The following is a guest post by By Dean Wiech
No matter the industry, each time a purchase is made, business leaders always want to know what they are getting in return for their financial investment. Questions frequently asked include: “How is this going to help me?” and “What is my return on investment?” Another phrase, often uttered by “Mr. Wonderful” Kevin O’Leary from the popular show Shark Tank is, “What am I getting for my investment?”
By examining the answers to these questions, business managers and organizational leaders must ensure that their budget is being adhered to and that purchases by the organization are considered, or proven, not to be a “waste” of money.” Often, return on investment (ROI) is a combination of both “hard” and “soft” costs and savings, which can often be difficult to determine. The “hard” cost is easy to define: What am I spending now versus what will I be spending on a different product, solution or system, or by doing nothing? Alternately, how is this solution going to allow me to save money in the long run? In this scenario – “hard” costs and savings — there is a definitive dollar figure that is able to be applied to implementing a solution.
“Soft” savings are a bit more of a complex issue; they are more difficult to determine and to document. For example, time and labor saved, or stress saved by employees completing a task that takes 10 minutes versus 35 minutes are soft savings. Soft savings also might be seen in improvements in customer service or in the customer experience. It is difficult to put a dollar amount on these scenarios and improvements, but they do impact a business, its success and its financial performance.
Time is money, of course, but in the case of healthcare perhaps it’s more fitting to say that “time is life.” This savings equates to valuable potential life-saving time, as we well know, and, in turn, improves patient care. As healthcare organizations seek ways to allow clinicians the ability to focus more on patients rather than on information technology, there are some solutions available — many that that are often overlooked that allow them to reach their goals. Some of these technology solutions provide a direct correlation between a physician’s ability to enter an information system, retrieve or enter information and get back to focusing on patient care. Essentially, with these types of solutions, like access and identity management, physicians can get back to work more quickly and their interaction with the technology is reduced.
Because of proven soft savings, most health executives are able to justify some expenses related to hard dollar investment for these types of solutions. For example, access management solutions allow IT leaders the ability to automate account management processes – accessing system information, resetting passwords and ensuring proper access to proper individuals — rather than requiring hospital system admin employees to provision, delete and manage employee’s accounts. Thus, these employees can focus on more important issues and devote time to higher priorities.
In healthcare specifically, identity and access management software plays a key role in optimizing “hard” costs. They reduce costs by automating the user account lifecycle, allowing accounts to be quickly provisioned for clinicians or account changes to easily be made so that they have access to what they need, when they need it. Other password management solutions, such as single sign-on, further allow clinicians to easily move from room to room without needing to enter separate credentials for each application repeatedly each time they switch computers or workstations.
Therefore, when thinking of making a decision to purchase new IT solutions, healthcare leaders should keep in mind questions like, “How is this going to help me?” and “What is my return on investment?” At the same time, they also need to remember to keep soft dollar savings in mind.
Dean Wiech is managing director of Tools4ever, a global supplier of identity and access management solutions.