I have two kids and, if you have kids, I’m sure this discussion has come up at some point. About five years ago, my son was in the car with me going somewhere. As we drove, we passed a GameStop, and being the gamer that he is, he said, “Dad…I need to stop at GameStop and get something.” Well, as a dad, I knew this translated to, “Dad I want you to buy me this new game”. It was also a very valuable moment to discuss with my son the difference between what we need and what we want.
The differences are subtle but we have lost the translation of these terms to a degree and both terms are used in the wrong context much of the time in our society. A “need” relates to the basic survival of our species. We “need” water, food, shelter, and other basic elements to survive. Many of us take our “needs” for granted because they come too easy for us in our society. Our “wants” are many! “Wants” are all the other things we think about and desire, from game systems, boats, cars, fancy homes, designer clothing and the like. “Wants” are a product of our somewhat spoiled position as the world’s greatest nation. There’s nothing wrong with having “wants,” but you need to know the difference and be able to constantly evaluate the difference to be successful in life and your career. Especially if your career is within a field where the “wants” for gadgets and cool things are plentiful!
For many CIOs across the country, getting your organization to a position to not lose reimbursement in 2014/2015 when the HITECH requirements kick in is a main priority. For many smaller organizations, it’s a major priority but funding, human resources and the fact that they are year behind is a bigger problem. So, where do you start and what do you try to get accomplished as fast as possible?
I’ve spent the last year talking to a number of CIOs and CEOs in this position. Just picking a place to start is a major challenge because the landscape is so large and the project as a whole is so daunting. Today, I want to shed some light on how to start. Or at least my opinion on where I would begin the process. I agree that the timeline is very short, and in some cases might be a bit unrealistic, but you can make great strides in a short amount of time. The first thing to remember is to set your plan for not losing money…2014/2015 is the target. If you can catch up and get money from the incentives available, that’s great, but the main goal is to be ready when reimbursement cuts kick in for not being ready.
The first thing anyone should do is an assessment of their infrastructure. Your network should be your main priority and plan of attack. It doesn’t get you any funding, but if it’s not in a position to take on the added stress and demand of new applications, users, data compiles and dumps, thousands of transactions per second and just the multitude of other things that are needed to meet the requirements, your organization is dead. Your network is like your nervous system, everything works great as long as it’s available. If it starts failing, everything ends quickly.
Assess your backbone speed, how fast can you pass data between switches on your network? A good place for most organizations is to be at least 1GB between switches and closets. You can make it on 100mb backbone, but you’ll have some challenges down the road when you have to integrate digital images from your radiology departments.
Look at your servers and make a plan for the storage you will need to meet the requirements. Many of the data reporting requirements will mean storing data longer in a safer encrypted or secure format, so remember that as the your plan comes together. Also, look at your state requirements for record retention and make sure you have the storage available to meet these as well. I’m sure your medical records or compliance departments can lend some hands in gathering this information for you.
Many of the major hardware vendors have solutions that can help from SAN (storage area network) to DAS (direct attached storage) solutions. Select the solution that fits your needs, not your wants, and not what the salesperson says you need. Remember, you know your organization better than anyone from the outside and everyone is different. Build your current plan on your needs to get your organization in a position to be successful. Your future planning process can take into consideration your wants.
Your infrastructure, though not an official requirement, is the key element to any organization’s success. There are number of other requirements that I’ll be commenting on over the next few weeks, but infrastructure will be the element that separates the winners from the losers in this race.