ElectronicHealthcare 1(2) December 2001 : 20-27

Prescriptions for Investment in Health Information: Managing Risk for Maximum Benefit

Michael Guerriere


As we plan to increase our spending on health information technology in Canada, this article cautions that we must manage risk carefully and get the most out of our investments. The author outlines 13 principles for investments in information infrastructure that were derived from observations of successes and failures in health and other industries.These principles are: be certain funding is adequate; communicate project objectives in clinical or business terms; actively manage stakeholder expectations; where possible, fund results, not technology; learn from the successes and failures of others; plan for failure; put users in the driver's seat; invest in success; build teams with experience; maintain strong communication links with stakeholders; include process design in every project; keep projects short; and avoid creating political footballs.

Canada is on the verge of escalating its investments in health information systems. Spending by hospitals, health regions, governments and the private sector on health information is expected to double in the next five years. As we contemplate this increase in resources, it is essential that we look at the successes and failures of the past to inform our decisions about how best to allocate the funds.

Investing in information technology is about inventing the future. As we can never fully predict the impact of introducing new technology, investments in information technology (IT) involve significant risk. No matter how diligent we are in planning IT projects today, some of our new initiatives will fail. Fortunately, lessons learned from other industries, from other countries and from previously attempted projects in Canadian healthcare can help to minimize the risk of failure in the future. A well-planned and well-thought-out project that fails is an opportunity for learning. A project that fails by repeating past mistakes is a waste of resources. It is this latter group we must seek to avoid.

This paper suggests a series of principles for investments in information infrastructure that are derived from observations of successes and failures in health and other industries. Although not an exhaustive list, it is a prescription for maximizing the return on investment in IT for healthcare.



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