Information Technology (IT) governance refers to the set of policies, processes, and procedures that are put in place to ensure that the healthcare organization’s IT resources are managed effectively and efficiently to meet the organization’s objectives. The importance of IT governance in healthcare delivery can be seen in several areas, including project demand management, alignment with clinical priorities, business objectives, risk management, cost control, and regulatory and quality compliance. When IT governance is done in partnership with other divisions as a part of an overall demand management process the organization can see tremendous results.
“When it comes to IT governance, 75 percent of healthcare organizations think they are doing a good job,” said Lindsey Jarrell, Chief Executive Officer at Healthlink Advisors. “The truth is that only about 20 percent have the necessary IT governance structure integrated with operations to effectively support the organization’s needs.”
Aligning IT Investments with Enterprise Strategy
One of the primary reasons why IT governance is important is that it ensures that IT investments and resources are aligned with the organization’s objectives. Since COVID, many large healthcare delivery organizations continue to operate in a cost reduction mode, without an overall enterprise strategy.
Even if an overall enterprise strategy is still being developed, you probably have a good idea of the main priorities. Holding discussions with the CEO, CFO, and COO about executive and Board priorities can help enable governance and organizational alignment.
This alignment is important because IT plays a critical role in almost every aspect of modern healthcare delivery operations, from scheduling, patient engagement, disease management, patient monitoring, supply chain management, and financial reporting. By aligning IT with the organization’s needs and by participating in the demand management process, governance ensures that IT investments are used to create and drive business value.
Other important aspects of IT governance include:
- Demand management. By integrating with enterprise governance, demand management can extend beyond IT to benefit the entire organization. Organizations that have a solid understanding of project capacity, cash capacity, and utilization capacity are more capable of successfully executing important projects and achieving a positive return on investment.
- Risk Management. As organizations become more dependent on technology, they face a growing number of risks, including cyber threats, data breaches, application fragmentation, and regulatory compliance. IT governance helps to identify, assess, and mitigate these risks by putting in place policies and procedures that ensure the security, integrity, and availability of IT resources.
- Cost control. IT is a significant expense for most organizations, and without proper governance, it can be challenging to manage these costs effectively. Active governance helps to ensure that IT resources are used efficiently and that costs are minimized by prioritizing investments, optimizing infrastructure, consolidating services and performing “lookbacks” on projects to capture lessons on costs, return on investment, and schedule.
- Regulatory compliance. Healthcare organizations that fail to comply with applicable regulations can face significant legal and financial consequences. IT governance helps to ensure that the organization’s IT systems and processes are in compliance with relevant regulations, such as data privacy, cybersecurity, and financial reporting. In addition, integrated governance with compliance, finance, and risk management can ensure plans are created without silos to address needs in a holistic manner.
What Does IT Governance Look Like?
Well-executed IT governance is crucial for any organization that wants to succeed in today’s rapidly changing business environment.
“Most organizations understand the importance of IT governance and know it’s the right thing to do — but they may be reluctant to talk about challenging issues such as risks and cost control,” said Jarrell.
IT governance is a powerful tool for organizations to optimize their IT investments, enhance decision-making, and achieve long-term success. This is accomplished by aligning IT with business objectives, managing risks, controlling demand and costs, and ensuring regulatory compliance.
IT governance might look a bit different for each organization depending on its needs, goals, and priorities. Here’s just one example of an IT governance structure:
“If your team doesn’t have an integrated IT governance plan in place, Healthlink Advisors has the expertise required to assess, develop, and implement a plan that reflects your organization’s unique priorities,” said Jarrell. “Our team, led by Senior Vice President Chris Jenkins, has experience in all aspects of IT governance, both as consultants and in-house IT professionals. From engaging stakeholders and analyzing clinical and business needs, to streamlining existing protocols and establishing new ones, we can bring clarity that helps CIOs make the right decisions for the future of their organization.”