3 ways small hospitals tackle IT challenges

The "scope" of health IT issues faced by small and rural hospitals is relatively the same as that of bigger facilities, according to Stephen Stewart (pictured), CIO at 74-bed Mount Pleasant, Iowa-based Henry County Health Center.

To that end, Stewart--who also serves as a FierceHealthIT Editorial Advisory Board member--says that while smaller hospitals must be more careful and creative in terms of both project management and day-to-day tasks, in a new post published to healthsystemCIO.com.

"While the change we have to implement is as broad as that of our larger friends, the depth of penetration we have to achieve is less, lightening the load somewhat," Stewart says. "Still, the enormity of the task is overwhelming."

According to Stewart, there are three keys to maintaining success in a scaled-down environment like HCHC:

  • Measured goal setting: Stewart says it's important to be mindful of the big picture for all tasks at all times, even if you don't plan to attack all of those tasks at once. "[W]e start every discussion with an overview of the big picture, but then we come back and say, 'let's eat this elephant one bite at a time,'" he says.
  • Measured communication efforts: Just as important, according to Stewart, is ensuring your staff knows what they are doing, and why they are doing it. "We try always to tie communication back to the patient and the mission and vision of the organization," Stewart says.
  • Measured resource augmentation: Stewart says that at the end of the day, smaller hospitals often don't have all of the resources they might need, using his hospital's HL7 interfacing and security assessment efforts as two examples. "We are probably way [too] close to the security forest to see the trees and underbrush," he says of the latter example. "This is where strategic resource augmentation has paid great dividends. … We may not have all of the required expertise … but we have people who can and will step in to help."

The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services' Health Resources and Services Administration in February announced plans to distribute 15 grants of up to $300,000 to support the Rural Health Information Technology Workforce program. It set aside $4.5 million to support activities to boost recruitment, education, training, and retention of HIT specialists.

To learn more:
- read the full healthsystemCIO.com post