The COVID-19 pandemic accelerated the digital transformation of the health care industry. Telehealth and virtual care delivery rapidly took off out of necessity, but this shift has been coming for a long time. Changing consumer preferences and new technologies are leading healthcare systems to pursue digital transformation.
What is Digital Health Transformation?
According to HIMSS, “Digital health connects and empowers people and populations to manage health and wellness, augmented by accessible and supportive provider teams working within flexible, integrated, interoperable and digitally enabled care environments that strategically leverage digital tools, technologies and services to transform care delivery.”
Digital health transformation involves using a variety of technologies to improve the patient’s journey throughout the healthcare system. Transformation often starts with the implementation of electronic health records, but it doesn’t stop there. A survey of health care technology executives conducted by Deloitte, found that 92% wanted to achieve better consumer satisfaction and engagement from digital transformation.
Other goals that organizations seek to address with digital transformation include:
- improving patient satisfaction and engagement
- improving patient health outcomes
- ability to compete with disrupters and alternatives
- increasing revenue growth
- improving cost efficiency
- increasing agility and scalability
- improving employee satisfaction
Why Pursue Digital Transformation in Healthcare?
Consumer preferences are driving changes to the healthcare industry. Today, consumers can order goods online with same-day delivery. There is transparency throughout the order, shipping, and delivery process. People are used to having instant access to consumer goods, and are starting to expect the same experience from their healthcare providers.
The healthcare system is notoriously slow and inefficient. Patients are used to waiting weeks or months for appointments and often have difficulty navigating the healthcare system. Provider referrals, prescription refills, and accessing medical records and lab results can be confusing. Digital transformation allows health care organizations to incorporate technology to meet patient expectations and improve their experiences.
Generational attitudes are also changing the healthcare industry. Younger populations are more likely to switch healthcare providers if their communication preferences are not met. A 2019 study found that patients aged 18 to 24 are three times as likely (61%) to consider switching providers over a poor digital experience compared to the over-65 population (21%).
In addition, the healthcare industry is also dealing with staffing shortages. Many organizations are looking for technology that can automate processes and alleviate administrative burdens, allowing providers to spend more time on patient care.
How to Digitally Transform the Healthcare System
It goes without saying that digital transformation is a long process that requires a clear strategy. After the pandemic-induced changes, many healthcare organizations are now stepping back to define their budget and strategy. A Deloitte survey found that 52% of organizations surveyed still had more than three years remaining on their implementation strategy. An additional 20% were still in the planning stage.
Introducing new technology without a clear purpose or strategy should be avoided. A poorly executed transition can lead to clinician burnout, a poor patient experience, and negative business outcomes.
The possibilities for digital health transformation are endless. For some organizations, transformation could include incorporating technologies like:
- AI and clinical decision making
- Big data and predictive healthcare
- Virtual reality
- Wearable medical devices that feed data to a patient’s health record
- Blockchain data custody
The technology options are endless, but it’s important to focus on organizational goals. For example, putting healthcare records on the blockchain sounds trendy and cool, but it is a major project that requires, planning, IT support, and funding. If the organization’s goal is to improve the patient experience, moving patient data from an EHR to the blockchain may not meet that goal. Instead, organizations should create a list of priorities and explore how different technologies help solve those problems. Perhaps enhancing patient portal messaging would improve the patient experience more than a move to the blockchain.
Many healthcare organizations are pursuing digital health transformation to better serve their patients. When implementing any new technology, it’s important to thoroughly vet options. Switching technology vendors can be even more difficult than implementing a new solution. Make sure that any third-party vendor can implement the solution without sacrificing security and compliance.