Over the past decade, health care systems in the U.S. and internationally have become increasingly high-tech to streamline care and improve patient outcomes. What are the stages that new technologies must go through before being adopted and what are some of the challenges and open doors they face while being put into practice? Adelina Gnanlet, associate professor of management at Cal State Fullerton’s Mihaylo College of Business and Economics, takes a look in her recent study.
Technology may be transforming health care more than any other industry, through major innovations. These include completely integrated systems that allow care information to be passed to specialists, laboratories, pharmacies and other departments without paper notes or prescriptions, or more nuanced steps, such as email appointment reminders.
Regardless of how advanced information technology (IT) adoption is in a given care environment, the focus is the same: to make care smarter and faster, with fewer errors and better outcomes.
“The significant advantage of information technology integration is that information moves faster from system to system. This provides greater accuracy in decision making for both clinicians and health care administrators,” says Adelina Gnanlet, associate professor of management at Mihaylo College and co-author with Assistant Professor of Management Min Choi of a 2019 study on the impediments to implementation of IT in health care. “We don’t have to wait two to three weeks for information or diagnoses to go to a specialist and for them to fax things, call someone up or give it to a patient who might forget. It is instantaneous.”
In the decade since the passage of the Affordable Care Act, the 5,300 hospitals in the U.S. have become the world leaders in technology integration. While only about 6% have fully-integrated systems, about 60% are very close to reaching that goal.
“Compared to the rest of the Western world, we have reached heights in integrating information not only within hospitals but between health care entities such as pharmacies and health supplies distributors. Developing nations do not have such capability and predominantly use paper formats to transfer notes, or are limited to minimal integration with pharmacies,” says Gnanlet. “But even in the U.S., because care is very fragmented and has not been uniform or consistent, making these computers talk to each other in a way that is useful for everyone in the network is difficult. There are no standards yet in the health-care industry, as we see in manufacturing, where information is becoming more transparent.”
Three Stages for Technology Adoption – And Overcoming the Headwinds that Can Derail Progress
Gnanlet explains that there are three stages in the integration of health-care technologies: adoption, integration and sustenance.
“The first one, adoption, is the beginning process of identifying what types of technologies that a particular health care system needs to use and how that will be helpful for their organization. It is the planning stage,” says Gnanlet. “Integration is the actual implementation with the people and processes of the organization. If people are not very happy about it or don’t know how to use it, the impact and success will be reduced. The last stage is when the project or technology is going well, but it needs to be upgraded or reviewed to see how it can be made more effective for both clinicians and patients.”
Looking to the future, data security is likely to be a headwind for IT adoption in health care. “When we collect a lot more information about patients and medications, there has to be a good way to secure it and use it,” says Gnanlet.
With applied implications for physicians, clinicians, businesspeople and engineers, Gnanlet hopes her research will have wide practical impact. On the best approaches to maximize technology integration opportunities, she encourages organizations to work with a physician champion – a practitioner with the trust and influence of their colleagues who can act as an influencer to other physicians.
“Among the physicians, it is their job to give the best patient care, but they are now in a world that was not taught in medical school,” she says of their use of IT technology. “Organizations should find someone who wants to join the project and would be a champion for the implementation process, and have a multidisciplinary team to look at the benefits of integration and how it can be done effectively.”
The study co-authored by Choi, Gnanlet and Shahin Davoudpour ’14 (management) is titled “Impediments to the Implementation of Healthcare Information Technology: A Systematic Literature Review” and appeared in the February 2019 edition of the Journal of Supply Chain and Operations Management.
Giving Management Students an Introduction to the Business Side of Health Care
Gnanlet teaches MGMT 435 – Management of Service Organizations and MGMT 474 – Healthcare Management. Both courses are designed for management students of all concentrations seeking to expand their knowledge in particular subsets of business.
“The first course is a good fit for students who envision themselves working in any service-oriented organization, such as airlines, hotels, Disneyland, Amazon or Target,” she says. “It focuses on how to handle customers and improve quality.”
MGMT 474, a new course debuting in the 2018-2019 academic year, looks at health care management, which is a strong job growth area.
“Many of our business students want to explore what health care is, because it is a very different sector compared to all others when considering the terminology, the way things are done and the processes. This is a great fit for students who want to see how health care is or already work in the field but want to gain some ideas,” she says.
Examining a wide range of business functions within health care, ranging from marketing to human resources to new product introductions, Gnanlet believes the course will be useful for students and alumni as they seek related career opportunities.
“It provides basic knowledge, so if you walk into an interview and the recruiter wonders if you know anything about health care, you know the terms and the business concepts,” she says.
A Passion for Travel – And Giving Students Opportunities to Explore Their World
Among Gnanlet’s hobbies is international travel. With her husband, she regularly visits her native India and has visited about half of the states of the U.S. Among her most memorable excursions was a trip to Israel, where she explored the millennia of history in Jerusalem and other cities.
In summer 2014, Gnanlet led a study abroad program with Cal State Fullerton students in the former Soviet republic of Georgia. “It was very beautiful. I always wanted to go to Eastern Europe, which has centuries of history,” she says. “The churches and monasteries were beautiful, and they have a very strong wine industry. It was an excellent trip, and my students and I greatly enjoyed it.”
For More on Management
The Mihaylo College management program supports undergraduate and graduate programs focused on management and its many subsets, including human resources, organizational leadership, entrepreneurship and the supply chain. For more information, visit the Department of Management online. Or read more of our articles featuring the college’s management faculty members, students and alumni.