“Clean-Up in Aisle 4!”I was walking the aisles at my local grocery door last weekend when this all too familiar phrase was heard over the PA system.  “Clean-up in aisle four!”  I smiled and thought how cliché the saying had become.  “Can’t wait for a good spring cleaning,” is another one that always makes me chuckle but for a different reason.  What’s so special about the spring that precludes us from doing that much-needed clean up at any time of the year. And so it goes with your IT network.  

Huh?

Spring is the time for an IT assessment because more than ever before, an organization’s success is tied to technology. The challenge for many however is that data requirements have outgrown current infrastructure and the perceived cost and complexity to upgrade is daunting, and therefore postponed.  Until it’s too late.

OAL was Going AWOL

“We felt like we were spending too much time saying how much will this cost, not how will this make us better,” says Bill Weik, Chief Executive Officer of Orthopedic Associates of Lancaster, Pennsylvania.  Founded in 1972, OAL is one of the most respected medical practices in the state. The organization went paperless is 2003, one of the first in the country to do so, and the technology challenges began emerging soon after that.

“We were one of those companies that were big enough to need IT support, but didn't think it should be that difficult,” says Weik.  OAL had already installed a practice management system and email, which met the practice’s needs back then.  “When it came to tech support, we had an outsourced company that would come in a couple of days a week.   But when we installed a PACS system in 2006, we decided we wanted an internal resource.”

The Best Laid Plans

“Our guy was trying to be the network engineer, the desktop manager and more.  He fixed things and did things that proved to be detrimental over time to our existing systems.  It was like putting a bandage on a serious infection.”  It was time for spring cleaning.

OAL sought advice from a business partner, the Chief Information Officer for the hospital with whom they were aligned.  He recommended a well-respected IT and networking consultant with ties to the local healthcare community.   They served as the hospital’s IT networking partner and not only understood the complexities of current healthcare technology needs but could project five and ten years into the future.  They recommended, then implemented the following:

  • A complete IT site assessment to define operational goals and identify current technology gaps.
  • A networking, switching, routing and security review to evaluate against best practices and create a road map to leverage IT as a competitive advantage.
  • A PC, server, and user device inventory that included assessment of hardware condition, expandability, life expectancy, and replacement cost.

“They submitted a proposal to overhaul every server and every PC,” says CEO Weik.  The IT assessment also included a maintenance and replacement schedule as well as an outsourced monitoring and support plan.  “The consultant made IT work for us, instead of us working for the IT department.  Since we’re so technology dependent, we got beyond the frustrations.  Now, we’re running our business, and IT’s there to support it.”

Where Do I Begin?

Technology refresh decisions can be daunting so start with an IT assessment.  Bring in an outside consultant with a fresh perspective.  Through on-site analysis and interviews with key organizational stakeholders, their report should define IT operational goals and identify current technology gaps.  An in-depth review of all of your critical technology areas should include an evaluation against best practices and provide a road map to better leverage IT as a competitive advantage.  A complete cataloguing of organizational hardware including an assessment of condition, expandability, life expectancy, and replacement cost should also be performed.   Then, and only then, can a good cleaning process begin.

What Time is it Where You Work?

The flowers are blooming around the country and healthcare and business IT professionals have awakened from their winter slumber to assess and refresh.

Spring is time for taking an IT assessment and a fresh look around. Fight through that urge to push off today what you can do tomorrow.  It’s time for that clean up in aisle 4, before someone slips (and they can’t get up!).

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