The healthcare revolution is upon us. With a laser focus on improving the quality of care, increasing healthcare access and healthcare efficiencies, reducing healthcare costs and weeding out unproductive processes, healthcare providers have looked favorably towards technology. Given the advantages technology brings to the table, healthcare organizations across the globe are jumping onto the digital transformation bandwagon.

What Is Digital Transformation In Healthcare?

The focus on customer experience has increased in every industry. Healthcare is no different. Patients today are no longer passive consumers of health and hence, healthcare organizations are being compelled to focus more on the valueof care. Technologies such as big data, cloud, mobility, AI, robotics etc. are disrupting the healthcare industry and are providing them with opportunities to improve customer centricity.

Digital transformation in healthcare is about orchestrating all the resources available at hand and connect and apply data and other technologies to improve communication, enhance patient experiences and patient engagement, and also redefine the healthcare business model. This push towards digital transformation is certainly to address the demand of the modern day patient – the demand for choice, greater control, and more transparency.

Patients today have the same expectation of their healthcare provider as they have of their favorite retailers. However, as simplistic as digital transformation might sound, it is more than just automation and the use of new technologies. It is more than just the digitization of patient records. It is more than apps and sensors and other wearable devices. And it is definitely not only about an EHR or HMS. Digital transformation in healthcare is about the complete rethinking of business processes to unleash a wave of extreme efficiencies that stems from using data and technology together to deliver better patient outcomes, improve patient experience, and have a positive impact on the bottom line.

Digital Transformation In Healthcare – The Path To Success

Here are a few considerations for those embarking on the Digital Transformation journey.  This can be achieved by focusing on four critical aspects:

Identifying key sources of value

Digital transformation is more about identifying key sources of value than just automation and sensors.

It is about identifying avenues that provide distinctive value to the patients and stakeholders alike and evaluating how digital technologies can be the enabler of these activities. Identifying and prioritizing these key sources of value simplifies the digital transformation process as the organization can then adjust their investments to meet the highest priorities.

The value propositions to target could be many – do you want to get closer to the consumers and enable value-based care? Is the focus more on increasing healthcare access? Do you want to increase automation, and other cutting-edge technologies such as robotics, AI etc. to increase process efficiencies, eliminate waste and break down walls between hospital business units and functions? Is the focus on leveraging data to enable preventive medicine, mitigate health risks etc.? Once this is done, organizations can determine how to invest in digital technologies and evaluate development processes to meet the highest priorities.

The people perspective

When it comes to digital transformation, we have to put the users of the digital products, the people and the stakeholders, in the driver’s seat. For the patients, there has to be a heavy focus on usability, accessibility, and connectivity. If it is an EHR – how easy is it to update records? Does it provide interoperability with the healthcare provider? How comprehensive is it? How is it helping them in becoming active consumers of healthcare?

When it comes to the healthcare stakeholders, the focus on usability increases even more. What good is digitization if the new processes impede rather than assist? Processes and digital applications have to be designed such that they do not lead to digital fatigue.

It also makes sense to evaluate what key functionalities are needed, how workflows can be customized, how to enable interoperability across the entire healthcare ecosystem, define the right alerts and alarms for patient safety and security, and focus on ease of data entry amongst others.

For example, according to a Physician Satisfaction Study by RAND Corporation and the AMA, “The majority of physicians who interacted with EHRs directly (i.e., without using a scribe or other assistant) described it as cumbersome, time-consuming data entry.” Given that different stakeholders will interact differently with technology applications, taking a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach will impede digital transformation initiatives.

Healthcare providers need to put the people in the heart of their digital transformation initiatives and then develop applications, processes, and workflows to help them reach their desired goals easily.

Leadership buy-in

Digital transformation initiatives bring in opportunities to reimagine how a business works – and this can be done only with all employees and the leadership together.

Digital transformation is about organizational transformation. It becomes imperative to have leadership buy-in as it is the leadership that will architect the entire digital transformation plan, will ensure that the right tools and methods are employed to keep change efforts under control and disruption is minimized. Leadership buy-in also ensures that there is minimal employee resistance, better change management and greater definition to pace and scale digital transformation initiatives.

It also ensures that at an organization level the expectations from digital transformation initiatives are realistic, that leadership understands that this revolution is more than just a technology upgrade and that all the stakeholder have a common view of the future.

Infrastructure assessment and technology considerations

Along with the identification of digital priorities, and the assessment of digital delivery models, it becomes imperative to assess the infrastructure and technology demands.

Healthcare providers need to assess if the IT infrastructure at hand is capable of supporting the speed and transparency in IT operations and provide a strong and reliable backbone to digital transformation initiatives. Modernizing IT foundations, moving away from legacy systems, removing aging systems that have been built in a patchwork manner, eliminating applications that are crumbling under the burden of spaghetti code, building in flexibility in the IT infrastructure incorporating connectivity into their IT architectures and focusing on security are key evaluation points.

Once this is done, they can evaluate how technologies such as robotics, IoT, telemedicine, big data, chatbots, AR and VR, AI etc. can be used to serve the healthcare ecosystem to enable digital innovation and seamlessly deliver better healthcare services.

While digital transformation in healthcare might seem like a complicated process, taking a strategic approach to the transformation program will ensure that it is executed successfully and deliver on its promise – that of better patient outcomes, reduced healthcare costs, improved quality of healthcare services, better information handling and more value to all the stakeholders of the healthcare ecosystem.