Rolling Out the Red Carpet

American consumers are accustomed to using technology to get better service in almost every sector of the economy except health care. Now they're demanding that hospitals, clinics and insurance companies provide easier access to information as well as convenient online services, such as the ability to communicate with a doctor via e-mail or pay a bill on a Web portal.

This rise of consumerism is leading many health care organizations to rethink their information technology strategies. "In the past, decisions about the kinds of technologies to purchase and implement were driven by how they would make our lives easier here," says Jim Beinlich, associate CIO at University of Pennsylvania Health System. "Now the perspective is 'how does this technology support creating the ideal patient experience?'"

To make sure consumers' demands are met, health care organizations must take steps to involve physicians, nurses and marketers, as well as technology experts, in their strategic decisions about I.T., Beinlich says. "If the I.T. department was the only group trying to make these decisions, we wouldn't be as sensitized to the consumer aspect of this as we are," he adds.

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