Often, the biggest pain points for healthcare organizations during a merger or acquisition are the unknowns and the people aspect, says Dr. Lacy Knight, chief health informatics officer at Piedmont Healthcare, which acquired University Health Care and its three hospitals in Georgia in March.
“Unknowns include software, hardware, the local culture and what the leadership structure is like,” he adds.
While many of those things will be behind the curtain until the integration starts, it’s important for IT leaders to try to ascertain what software applications are being used by the other healthcare organization and to assess how the other’s software compares with their own. In addition, IT teams will need to know what technology is remote versus onsite, and how people use the hardware within the IT environment.
Getting the list of technologies and processes being used is just the start. IT teams should then focus on understanding the other organization’s clinical and business objectives; what it views as the strengths of its program; its advanced surgical programs and physician employment structure; and basic information about the patient population, such as methods of patient communication. Knight points out that doing so will give insight into why the organization has certain technologies in place.
Integration can be disruptive to patient care if not handled well, making it critical for clinicians using any new software to be trained on the new programs so the integration goes smoothly.
“Without the right planning, you can break the communication framework among clinicians, patients and physicians,” says Knight.
2. Align on the IT Integration Strategy Early
“Some of the longest poles in the tent are started before the merger happens in order to meet the timelines set by leadership,” says Joseph.
Once the deal is closed, integrations will move quickly. That’s why Joseph emphasizes the importance of planning integrations as early as possible to ensure a long lead time rather than a rushed effort.
“During due diligence, there are limitations to what the organizations can and can’t have conversations about, so leadership is often leery of overstepping,” he says. “This is the perfect time to align on the organizational strategy and understand the goals and level of integration desired.”
Organizations should start to consider the level of investment, timing and overall strategy for different aspects of the integration while ensuring alignment between IT and business strategies.
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