Healthcare is not known for being at the cutting edge of technology adoption. That needs to change. The collision of staffing shortages, volatile financial margins, and a disrupted supply chain has created a call to action for health systems to rethink how technology can enable simpler, dare I say, even more enjoyable daily operations.

For example, giving nurses access to their schedules on a simple-to-navigate mobile app, allowing them to plan ahead and actively manage their schedules as easily as they manage their weekend dinner reservations. Or allowing managers to order supplies through a technology platform that rivals the ease of the mobile app they use to order groceries.

The possibilities that digital tools present to transform health systems are not only exciting but the current environment makes their adoption even more critical.

Past approaches health systems have deployed to manage costs and propel transformation won’t work in the current landscape. The healthcare workforce is stretched too thin to take on more tasks that will only lead to incremental improvements.

Health systems need to think differently if they are to drive sustainable change. Leading health systems should reevaluate how key processes are delivered from the ground up, concentrating on simplifying operations — with a focus on technology — while delivering exceptional experiences for staff, clinicians and consumers.

As leaders embark on this journey, there are three imperatives to consider:

  • Look to digital tools to help solve old problems in new ways. The maturation of technologies such as advanced analytics, artificial intelligence and mobile devices provide an opportunity to fundamentally transform processes.
  • Prioritize addressing day-to-day workforce concerns. Due to staffing shortages and heightened levels of burnout, there is no time to waste in addressing workforce concerns as they arise. The focus should be on a balance between streamlining operations and unburdening staff.
  • Take an agile approach to transformation. The pressure on health system operations necessitates that results are achieved in weeks, not years. Digitize processes, enable centralization and standardization and embed automation into operations when appropriate.

To realize the full potential of digital, technology needs to be coupled with reimagined workflows, roles, and teaming. Trying to automate redundant processes simply moves the problem and, in general, fails to deliver impact.

Embarking on a transformation journey at a time of immense pressure can be daunting, but it is also often the time when long-lasting, foundational shifts are possible. There are a few key steps your health system can take to kick-start the process:

  1. Focus on the greatest areas of impact first: Identify areas with the highest value based on how they align with the organization’s strategic objectives, the impact they have on employee experience (i.e. known pain points for the organization) and the bottom line (i.e. estimated cost impact based on high-level analytics).
  2. Collaborate with others: Hold a series of collaborative workshops with stakeholders to map out the pain points and ideal future state, with an emphasis on technology-enabled solutions.
  3. Take a sprint-based approach: Break down each future state journey into a series of rapid sprints — inclusive of process redesign and technology development. Iteratively release new products or processes to begin realizing bottom line impact.

About the author
Alena Taylor is a Partner in PwC’s health practice based in San Francisco. She works with health system clients nationally on strategic transformation needs ranging from enterprise strategy to margin improvement to growth strategy. Through these efforts she has helped her clients craft and execute plans that balance the need for sustainable operations, service to the community, and realization of strategic goals.

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