The Intrinsic Business Value of Enterprise Architecture for Healthcare Organizations

 

The following are excerpts from a recent article by David E. Clark, IRIS President, published in the August 2015 edition of “The Pulse – A Bi-Monthly Newsletter” from the Federal Health Architecture.

Introduction

Enterprise architecture is one of the more commonly misunderstood technical disciplines, leaving healthcare business and policy professionals pondering the usefulness of it. The intrinsic business value is that enterprise architecture can save time, money and improve business and policy functions by developing clear baselines that lead to improved organizational awareness and decision making. If leveraged correctly, enterprise architecture can provide the framework to support sound technology choices, timely business process improvements and improved policies to support specific missions or functions.

There are many enterprise architecture frameworks to choose from, with each having unique characteristics. Healthcare organizations should carefully consider the frameworks that are available, evaluating each based on organizational goals, objectives and strategies. As the enterprise architecture is developed, the healthcare organization’s self-awareness incrementally improves. Key systems and their functions are documented along with the systems that have become outmoded. This allows IT investments to be made in the business areas that will have the greatest impact versus the areas that are mired in politics or unproven technologies.

All healthcare organizations have enterprise architecture, whether they formally document it in an enterprise architecture artifact or not. Enterprise architecture allows processes to be clearly defined and the applications and infrastructure required to operationally support them to be identified.

What is the point of enterprise architecture?

Enterprise architecture endeavors to understand the strategic and tactical business objectives of a healthcare organization so better business decisions can be made and policies developed.

As the enterprise architecture is established, the healthcare organization expands its internal and external awareness. Most software development projects have an architecture that identifies its users, describes its features and functions, and highlights the benefits derived from its use. Enterprise architecture uses the same tenants but applies it to groups of applications, pools of users, department clusters and ultimately the entire organization as it evolves.

What is the value of enterprise architecture to a healthcare organization and its staff?

The value of enterprise architecture stems from its ability to improve a healthcare organizations navigation of new technologies that have the potential to improve business functions. Improving situational awareness allows technology, budgetary and policy decisions to be made more rapidly without going back to the drawing board each time.

Having a clear view into the enterprise through a formal enterprise architecture function allows for the identification of small technology subsets that will have the greatest impact on a healthcare organization, providing a platform for proactive influence on policy making and business strategy development and execution.

Can enterprise architecture resolve critical business and policy challenges that impede progress?

Enterprise architecture, if instituted correctly, can easily resolve critical business and policy challenges that impeded progress. Methodologies for enterprise architecture provide a highly structured approach for conducting research and analysis that supports more effective business planning and policy development. Enterprise architecture provides a framework to make sure that all enterprise elements are considered. These elements can be incrementally expanded upon to reflect additional issues that arise in the course of conducting business, with each being added to the architecture accordingly.

As an organization’s self-awareness peaks, roadblocks to progress are more easily surmounted and, in many cases, avoided. The key is to start with projects that have a high probability of delivering immediate business value while laying the foundation for a long-term enterprise architecture strategy.

Conclusion

Enterprise architecture tools in the hands of an experienced technician can elevate a healthcare organizations situational awareness, leading to improved strategic planning, decision making, cost cutting, resource allocation, technology adaptation, improved operations, customer service, and stakeholder engagement. Once established, the enterprise architecture can quickly become the panacea that many healthcare organizations are looking for as the means to improve business functions, support better policy development, and ultimately improve the bottom line. Without it, organizations leave much of their business to luck and chance.

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