Fast-tracking digital transformation
4 steps that can help healthcare organizations evolve
Most industries across the globe have already experienced digital transformation.
“Pretty much every business sector is digitally enabled today,” said Anne Snowdon, RN, PhD, Chief Scientific Research Officer, HIMSS Analytics. “From travel to banking to retail, everything is digital and highly automated, except in healthcare. But can you imagine if a healthcare organization could proactively say, ‘Gee, we notice your blood sugars are starting to decline. Let’s have a conversation about how we can get those glucose levels back to normal?’”
Many healthcare organizations (HCOs) have faced challenges and slow progress associated with digital transformation efforts. However, the COVID-19 pandemic spurred the uptake of virtual technology, and healthcare professionals and consumers alike now expect digital transformation to continue unfolding at a rapid pace.
“Since everything in their world is connected, HCOs need to be part of that ecosystem because if they are not, they are going to lose to the next competitor,” said Donny Patel, Vice President, Technology, Innovation & Digital Transformation, Baxter Healthcare Corporation.
To fully participate in a digitally advanced ecosystem, HCOs should focus on areas such as:
Interoperability. “If I go to my general practitioner to get my COVID vaccine, what vaccine I got, what day and what arm is in a database and that data flows right to the emergency room that I am taken to when I fall off a ladder and the ED team needs to know if I am vaccinated,” Snowdon said. With information accessible wherever it is needed, healthcare professionals can make the best decisions.
Predictive analytics. “As the new frontier in healthcare, predictive analytics takes data around unique groupings of patients to identify their health needs. So, women who are 35 to 55 years old might be at risk for certain types of infections or illnesses,” Snowdon said. “Then your doctor can say you’re pretty high risk for this particular infection or disease, so let’s do what is needed to prevent it from ever happening.”
Person-enabled health. Technology should empower people to take care of their own health, according to personal preferences, values and needs. “Some of our seniors prefer to remain at home with home care services to remain independent. Yet, other seniors find the social isolation of living at home challenging and prefer to live in an assisted living setting to be an active part of their community,” Snowdon said.
Pushing the digital agenda
To move the digital transformation needle, leaders need to:
- Know where your organization stands. “What digital strengths do you have today? If you are a small community organization and are entirely paper based, you are starting at a very different place than a hospital that has an EMR and seeks to advance digitally enabled care. The first thing a leader needs to understand is where their organization’s digital strengths and assets are because working from a position of strength is always better, faster and less expensive,” Snowdon said.
The HIMSS Digital Health Indicator enables leaders to pinpoint their organization’s starting place. Upon completion of a set of questions, an analysis tells you exactly where your digital strengths and assets are, and then shows options for how to drive forward. “Essentially, identifying strengths gives you objective data to make sure you then advance those areas where you have gaps. You’re able to prioritize areas of progress informed by objective assessment of digital strengths,” Snowdon said.
- Focus on the end goal. The HIMSS Digital Maturity Models provide prescriptive frameworks that help HCOs build digital health ecosystems in areas such as analytics, clinically integrated supply chain, infrastructure and others. Each eight-stage (0-7) maturity model operates as a vendor-neutral roadmap for success that offers global benchmarking.
“These tools not only allow leaders to assess how connected they are … but also how they are utilizing connectivity and technology to achieve outcomes. Because if an organization has seven unique technologies, that doesn’t necessarily mean the organization is delivering the best digital experience to clinicians and patients. These tools allow you to truly assess that maturity,” Patel pointed out.
- Set priorities. “When an HCO fills technology gaps, it’s all about prioritization. What is that maximum value that an organization can give to its patients and clinicians? You have to keep these two consumers in mind. It sounds very simple, but it is difficult to agree on your organization’s highest priorities,” said Patel.
- Work with transformative partners. HCOs need to move away from supporting IT projects and toward empowering change. “Previously, the IT department enabled a laptop to connect to WiFi or provisioned the servers. That’s no longer the case. They are now creating partnerships with startups that are advancing the speed with which digital transformation is delivered to internal consumers – the doctors, the nurses, the clinicians and ultimately the patients,” Patel noted.
In the long run, healthcare leaders seeking to advance their organization’s digital transformation should move toward market partnerships. Many companies possess expertise that can help HCOs honestly assess their digital maturity, solve the challenges they are facing and accelerate their digital transformation efforts. Specifically, HCOs would benefit most from working with partners that can empower them to access data from multiple sources and devices. That data, according to Patel, can then be leveraged to improve care, operations and healthcare utilization across the enterprise.