Technology at Hospitals

In industries as diverse as manufacturing and health care, managers are keenly aware of the need to manage their operations through standard routines and IT solutions. However, how these firms use routines and technologies is important, according to a new study published by researchers from The Ohio State University Max M. Fisher College of Business and the Brigham Young University Marriott School of Business.

The researchers note that a well-executed IT implementation should center on the idea of a mindful approach, in which firms recognize the positives and negatives of technology, and also consider how technologies relate to standard processes.

To test the premise of mindfulness, the researchers surveyed executives from 262 U.S. hospitals to determine technology's role in their performance. They analyzed two aspects of hospital operations: mindful use of technology and adherence to specified routines. Additionally, they examined how those aspects relate to the hospital's general performance and its time-sensitive performance.

General performance is about delivering the right kind of care without strong requirements regarding the timing of that care. Time-sensitive performance involves situations in which immediate action is critical, such as treating a heart-attack patient.

"In examining mindfulness, we measured how people are philosophically looking at the technology," said Ken Boyer, chair of the Department of Management Sciences and the Dean's Distinguished Professor of Operations Management at Fisher. "We found that the more technology hospitals have, the more they can benefit from taking a mindful approach to that technology."

Boyer notes that the methods for analyzing mindfulness in technology and specified routines were developed by his co-researcher, Fisher PhD alumnus John Gardner, assistant professor of operations and global supply chain management in the Department of Marketing & Global Supply Chain Management at BYU Marriott. Together with Management Sciences Professor Peter Ward, the Richard M. Ross Chair in Management at Fisher, the researchers published Achieving Time-Sensitive Organizational Performance Through Mindful Use of Technologies and Routines.

View the paper

Boyer and his colleagues note that mindful use of technology involves the following elements:

  1. Preoccupation with failure is the understanding that things can go wrong within an organization, so IT applications should be applied to constantly monitor potential problems.
  2. Sensitivity to operations involves the use of information technologies for real-time monitoring of different safety needs in the organization.
  3. Commitment to resilience occurs when an organization embraces the drive to use technologies to quickly learn from things that go wrong.
  4. Reluctance to simplify interpretations involves an ongoing use of technology to explore better solutions across diverse perspectives.
  5. Deference to expertise involves the use of IT to collect input from experts throughout the organization.

"Our basic context is that health care has quite a bit of situations where there's a specified routine," Boyer said. "But then there are other situations where people have a combination of conditions, and you can't predict everything."

Noteworthy for Boyer is that the research shows that mindful use of technology is related to better performance when there is a high degree of technology investment.

"We found that routines are associated with better performance when there's a low level of technology. But in time-sensitive situations, the need for mindfulness in using IT really kicks in," Boyer said. "The data show that being mindful with technology's use can help hospitals provide better quality of care when there is a high degree of technology adoption."

Kenneth Boyer Fisher Designated Professor of Operations and Business Analytics
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