HIE Formation Part V: Defining Value

By Laura Kolkman, RN, MS, FHIMSS, and Bob Brown

In this series of monthly articles, based in part on their recently published book, the authors discuss current HIE related events and leading practices within the context of forming an HIE initiative in your state, region or community. This series of articles was launched in the March 2011 issue of HIELights.

Defining value is one of the most important things you’ll do on your HIE formation journey. Then you’ll watch how the definition of value changes over time. While all of this is going on, you’ll also need to be delivering.

In the early planning stages, after you’ve established the workgroups that will be tasked with reaching your HIE’s defined milestones, you’ll need to be delivering value to your team and providing an environment and atmosphere that promotes and celebrates the day-to-day accomplishments that are essential in the formation stage of any organization. Getting your HIE project off to a good start – great is better – and keeping the team humming along at peak efficiency as they hit the inevitable speed bumps and pot holes along the way is not an easy task. Overcoming a bad start is very difficult.  Get help if you need it.

Next you’ll be focusing on the value you’ll be delivering to your stakeholders when the HIE is operational. The only sure fire way to find out your stakeholders’ value is to ask them directly. We recommend targeted focus groups beginning with the providers and the hospitals in the HIE’s service area. Typically, once we understand what typical representatives of the different stakeholder segments value, we launch a broader survey of the community. Gathering this information is essential because it will tell you what services your stakeholders think are important. Done correctly, it can also inform the order in which individual services – either clinical or administrative – are introduced in your community. Remember, you can’t introduce all possible services on the first day of operations. The order in which you introduce services will impact your organization for years. Don’t “wing it.”

Things will change. New services will become possible and even popular. New stakeholder segments will want to participate. They’ll be looking for you to satisfy their needs and provide them value. Of course, they’ll want something different; they’re a different segment with different needs. You’ll be redefining value and balancing the cost and the timing of developing and introducing new services as long as the organization is in operation.

And remember that forming an HIE is not a technology project. It’s a change management project. Understanding value is important because people will only change their behavior for something they value. They’ll pay for what they value. They’ll speak positively about an organization that provides them something they value. They’ll even actively support an organization that provides them something they value. Nobody talks about the organization that provides little or no value. Nobody cares.

So, how do your stakeholders currently define value? How will you gather that information? How will your organization act on that information? How will you provide excellent value?

Laura Kolkman, RN, MS, FHIMSS is the president of Mosaica Partners and Bob Brown is the vice president of Professional Services. Their book, The Health Information Exchange Formation Guide, was published by HIMSS in February.  HIMSS’ companion website, where you can read chapter summaries and download select tables, figures, illustrations and checklists, is available at www.himss.org/hieformationguide.