Making digital transformation an enterprise commitment | Krishna Kurapati

It can happen if leaders are committed to championing shared goals and avoid being sidetracked by departmental or technical silos.

Mounting a true enterprise digital transformation strategy can be elusive. Many healthcare organizations find it challenging to move ahead with an integrated model that embraces new agile ways of working ─ a prerequisite for success in a fast-changing, digital environment.

A 2021 survey by the Deloitte Center for Healthcare Solutions reported 60% of large- and mid-sized health system members of the Scottsdale Institute rated their organizations as midway through their digital transformation journeys. They also acknowledged efforts were longer than initially expected.

The survey’s finding is not surprising. While wanting to make digital transformation work, providers are taking on complex organizational structures replete with inertia and the unspoken desire to stick to the status quo. They also are innovating to be agile with rapidly changing artificial intelligence (AI) without disrupting core functioning, a challenge comparable to changing tires on a fast-moving vehicle.

Infrastructural issues aside, healthcare has yet to adapt to a consumer-focused environment sufficiently.

Digital technologies are ubiquitous in our everyday lives. From a patient’s perspective, a widening gap exists between what they expect will happen during their healthcare experience and what the provider actually delivers. Adapting digital to diverse patient population needs takes forethought and ingenuity to get the use cases right the first time.

Digital transformation can be executed seamlessly if leaders are committed to championing shared goals and avoid being sidetracked by departmental or technical silos. Providers fall short of enterprise goals partly due to our fragmented healthcare system and its implications such as poor care coordination. They endeavor to stay on top of pressing priorities such as workforce shortages, latest laws and regulations, threats to PHI security, patient compliance, unmet social needs…the list is endless.

So what happens? The tried-and-true methods of running healthcare IT supersede innovation and the fear of the unknown. When one factors in change management challenges and our industry’s conservative nature, the situation escalates beyond tough to deploy digital-first initiatives. What goes missing are the consensual digital enterprise roadmap and top-down commitment so necessary to affect positive, immediate, and long-lasting change.

Actions for enterprise-level digital connectivity success

The good news is that many healthcare organizations have stepped up the last two years during the pandemic. They have figured out how to push through roadblocks to establish digital transformation as an integral and sustainable IT infrastructure component and competitive edge.

Here are four takeaways that I’ve learned while working with these committed game changers to achieve success.

1. Maintaining a checklist.

One of the biggest challenges is creating and then following through on a checklist of action items at the enterprise level. For a large-scale healthcare operation in partnership with a digital solution company, this checklist covers the provision of security compliance, customer service availability, user experience, custom workflows, ability to automate intake processes and more. This must-have, proven checklist tool in your arsenal paves the way for a reasonably smooth implementation.

2. Pledging cross-departmental coordination.

Departmental coordination takes time synchronizing end-to-end digital ─ and people ─ touch points system-wide among physicians, clinicians, nurses, IT, support staff, HR managers, and compliance, legal and security professionals. All the while these dedicated healthcare workers are struggling with declining labor and federal funding. This is a tall but indispensable order to make seamless virtual care deployment happen.

3. Deciding your implementation path.

Healthcare leaders are strategizing digital deployment approaches amid a myriad of reasons and roadblocks, usually choosing one of two doable options:

  • If operational ease is your priority, start with baby steps and then expand digital capabilities as your organization, service lines and user preferences grow. This type of staged implementation can be done without having to implement the entire solution all at once, a.k.a. the “big bang” approach familiar to seasoned IT professionals overseeing multi-year EHR upgrades.
  • To assure digital capabilities will be scalable and sound, the experience gained from the medical model automating front-end operations must lend itself equally to back-end automation to guarantee clinical and operational continuity. This is the best agile approach for innovating quickly as digital use cases thrive and proliferate to meet fast-changing needs

4. Failing fast and doing it often.

If you’ve worked in an IT department that follows an agile approach, you’ve probably heard the phrase, “fail fast.”

Obviously, a methodical work process is important ─ but “process” should not hinder you from embracing failure as an integral step to radical innovation. Be fearless experimenting with new ideas while also having a plan in place for failing fast.

Perform tests to solicit feedback to better understand your patient population needs. Patient surveys are a preferred tool in obtaining more demographics, the factors driving behavior, and the type of digital engagement valued or perceived as triggering. If results disappoint, undertake a different test quickly. Simply move on. By failing tests minus being bogged down by complicated processes, you reach the optimal digital solution and ROI that best satisfies your patients.

Sometimes providers are not quite ready to articulate their digital strategies. But they fill in the gaps of a framework more so in an unconstrained team environment where free-flowing conversations keep people on track accessing what’s working, what’s not and what must change. An experienced vendor partner can help guide your digital transformation journey.

Securing top-down commitment to flexibility

In this new era of accelerated AI discovery, there is an urgent desire from healthcare leaders to automate faster, in a more agile manner, not only on the implementation side but also to develop innovative products and services on demand.

Despite this state of business coupled with the above mentioned challenges, there is real opportunity to shape the healthcare industry for the better with digital solutions. Starting with the obvious SaaS model and ability to develop modular plug-and-play technologies, providers can ramp up starting small and grow to unlock the digital health gridlock in adoption that we are facing right now.

For this reason, whatever digital health implementation option you choose, having top-down commitment to flexibility to move around, to explore, to halt or move at lightning speed is so important for long-term results.

Krishna Kurapati, founder and CEO, QliqSOFT, has more than two decades of technology entrepreneurship experience.