Too often, IT infrastructure is viewed as a mere commodity. It is just plumbing; one type of pipe is the same as another. Is that really the case though?

Plumbing or infrastructure is unique in what it delivers. Without good, solid plumbing, civilization would not be in its current livable state. Without good, well thought-out transportation systems, the trading of good & services would not be as efficient as it is today. Without cellular telephone technology, we would not be able to pull up an app and find the right directions.

Infrastructure enables a lifestyle, a way to enhance life, and a platform on which to build. Consequently, a solid, robust foundation needs to be in place. It should be the same in healthcare.

CDW conducted an IT Checkup survey and reported the following results on March 25, 2009:

  • "The study reveals that hospitals with stronger IT infrastructures enjoy significantly better performance and results from their clinical applications than providers who deploy applications without concurrent investments in infrastructure."
  • "… 71 percent of providers with balanced infrastructure investments report "outstanding" performance from their clinical applications versus only 29 percent of providers who devote fewer resources to infrastructure.
  • " Compared to healthcare organizations who de-emphasize infrastructure, hospitals who perceive infrastructure as "critical" to quality patient care report reduced operating costs more frequently (57 percent vs. 41 percent) and increased patient satisfaction (50 percent vs. 36 percent)."

The clear conclusion is that infrastructure produces results.

The report went on to highlight problem areas impacted when infrastructure considerations were not included in implementing applications. The problem areas included: significant lag times during clinical usage, lack of interoperability, and unreliable performance.

Without the right focus on health IT infrastructure, problems may arise which can derail admirable, worthwhile care delivery initiatives.

As a recent The McKinsey Quarterly article stated, "… an effective infrastructure operation creates value by making sound choices about which technologies to use and how to integrate them. A technology product purchased from a vendor may be a commodity, but the ability to bring together hardware, software, and support to provide the right combination of cost, resiliency, and features for a new application isn’t." The title of The McKinsey Quarterly article is "Where IT Infrastructure and Business Strategy Meet – CIOs and CTOs should take the lead in explaining how IT infrastructure creates business value – especially in challenging times."

The title of the article summarizes the point perfectly.

From the survey mentioned earlier, some CIOs are taking IT infrastructure seriously as part of their overall strategic plans. An important point: IT strategy and plans need to be aligned with the healthcare organization’s strategic plan and goals. In a report entitled "IT’s Unmet Potential," the following observation is made – "… two-thirds of executives say further improvements are possible by integrating business and IT strategy more closely. They favor a process where IT strategy and the ‘art of the possible’ in technology influence the development of business strategy, closing the loop in strategy development."

In today’s world of forthcoming "Meaningful Use" and stimulated healthcare IT, putting in place the right IT infrastructure will raise the success rate, lower the costs, and enable the organization’s strategic plan to deliver the most efficient, high quality patient care possible.

That does not sound like a commodity; it sounds like a platform for innovation, growth, results, and a better healthcare delivery system. It sounds like a foundation for performance.

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