Digital transformation in healthcare is tricky. It’s a $3 trillion space, after all!

For all the ways digitization has transformed the way people shop, travel, and handle their finances, it has yet to make a major impact on how they deliver and receive healthcare. Digital transformation in healthcare has taken on an image that is both daunting and essential- probably because both are true.

The current state of healthcare digital transformation is somewhat fragmented. In fact, HIMSS Media research found that it is a top priority for healthcare professionals, and while one-third of their survey respondents have been making enterprise-wide changes, another third of them are still figuring out a plan by collecting information; the rest are still working at a departmental level.

Understanding the changing landscape

Despite nimble technology, why do we keep hitting bumps with digital disruption in healthcare?

As Tom Sullivan at Healthcare IT News points out, one of the key things to notice here is that “digital transformation is fundamentally about the patient experience.” Be it technological advancements in precision medicine or creating smart hospitals, it has to be focused on patients.

The digitization of products and processes around the globe has dramatically changed the game. The end consumer is getting a rich and personalized experience with services tailored to them. In healthcare as well, consumers are more informed and engaged because of technology, leading to regulators and policy-makers advocating for open data sharing standards and knowledge-sharing initiatives. As a result, healthcare’s digital disruption has been focused on using technology to interact with patients, control the costs, streamline their operations, and manage the changing industry regulations. In fact, more and more consumers are open to the use of digital health- a trend that is defining the future. 

 What makes up successful digital transformation?

 Ditch the “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” attitude

Source: McKinsey Global Survey: How to Create an Agile Organization, October 2017

There is a prominent reason why digital disruption is slightly misguided. Sadly, this is the thought that plagues most of us. Kodak was the one who invented the digital camera, but it failed to ride the digital photography wave- only because of the company’s resistance to transform. According to the McKinsey Global Survey: How to Create an Agile Organization, the greatest enablers or barriers to any transformation are leadership and culture, and leaders need to acknowledge digital transformation in healthcare as a fundamental and strategic paradigm shift.

Evaluate what’s working and what’s not

This means looking at what you already have in place: the current IT infrastructure, the existing legacy systems, patient engagement tools, and more. Evaluating the environment around you is key to identifying the baseline, to begin with, and bringing different aspects to the same page. For example, according to a poll conducted by Innovaccer, a lot of healthcare organizations are still trying to figure out next steps to population health management, when the industry shifts point to the adoption of more innovative technologies. Identifying where we are at is the first step to solving the challenge.

Identify improvement metrics

Once the clinical, IT, and other different aspects are aligned, the next step is to prioritize the needs correctly. Despite having a working technology infrastructure, the key metrics have to be clearly specified. After that, an organization can begin to determine what technology is needed to achieve those key metrics. Integrating vision across an entire organization is harder than merely integrating different pieces of technology. For example, Innovaccer conducted a poll around the top things that people in a healthcare organization expected out of technology, and the results were divided.

Modernize technology foundations

Healthcare data is nimble and full of stories, and possibly the key to solving multiple problems in healthcare. Once the priorities have been identified, healthcare organizations need to find the answer to one question: Is their technology infrastructure capable of supporting their initiatives? Complicated systems usually become the biggest pain point in digital transformation. According to McKinsey, one of the reasons behind this is the fact that most of the systems have been built in a patchwork fashion where both new and old applications are joined together with some gateways. The result is fragmented operations, lack of transparency, inefficiency, and poor patient experience. The key is to unify the data from the very beginning and activate it, therefore allowing it to become a reliable data-driven backbone.

Strengthen core management

Any transformation requires an organization to polish its ability to deliver. From talent and partnerships to orderly finances, healthcare organizations need everything they can get to support their mission. It begins with finding the right people who can drive the transformation and sustain it. Additionally, healthcare executives must ensure that they have sufficient capital available for their digital initiatives.

The road ahead

Disruption in healthcare is something that we need, and to win at it, organizations need to move quickly to initiate changes and embrace new developments. Most importantly, healthcare organizations need to reimagine themselves as adaptive and collaborative entities that can keep pace with changes in healthcare; this is the elementary step in enabling transformation and creating better patient outcomes and value for all.

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Abhinav Shashank is the CEO and co-founder of Innovaccer, a leading San Francisco based healthcare technology company. He built the foundation for Innovaccer’s success as a leader in population health management and machine learning-oriented healthcare solutions recognized by Gartner, KLAS, Forbes, Black Book Market Research, and others. Abhinav’s continued efforts and ambition enabled the company to flourish in health information technology in the U.S. and acquire over 25 healthcare organizations as customers, with more than 25,000 providers using Innovaccer’s solutions daily. His continued work and focused approach have resulted in the latest round of Series C investment led by Dragoneer, Tiger, Steadview Capital and M12, Microsoft’s venture fund. With his vision for seamless care delivery using unified patient records, Abhinav is now leading the team towards $1 billion in savings for U.S. healthcare. Additionally, Abhinav Shashank is an influential thought leader and a renowned author. Abhinav has published over 300 articles for various international media outlets, was bestowed a coveted spot in Forbes “30 Under 30 Asia 2017: Enterprise Tech” and was recognized by Becker's Hospital Review as one of the ‘Top 60 rising leaders in U.S. healthcare under 40’ in 2019.

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