Many of the multiple and disparate information technologies that now handle patient data in consolidated health systems were initially implemented to serve distinctly different purposes. IHNs/IDNs "stuck" with these systems need a strategy that allows for an integrated but heterogeneous IT landscape, one that promotes patient welfare as it improves short- and long-term clinical performance. This can be a tall order.
Recognizing the continuing trend toward consolidation, a thoughtful IT strategy should be considered even if hospitals or other facilities have not been directly impacted by a merger or acquisition. Healthcare providers might consider choices in IT systems that will minimize disruption if and when they are acquired; make them more attractive as prospective acquisitions; or provide options in a future where joint ventures, affiliations, and collaborations are alternatives to traditional M&A.
Developing a strategy that pulls the several (or many) different IT tools together depends on dealing with the shortcomings of interoperability. Critically important is reducing complexity and inefficiency. Not doing so runs the risk of becoming overwhelmed by the integration and management of myriad systems. This risk is particularly high if IT tools are not well-suited to the tasks that must be performed.
The simplification that comes from integration and consolidation of IT systems can save money by making processes more efficient and IT systems easier to maintain. It is a transformative process.