Healthcare IT Solutions. Global Project Professionals.

Nearly every IT leader has been there — you dedicate an extraordinary amount of time on the proposal for a promising new healthcare IT project, only to have your proposal rejected by the hospital’s advisory board with little explanation.

But since your team knows just how important it is to stay relevant and up-to-date on your hospital’s IT systems, this common phenomenon isn’t just frustrating — it’s worrisome, too. After all, the longer you spend trying to get hospital leadership on board with your initiative, the less time you have to manage a successful implementation that keeps your organization ahead of the game.

Before creating your next proposal, take a moment to consider what might be preventing your advisory board from giving the green light. To help you position your team for success, consider these 5 common reasons why healthcare leaders reject IT proposals — plus a few tips on how to craft a winning proposal from the outset.

They’re uncomfortable with a changing digital landscape.

Though some healthcare organizations are becoming more diverse and inclusive over time, most hospital advisory board members are from a generation that didn’t grow up with technology in the way that many do today. Consequently, some hospital decision-makers may not understand or trust technology, which can sometimes lead them to be especially resistant to change.

No one likes to feel uninformed or out of their depth, and the same goes for hospital board members that often have decades of experience in healthcare. They might be hesitant to retire legacy systems and processes that have worked for them in the past — even if leveraging technology could actually contribute to greater efficiency and effectiveness.

Tips and strategies to fix the problem:

Start with the problem, then unpack the solution. While your team might feel excited about the enhanced functionality and efficiency of a particular tool or platform, board members probably won’t share your enthusiasm. Rather than framing your argument through the lens of technical ‘bells and whistles’, focus instead on the problem or problems you aim to solve.  And remember: your initiative is likely competing against competing hospital needs and for limited investment dollars.

Drop the technical jargon. It’s tempting to use technology-specific language when describing the benefits of a particular tool or platform, but remember to speak the language of your audience. Use metaphors and avoid technical jargon wherever possible, and only include specifics about the technology when they are directly relevant.

Paint a clear “before and after” picture. While it’s a good idea to avoid going into too much technical detail in your proposal, don’t make the mistake of glossing over important elements too quickly. Draw clear connections between problems and proposed solutions through clear, hyper-focused language that clearly illustrates what benefits you expect to see after successful implementation.  Simply put, get the financial decision makers to buy into a vision.

They lack an understanding of how IT projects impact the bottom line.

Money talks, and in the case of a hospital advisory board, that voice is heard loud and clear. Financial goals are consistently top of mind for board members — and the decisions they make are almost invariably in an effort to help the hospital make or save more money.

This poses a unique challenge for IT leadership. While successful implementation of technology in healthcare can improve efficiency, effectiveness and speed of service, most healthcare IT initiatives only impact a hospital’s bottom line indirectly. A common misstep for IT professionals is failing to connect these dots in a deliberate manner, and simply assuming that board members will see the opportunity for financial gain on their own.

Tips and strategies to fix the problem:

Use financial data to quantify benefits. More often than not, leveraging specific (and quantifiable) data points is a great way to anchor an IT proposal in the “real world”. Don’t let your proposal get too bogged down with aspirational language and qualitative goals — instead, try choosing a few pieces of financial data to root your proposal in the bigger picture.

Highlight the financial impact of previous IT initiatives. While your board will want to see the financial goals of the IT project in question, they will likely also want to see proof that these goals are realistic and achievable. In this case, past successes are your friend. Don’t be afraid to cite the financial achievements of past IT projects in order to gain support for a new initiative.

They’re dubious of large up-front project costs (with limited explanation of ROI).

Many hospital boards have a much easier time shelling out cash for tangible investments or solutions like renovations, equipment and even highly-qualified staff — but are less forthcoming with funds when the “product” is intangible. Board members often have a difficult time recognizing technology as an investment as they would a new piece of equipment or a new hospital wing — and an even harder time doing so when that investment is especially big.

For IT leadership, this requires a special focus on highlighting a project’s ROI — and ensuring that their IT proposal clearly illustrates the timeframe in which board members should expect to see improvements.

Tips and strategies to fix the problem:

Break down costs into smaller pieces. To offset the sticker shock of an IT proposal, try breaking down a project’s total cost into smaller, more manageable pieces. Organize data points and hospital spend into categories or phases to help hospital leadership visualize a project’s required investment in detail.

Get specific about ROI timeframes. While it’s certainly not possible to guarantee ROI, you can help board members visualize the improvements they should expect to see over time. Creating a timeline that shows not only project implementation, but also expected improvements in efficiency and cost-saving, helps hospital leadership feel more comfortable with the idea of a large one-time investment.

They lack a sense of urgency.

Any IT professional knows just how quickly the digital landscape changes in healthcare, but board members who are immersed in hospital operations and management don’t always have this same perspective. IT leadership that pushes hospital leadership to move quickly might be viewed as impatient or “pushy”, even if their concerns about timeliness are valid.

Unfortunately, the longer that hospital advisory boards take to make decisions, the further they fall behind — making it even harder and even more expensive to catch up.

Tips and strategies to fix the problem:

Showcase how moving quickly will minimize disruption. Every hospital advisory board will have concerns about how a project’s implementation will impact staff workflow and operations. Since minimized disruption is high on the list of priorities for board leadership, frame your argument for acting quickly in how this will provide ample time for onboarding, continued training and troubleshooting.

Reverse-engineer project timeframes. Though board members will want evidence of due diligence in planning the implementation of a project, their top concern will naturally be the final product. Create a sense of urgency by identifying a “target” completion date, and backtracking a project’s steps from there.  

Use time-related data to help board members visualize the speed of healthcare IT innovation. Many professionals not intimately involved with technology in their day-to-day jobs don’t have a clear understanding of just how fast things move in the world of digital. To help board members get a better understanding of how even a few weeks of deliberation can put them way behind the mark, use examples of how quickly healthcare IT has changed in the past few years. Use specific numbers to drive home your argument — even if that means showcasing the IT achievements of your competitors.

They’re concerned about limited resources

Major healthcare IT initiatives require a lot more than tech — HIT project success hinges on having the right people, resources and time in the right areas. It’s simply not reasonable to expect a small hospital IT team to shoulder the entirety of that work, and with most hospitals facing staffing shortage as it is, it can be difficult to imagine how major IT overhauls wouldn’t negatively impact already overworked staff.

Tips and strategies to fix the problem:

Get specific about resource allocation and planning. Beyond simply the benefits of a project, make sure you spend plenty of time outlining the ways in which internal and external teams will help get a project across the finish line. Don’t leave out specifics like time-spend either — rather than simply saying “we will leverage this team”, identify exactly how many hours in what timeframe you anticipate needing their support.

Identify how your team will leverage outside expertise to achieve project outcomes. Large IT initiatives rarely succeed without some sort of outside perspective and support — and board members will know this instinctively. Rather than creating unrealistic expectations of just how much your team will be able to handle, be honest with the board about how you’ll get additional hands on deck — and for even better results, go one step further by identifying exactly who that change management support will be.

No matter how promising your healthcare IT initiative seems to your own team, remember that hospital advisory boards are primed to ask difficult questions. Going into initial conversations fully prepared to showcase the benefits and ROI of a project will let board members know that your team can be trusted with a successful implementation.

Lastly, don’t be afraid to get support when you need it — with healthcare innovation moving faster than ever, you’ll need all the expertise you can get.