Project managers must look beyond the obvious to solve problems

Wednesday, September 25th, 2013 By Jack Nevison

Implementing a new IT system can be difficult for project managers. For those at the Swedish Medical Center, the Seattle-based network of hospitals, the bigger challenge was convincing 1,000 doctors to use it.

As CFO David Delafield explained to Search Business Analytics, executives at Swedish Medical had determined that their hospitals needed a set of common metrics in order to better assess the performance of their staff. Creating the metrics was easy enough. Then technicians built a data warehouse to collect information from the network. Doctors were given simple reports to fill out, in addition to an easy-to-use dashboard where they could log in and track their performance.

Unfortunately, most of the doctors were reluctant to use the system. With all their other responsibilities, there just wasn't enough time to enter all the data.

Project managers at Swedish Medical decided that adding medical scribes to the mix might solve the problem.

Scribes began to take electronic notes for the doctors during patient visits. While the doctors treated their patients, the scribes completed mountains of paperwork that would otherwise have consumed hours of the doctors' valuable time.

Freed from much of the burden of data entry, the doctors were then more willing to participate in the performance tracking that had been designed for them.

The project managers succeeded by conducting an wide-ranging analysis to identify the underlying difficulty, which turned out to be a subtle "people problem" and not a technical glitch. Ultimately, their decision to add scribes, a new role, saved the whole undertaking.

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