Managing the Journey to Digital Transformation in Healthcare

Digital transformation initiatives in healthcare have historically focused on the conversion of analog processes to electronic processes. As an IT leader in healthcare for over a decade and current vice president of IT change leadership at OptumCare, I, like other leaders, have led the charge in investing in electronic health records (EHRs), adopting the use of mobile devices, and deploying cloud-based services. In doing so, we’ve helped improve patient engagement, increase efficiency, and reduce costs.

Now, we’re entering a new phase of digital transformation where we’ll be able to use technology to revolutionize how patients are diagnosed, treated, and monitored. In this post, I’ll discuss an effective change management strategy for digital transformation, building an accountable team culture, advancements organizations are already making to improve patient outcomes, and advice for organizations struggling to change.

Deploying a Digital Transformation Change Management Strategy

Change is never easy. Here are four key things to keep in mind:

Leaders are the catalysts for change. Before implementing transformation initiatives, leaders need to have a clear vision for the future. Establishing a sense of urgency and maintaining it throughout a change model requires relentless prioritization and evaluation. Leaders have to show employees what’s in it for them, how it will be better on the other side, and address the obstacles.

Mindset matters. Resistance to change is the hardest piece. Advocating for broad-based action is essential and encouraging people to behave differently brings change forward. Set expectations for every department, because even if just one resists the change, that misaligns the entire organization.

Organization is key. Ensure alignment among physicians, administrators, and departments toward a common cause. Having a formal structure for people to share information and measure process integration makes change possible. At the same time, too many formal structures or too many decision makers makes it almost impossible to make a decision.

Keep the patient top of mind. Think about workflow, process, and understand the impact on the patient. Digital transformation requires more than looking at technology and buying the latest equipment, because innovation costs affect the entire organization’s budget, including areas that impact patient care.

Creating a Culture of Accountability

Accountable organizations have leaders who understand the drivers of results in their organization and encourage informed innovation. They find consensus on the biggest opportunities, and ensure decision makers for change initiatives have credibility in the organization. They plan ahead, take risks to generate small wins, and communicate how new initiatives cause incremental improvement.

Having an inclusive culture with clinical alignment also helps organizations solve problems and holds them accountable. For example, if an organization’s leaders decide to deploy a technology or product to support case management, the IT team and the case management team need to be aligned in the change journey. Case management has to own that product, and IT has to make sure it works. If it succeeds, they succeed together. If it fails, they fail together.

Innovations that Are Having an Impact

Here’s a look at three areas where this new phase of digital transformation is having a direct impact:

Better informed patient health information. Within value-based care is risk-adjustment automation, a newer area of coding that considers the overall health status and expected medical costs of patients. Documenting the risk patients have in developing certain conditions helps determine future morbidities and risks for admission. Building risk-adjustment automation into the physician workflow and into the EHRs improves quality and outcomes.

True access to care. Access to care requires meeting the patient where they are and directing them to seek treatment in the most appropriate setting. We know that in chronically overcrowded emergency departments, directing less severe patients to the urgent care setting can be better for everyone. Organizations are increasingly doing more to improve access to care, such as using telehealth to conduct video visits, directing patients to a nurse triage line, and improving self-service capabilities.

Investment in digital reputation. Rather than solely investing in new medical technology, such as the latest and greatest operating equipment, organizations can sometimes gain more value by investing in their digital presence. For example, using a consulting agency to manage online reputation and consolidate social presence can prove to have a big return on that investment. Online reputation, and digital experiences that directly impact the consumer, can have a huge impact on how the organization is perceived.

Advice for IT Leaders on Their Digital Transformation Journey

As IT leaders in healthcare organizations, we’re all looking to improve the care experience for patients and clinical providers. Continuing to learn and be curious about how we can support high quality, efficient care efforts enables further digital transformation. Taking steps to deploy new technologies that impact patient care helps support organizational change, minimizes future customization, and moves organizations towards an advanced standard.