Congratulations! You’ve been picked to lead or participate in a clinically related IT project for a Healthcare vendor, hospital, or group of clinics. It may be the selection of an electronic medical records system, a roll-out of IV pumps or some electronic blood pressure monitors. Regardless of the product or project, it’s critical to understand the project team members and their roles in Healthcare project management. There are some aspects of Healthcare IT projects that mirror those of other IT projects, and there are some unique practices and business cultures that are fairly unique to Healthcare. Let’s look at some of the key players on a Healthcare IT project.
IT Project Sponsor
The project sponsor is the visionary of the project. Many times this person will be a VP or CEO of an organization if the project is large; and maybe a Director if the project is medium-sized or smaller. While this may sound like a figurehead role, it really isn’t. In Healthcare, it’s quite common for there to be some pushback from medical staff when they hear that a new technology is being proposed.
Let’s say a hospital has a high-performing surgeon who brings in a lot of revenue for the organization, but is very averse to technology. This surgeon may throw their weight around at the highest levels, and even threaten to take their practice elsewhere if the organization proceeds with the project. (Believe me, it’s not a far-fetched possibility). There is no way that an IT Project Manager or analyst team has the clout or executive skills to deal with this kind of crisis. That’s what the executives get paid the big bucks for! They have the “street cred” with the powerful people in your organization, so it’s critical to get them fully on board early on to support your IT project.
Healthcare IT Project Manager
The Project Manager of course is the main point person and overall responsible person for the success of the project. They are accountable to the Project Sponsor and just about everyone else on the team, but mostly likely don’t have authority to hire or fire. That’s the nature of Project Management. They begin the project by writing a charter document that defines some very important aspects of the project:
- The background and need for the project
- The scope of the project
- The timeline for the project
- The expected benefits of the project
- The costs of the project
- What is expected of key staff
- What defines a successful outcome
- How the project will be closed out
The PM then needs to corral the required staff to put together the implementation plan for the project, defining specific steps to take by all of the team members.
The job of the Project Manager is to keep the project on time, on budget, and within scope.
Once the initial plan is developed, the PM then holds everyone else accountable to stay on time and within budget, and puts into place a communication plan to raise concerns if any part of the project hits a roadblock or falls behind. The PM then sees the project through to the end, and gathers “lessons learned” from the team after closure to document for future projects.
The Physician Champion is not always required on a project, but is usually needed for larger projects. This person provides the advanced clinical expertise to communicate to the team how this project impacts the physician community. They will act as the liaison between IT and other physicians, and help resolve any clinical issues throughout the project.
Subject Matter Experts
Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) are usually not full-time participants in the project. They lend critical advice in a very particular area of expertise as needed. They are the representatives for the “foot soldiers” in an organization. Let’s pick one example from the opening paragraph above: a clinic will select and implement new blood-pressure monitoring devices for a group of clinics. The SME could provide necessary input, such as:
- Evaluation and testing of several proposed units
- Document current and proposed future workflows to determine how the proposed devices will affect their daily jobs
- Provide updates to their colleagues who are not on the project team, giving them a sense that they have a voice in what happens
So you can see that SMEs can be your best advocates in a project. They can prevent the dreaded post-project complaint, “You never told us it was going to work like this“.
CMIO or Nursing Informatics
In a Healthcare IT project, there is usually a representative from a clinical Director role who like the SMEs, represents the clinical users- only at a higher authority level. This person is involved in product selection and workflows, and is available during and after go-live to define policy and monitor compliance.
The Super User role could also be held by the same person as the SME. The main difference is that after the project has completed, this person will be responsible for ongoing training and basic troubleshooting of a system for their colleagues. There will always be staff turnover, requiring additional training, and the need to try to solve simple problems without needing to contact IT. That is the role of the Super User.
Clinical Application Analyst
The Application Analyst is responsible for knowing and implementing the functional and technical aspects of whatever is being rolled out. If we use the blood-pressure devices example from the previous paragraphs, then we’d see the Analyst knowing how to set up, troubleshoot, test, and ultimately support the system indefinitely. The Analyst should also work with trainers to help develop training materials. In some organizations, the Analyst may also do some of the training.
The Clinical Trainer position is pretty much just what the title says. They work with other team members to understand specific workflows to then develop tip sheets and other training materials, depending on the number of staff to train and the complexity of the product. They may also provide onsite support when your application is launched.
Depending on the size of your project, there could be other team members such as a QA Analyst, and possibly the Biomedical Department in a hospital. However, this covers most of the key members.