Every successful organization needs a comprehensive, carefully planned, effective risk management program; one that not only focuses on risks related to finances, insurance levels, human resource practices, etc., but includes a thorough review of information and technology management risks. This is true whether an organization is seeking accreditation or not, as there is always risk involved when talking about technology.
One component to help control risk and plan for future organizational growth is the development of a formal written information and technology management plan (IT plan) to support the agency’s current and future operations, which will ideally align with the organization’s strategic plan. An IT plan provides an overview and needs assessment of current information and technology systems utilized by the organization. The plan provides a roadmap of how information and technology will support the overall mission of the organization along with the steps necessary to reduce and mitigate potential technological threats. A technology management plan:
- Evaluates hardware and software requirements, including software that assures accuracy in billing and documentation to validate the amount billed
- Defines how the security and confidentiality of electronic systems will be protected
- Describes back-up policies and disaster recovery preparedness steps
- Plans for future technological advancements
An IT plan further serves as the blueprint for managing an electronic information system and database that provides staff with consistent, timely access to client information, and thereby supports enhanced individual services and integration of care. An effective IT system provides a clear, reliable format for reporting and disseminating data that is crucial for ensuring the integrity and reliability of organizational data. The gathering of performance and quality improvement data and reports are a critical component of effective risk management.
A technology plan may also reduce organizational risk by providing an organized, systematic approach to documenting, tracking, and reporting of programmatic and operational information. The plan should address data security, inclusive of all client records and other information of individuals served, financial systems, personnel files, and other human resource records.
Organizations that have not yet embraced advanced technologies such as electronic health records and/or billing software often find that preparing a formal technology management plan gives them the necessary research and, better yet, justification to implement such systems. The benefits of these electronic systems include the ability to:
- Eliminate the chance of misplacing a client chart, as well as offering access to ancillary professionals, who may need to access information to appropriately address specific client needs
- Track billing and payments to assure timely response and maximum reimbursement
- Offer ready access to policies and procedures to assure staff may access up to date procedural information, when necessary
- Alert staff to pending deadlines to assure compliance
- Include training modules to assist staff in achieving required training topics at hours when it is most convenient for them
With all of the potential changes that can result from implementing a fully designed IT plan, the “human factor” must be considered. Encouraging staff to embrace and utilize new technology is sometimes a challenge as there may be a general resistance or negative attitudes toward procedural change. An organization may spend tens of thousands of dollars (or more!) to design and implement an electronic records system only to learn that staff have discovered ways to work around the system, not using it as it was designed for. Initial efforts to gain necessary buy-in and provide adequate training are key. It is beneficial at the start to conduct a thorough assessment of employees’ current technical skills to appropriately plan for additional training, as necessary. A high-quality IT plan will include strategies that address preparing for new technological changes as well as how to support staff through the transition period.
Things move quickly in the tech world! Therefore, a technology plan should be reviewed annually to ensure that its components are still relevant to the organization’s daily operations and updated as necessary. Having a well-developed IT plan in place, will go a long way to controlling risk and proactively planning for the future, and to help to prepare for and maintain national accreditation.