Don’t Ignore Broken Windows – Protect Your Technology Investment

Broken Windows Syndrome

by Houston Klassen, Executive VP, Infinite Leap

In 1960, social psychologists christened the “The Broken Window Theory,” which sought to explain why neighborhoods left unmaintained often show signs of accelerated deterioration. The signs of neglect in these areas, such as broken windows, led residents to withdraw from public life and thereby reduced the efficacy of informal social control, leaving the area open for serious criminal conduct. The Broken Window Theory has inspired police departments in New York and other major cities to crack down on the small stuff in order to keep out the big stuff. Keeping on top of broken windows, graffiti, and other small infractions has reduced the rate of more substantial crimes.

We see examples of the Broken Window Syndrome all around us – at home, at work, in our communities. Perhaps our personal homes are the easiest example for us all to understand. Regardless of your type of personal abode, you must maintain your property if you want to increase, or even just preserve, the financial value of your investment. If you let the little things go unaddressed, the big stuff follows. Interestingly, it is really not much different with technology investments that are made by hospitals.

We witness this quite often with hospitals who have implemented Real-Time Location Systems for asset tracking, patient flow, temperature monitoring, or other use cases, in that we often have to remind them of the importance of not falling into the “broken window” trap.

Three of the most critical “broken windows” that you must watch for are listed below. If you don’t – you will almost certainly end up with more substantial problems with the solution and outcomes that fall well short of original expectations.

Broken Window #1: Unclear Ownership
If your project doesn’t have have a clearly specified owner, it is unrealistic to expect that it will remain in its original state. Successful technology projects start with a defined Project Manager (PM), but that role is very different from “owning” a technology initiative. The owner determines the vision of the initiative and allocates resources to be expended on a project. The Project Manager has the charge of making the project work with the resources they have at their disposal, but they don’t OWN the project. To be successful, the PM of the project needs to know who owns the project, the desired outcomes and how the project will be measured to determine success or failure. Without that it’s very easy for a project to wither. The Project Owner is responsible for making those decisions. Someone needs to have ultimate accountability and be able to call the shots. So ask yourself: “Do I know…
> Who/What department does approve the initial budget and any change orders?
> Who/What department does approve any positions to support an initiative?
> Who/What department does determine priorities?
> Who/What department does decide on the future of the initiative?

Without clear ownership decisions are often delayed, and the emphasis on getting results fall through the cracks.

Broken Window #2: Undefined Roles and Responsibilities
Nothing gets done if you don’t clearly define the desired expectations, and who is responsible for achieving them. Without this specification, people will naturally assume that “it” is someone else’s job. When this happens, things don’t get done, and with RTLS infrastructures specifically, when things don’t get done, the system stops working and ultimately fails.

We strongly suggest that a clear Operational Process is defined and a RACI chart (or something similar) is created to make sure that everyone knows exactly what is expected of them. This step is very important to ensure smooth day-to-day operations.

Here are just a few examples of responsibilities that require specific appointments:
– Restarting server in case of decrease in system performance
Replacing batteries in RTLS tags and badges
– Retrieving equipment when alerted of need
Training of new staff
– Applying system upgrades and updates
– Cleaning reusable badges after patient use
– Attaching RTLS tags to a newly commissioned equipment
Running reports for the the various levels of users, including the executive team

After reviewing your detailed collection of RTLS Operational tasks, you must assign someone the task of addressing them.

If you aren’t able to confidently create that list of operational tasks, reach out for help before it’s too late. The last thing you want is to miss or skip a step that proves to be critical to the overall health of the system.

Broken Window #3: Lack of Proactive Monitoring and Immediate Action
Similar to protecting your house, you need to protect your technology investment. Periodical evaluation of how you are using the system, including what rules and notifications are being used, monitoring battery life in tags and badges, are just a few items on the RTLS system health checklist.

But as we all know, knowing that there is an issue does not mean that the issue will be resolved. Someone needs to do something, and generally, that something needs to be done immediately. Delaying often only makes the problem worse and if ignored for too long can cause huge failure and tremendous expense.

Think of a small water drip under your sink… not a big deal if fixed on day 1, but after a year, you may have to replace an entire rotted out floor of your house, or worse. The sooner you take actions, the faster you can get back to the optimum value of your system. So don’t delay any maintenance tasks or fixing system and process issues.

More and more healthcare systems are finding that maintaining an RTLS system is just a little bit too specialized to address with their own internal staff so they decide to outsource the duties to a managed services company. Yes, you guessed it. At Infinite Leap, we offer these exact type of assistance through our Real-Time Technologies Managed Services. We provide consistent RTLS system operations, ongoing management and predictable results, all combined with lower costs than what can generally be delivered by internal hospital staff.

If you have any concerns about being able to consistently and reliably identifying and ultimately executing against these operational tasks – please feel free to give us a call. We can help put together a plan for you to execute against, or if warranted, perform the services on your behalf. Long story short… don’t let broken windows be the start of something worse.