This expertise is becoming even more important as the industry moves more toward the time-sensitive practice of installing prefabricated assemblies rather than building on-site.
"Prefabrications save a ton on time and money, and the project manager has to know when they have to go [on-site]," Lamonica explains. Most construction sites are space-constrained and don't have a lot of extra room to store an inventory of prefabricated modules. Instead, prefabricated components for big projects, like a 20-floor hospital building, are ordered, built off-site then shipped to the project site on a just-in-time basis. "We in IT wouldn't have a clue how that works," he notes.
Lamonica regularly dispatches technical IT staffers to the field to learn from construction workers who are using automated and mobile tools. He also recruits field staffers to spend a year or two in IT as a way to offer on-the-job training.
"These are people with construction experience" and knowledge that is critical to IT if the company is to design and deliver tools that are truly efficient and productive in the field, Lamonica says.
"But the big challenge is that we can have 1,700 jobs going on at the same time," which makes it very difficult to keep pace with demand, he says. On-the-job use of consumer and mobile technologies is making it even more essential for IT staffers to have bona fide construction and industry knowledge.
Turning the Tables on Vendors
Vendor management is one of the key areas where IT-plus credentials can yield a big payoff, according to Laurie Anne Buckenberger, assistant vice president of corporate IT and a nurse practitioner at Continuum Health Partners in New York.
For example, Continuum doesn't entertain canned sales pitches from software vendors. Instead, Buckenberger's team of clinicians in IT present vendors with very specific requirements, right down to the policies, regulations and individual workflows they need to have supported in automated systems used at Continuum's hospitals.
"All the software vendors have buttons to do X, Y and Z, but what we ask is if they can support our New York state regulations and the clinical outcomes we want to achieve," she says. "A clinical background helps tremendously."
This has been especially true in adhering to so-called "meaningful use" requirements set forth in federal regulations that funnel stimulus dollars to hospitals that comply with certain electronic health record standards.
Under the requirements, hospitals need to show not only that they are collecting patient information electronically, but also that they are using it in a meaningful way -- for example, by improving the ways in which they treat stroke patients. This requires the input of clinicians as well as IT professionals with deep clinical experience.
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