Demand Management Demands Management

By Zach Donisch, Director of Membership, AEHIA

In healthcare IT, applications staff work across clinical and business departments to create, maintain and support existing applications of all shapes and sizes. With the explosion of electronic medical record technology and the limited interoperability of older or legacy systems, new demands pose a considerable problem for applications leaders, who must lead and prioritize projects that will have the greatest impact on their organization’s major initiatives and sustainability.

John Henderson, the new vice president and chief information officer at Children’s Hospital of Orange County, recently took on the daunting task of reorganizing his organization’s demand management framework. “Our funnel is overflowing – we accept everything. We accept it blindly without understanding capacity to deliver. At the end of the day, we have a portfolio that’s significant, but only a small percentage of it will be completed.”

Too many inputs present a problem, and can have a considerable effect on the IT department morale and productivity. It is a common but manageable problem, as two seasoned healthcare applications leaders will show at the AEHIA Fall Summit’s kickoff presentation on Oct. 31.

Henderson noted that anticipated demand, or the routine maintained tasks and clear, laid-out objectives of an organization, doesn’t come as a surprise to his team. IT teams should expect to manage tickets from clinical floors and to deal with password troubles. But the unanticipated demand of a “clogged funnel” creates variability in daily tasks that can divert an IT team from the clear objectives of an organization.

Clear demand management practices help “eliminate management practices that increase variability, and … introduce policies that foster smooth demand patterns,” Henderson said. Poor demand management “creates a sense of being overwhelmed, because there’s so much that’s expected of them outside the day-to-day operations. My team feels understaffed and overwhelmed. I can’t say we’re understaffed because we don’t understand the demand, and we don’t have a governance process to control that demand and that truly dictates what’s most important.”

Proper demand management requires careful leadership from applications leaders who are experienced in both strategy and operations, and are tied closely with their organization’s goals and objectives in a macro and micro way. Even as leaders establish their organization’s demand management process, they are constantly mindful of resource constraints that make it difficult for IT departments to scale alongside business demand or changes in industry climate.

“Understanding what resources are required for routine care and feeding is the place I always begin; you can’t allow the maintenance items to go in order to meet the demands for new implementations and/or systems” said Chuck Christian, vice president of technology and engagement at the Indiana Health Information Exchange. His team at the Indiana HIE maintains one of the largest HIEs in the country, and develops applications and solutions that serve over 40,000 providers and payors across the state. “It’s been a learning experience for me, especially around the amount of resource effort that is required for the care and feeding of our products, infrastructure and security,” said Christian.

As Henderson and his leadership team at Children’s Hospital of Orange County cement their strategic planning around demand management, he remains hopeful that things will fall into place. The next steps, he said, are to “develop a Start-Stop-Continue model with our project management office where we’ll build a chart of items we’ve already started working on, what hasn’t started yet, and items we clearly need to stop working on all together. We’ll have to communicate with the right teams across the organization to notify them of the project status.”

Like all good customer service, clear and honest communication and discussion with customers will produce the best product. That holds true for internal customers as well. “By the end of the year,” Henderson said, “we’ll pare down our large portfolio to something where everyone’s comfortable moving forward with it.”


If you’re interested in more information on demand management strategies and solutions to help your organization or enhance your professional development, join us Oct. 30-31 for our AEHIA Fall Summit, where AEHIA members will discuss their organization’s strategies for “controlling the firehouse” of demand management. You can view the full agenda and register for the event here.

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