Why digital transformation for healthcare isn’t about technology
Digital transformation is the integration of digital technology into all aspects of how a healthcare business interacts with patients, healthcare providers and regulators. The results are frequently radical, disrupting long-standing practices with new processes that are continually evolving. But what any digital transformation consultancy will tell you is that a successful digital transformation strategy isn’t just about the technology. Indeed, as digital strategist Niall McKeown observes, many digital transformation initiatives fail because they focus on the technology.
As Tom Sullivan points out quoting Michael Monteith, CEO of Thoughtwire, in Healthcare IT News, “Digital transformation is fundamentally about improving patient experience.” So all a healthcare company has to do is implement these technologies and transform not only its business, but the quality of patient care and delivery of services, right? Of course, if it were that simple, all you’d have to do is call the software programmers and hardware installers. It’s not that simple, or easy. But, as Sullivan notes, “There are project and change management principles that can be applied” to attain a successful digital transformation. The first thing to remember is that it isn’t about the technology.
First and foremost, an effective digital transformation requires a cultural change that encompasses implementing new business models, encouraging new and different ways of thinking about the healthcare enterprise and, perhaps most importantly, effectively communicating what you intend to do with patients, providers and regulators.
Here’s how healthcare organizations can get a cultural change started to achieve a successful digital transformation that makes the technology work for people, not make people deal with the technology.
Look at the Big Picture
Technology doesn’t define what you’re doing. What you’re doing (or how you need to be doing it) defines what you want the technology to do for you. You need to have a big picture of what your healthcare organization seeks to accomplish, then look at how various processes can or should work together collectively to realize those goals.
Here are examples of key questions that help you sketch out that picture:
- How well are we satisfying our mission in providing patient care and support and in what ways can we improve?
- What can we do to better serve our patients and service providers?
- How do we ensure our employees are placed in the right jobs that match their skills sets and interests?
- What skills sets do we need our employees to develop?
- How can we make our processes more efficient to ensure the highest quality care?
Get Comfortable with being Uncomfortable
It’s easy to get comfortable doing things the way things have always been done. Digital transformation requires getting comfortable with constant change and doing the uncomfortable. As Dion Hinchcliffe writes, “Almost daily, the industry witnesses data points in the tech media that show us that we are currently at a high watermark for technological innovation. In this hyper-competitive yet nearly flat operating environment that organizations face today…the pressure to keep pace and deliver a wider range of digital capabilities has never been greater.”
To get comfortable with being uncomfortable, an organization needs to:
- Determine the organization’s current state of readiness, how open to change is the existing management team, front line, clinicians, and community.
- Encourage a culture that promotes experimentation and constant questioning of the status quo.
- Learn from mistakes. Punishing failure, rather than treating it as a necessary by-product of constant experimentation, isn’t learning.
- Identify the skills and tools people need to advance digital transformation goals.
Measure, Analyze, and then Act
Assess the current state of your organization, the engagement of your employees, the expectations of your patients, and the perception of your brand in your community. By taking the temperature of your organization, you will be able to identify where to start. Patients and staff will tell you what needs to be improved first. By asking for feedback and then acting on those suggestions, buy-in and enthusiasm for change and innovation will follow.
Once you identify where to start, measuring the impact of actions taken is critical to keep initiatives on course and to pivot or adjust if roadblocks are encountered. Use real time feedback to help manage implementation and arm staff with insight into what works and where modifications are needed.
Encourage Cross-Functional Communication
Get people out of their own backyards. Employees need to understand how what they are doing contributes to the larger business objectives of continued business growth and improved customer/patient experience. Not just what their group or unit is doing, but how each group interacts with other teams as well patients. To make turf issues disappear, organizations need to promote the idea that everyone, regardless of individual position, is playing on the same field.
Sharing operational results in combination with patient and employee feedback will provide insight into what needs attention. Best practices will be readily apparent. Greater transparency and knowledge sharing will help accelerate progress toward the desired end state.
Technology Should Empower and Accelerate
As Sabine Riedel points out, “Digital transformation is a change process, and change processes only succeed when everyone is on board, and that means employees and management.” Using continuous feedback to measure the impact of change, and sharing those results will support the appropriate application of digital solutions. In addition, the right digital transformation partner will help design and implement the innovative technologies that make the changes you require a reality.
As InfoWorld contributor Carlos Melendez notes, “True digital transformation comes from a new way of thinking that fully embraces technology, not for technology’s sake, but rather as drivers to improved customer experience and business growth.”
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