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Thursday, January 5, 2012

The ROI for supporting HealthIT Standards

Yesterday I wrote a brief post on investing in Health IT Standards.  One obvious question is "What's in it for me (or my organization)?"  The generalized benefits I described in that post really don't give you enough when you have to get support from your manager to participate.  So what are some more tangible returns?

Time to market - When you've been involved in the development of a standard, you will often have a significant advantage in understanding how it works.  That can be translated (with appropriate execution) into a market advantage in deployment of the standard.  If it's a good (or better yet great) standard, your participation in its development can provide you with important knowledge ahead of others who haven't even heard of the standard yet.  That knowledge can also be transferred to other staff, often at a much lower cost than fee-based courses.

Informing the standard - Knowing what you need and participating gives you an opportunity to ensure that the standard meets your needs before it is released for comment.  Getting in early in the development cycle means that you can be part of the requirements setting process.  That means that the standard will be less likely to have "impedance mismatches" with your applications, avoiding costly rework. At the very least, you'll be more likely to learn what they are much earlier than you would otherwise, enabling you to get a head-start on any necessary product improvements.

Both of the above can be extremely valuable when your product and/or customers have a need for what the standard provides.  This is often a much better than "break-even" investment.

Increased skills - You will be exposed to other experts, with different backgrounds and experiences.  You can learn quite a lot in the standards setting environment that you wouldn't get from other places, simply because of exposure to industry experts.  This is about break-even.  Participating in development of standards, and the education you and your organization get from that effort will be slightly more cost-effective than paying for training for your staff on it later in many cases.

Influencing thought leaders - In many standard setting environments, you will be introduced to, and work alongside industry thought leaders.  The information flow goes both ways.  Not only will you increase your own skills (see above), but you can also influence these thought leaders with your own experience.  That influence can certainly be better than break-even, but it's also extremely hard to measure.

Recognition - Being involved in a standards effort can be rewarding in other ways.  You and your organization will often be recognized by others for your contributions.  That can be valuable in many ways. If you are a contractor, it can lead to more work.  As a vendor, it can lead to customer contacts.  As a healthcare provider, it can lead to staff.  This effects are probably break-even by themselves, but there is more.

Recognition can lead to invitations of another sort as well.  From a personal career standpoint, you will make more contacts in your industry, which can lead to all sorts of other possibilities.  I'm in my current position as a result of that sort of exposure.

There are also other possibilities that can benefit your organization, including collaborations with other organizations.

As I look at the people involved in HIT Standards, and the HIT Standards committee, I see a number of members of that select group who come from an HIT Standards background.

Putting all of these together means that you can often have an ROI that far exceeds what it costs an organization to participate, and that includes your time, travel and membership or meeting fees.

The last benefit isn't ROI for your boss or for your career, but is worth pointing out:

Happiness - My work is extraordinarily satisfying because the standards I'm developing are used both in my neighborhood and all over the world. These things save lives.  I can think of nowhere else where I could have such a substantial effect.  You can to, and that can be very satisfying.  It certainly makes me very happy.

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