down.

As with any complex project, the devil is in the details. Follow these four steps and you’ll be well on your way to ensuring the success of your go-live!

Read about Futura's Epic Go-Live with Carson-Tahoe.

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