*Edgar Huang
Indiana University
Oral Presentation – Research Track
Saturday, Sept 29, 2012: 2:58 PM – 3:18 PM – LK120

*Presenting Speaker

Background
Today, hospital Web sites are playing a very important part in healthcare services. The more a patient/user visits a hospital, the more he/she tends to visit the hospital’s Web site. However, prior research has found that there have been misalignment between hospital’s IT efforts and users’ needs. How a hospital can best serve its patients/users online apparently needs further investigation. This study investigated three best-practice cases of hospitals to demonstrate the determinants and outcomes of successful e-health implementation.

Methods
Three cases were picked from a sample of 765 hospitals in the nation after the authors had carefully examined their e-health implementations on their Web sites. The three selected hospitals are

  • Eastern Idaho Regional Medical Center (http://www.eirmc.com), affiliated to HCA
  • Sycamore Shoals Hospital (http://www.msha.com), affiliated to Mountain States Health Alliance and
  • Sharp Memorial Hospital (http://www.sharp.com/memorial), affiliated to Sharp Healthcare

The case study involved content analysis of the Web sites and two rounds of in-depth interviews of the IT and/or marketing people in the leadership of these three hospitals. The results from the two methods were triangulated.

Results
The findings show that each of these hospitals has adopted an exceptional number of e-health tools (EIRMC: 15; SSH: 14; Sharp: 18) out of 21 of such tools found on U.S. hospital Web sites, including emerging interactive tools. They have all highly promoted these online tools through a dedicated menu. Sharp is one step ahead and has built mySharp, a secure and personalized patient portal. All three hospitals have taken both top-down and bottom-up approaches to implement e-health tools on their Web sites. The biggest barriers include resource limitation, insufficient infrastructure support, difficult system integration and standardization, and lack of technological support for encryption functionality. Although all three hospitals have used some form of analytics to monitor their online traffic, coming up with hard data for them to justify the implementation of e-health on their Web sites is a challenge though all these Web sites have enjoyed high volume of online visits to those e-health tools. All these hospitals have noticed the importance of implementing core e-business tools, especially patient access to their medical records, though they are at three different stages of such implementation.

Conclusions
A lesson from this study is that the implementation of interactive e-heath tools can be area- and hospital-size-indiscriminative. As EIRMC put it, “Hospitals lacking robust marketing and communications budgets may be MORE likely, not less likely, to consider technology investments a major priority.” The ultimate driver of these hospitals’ e-health development is their vision and strategic planning in support of their pillars of excellence. The key is for management to realize the strategic importance of e-health and coordinate the resources necessary to make such implementation happen. Offering interactive e-health tools on a hospital’s Web site accomplishes multiple goals, including service, communication, and education, and provides a hospital competitive advantage in a competitive industry.