Healthcare providers: The route to digital transformation success

By Mark E. Gilbert, Senior Director, Analyst at Gartner
Imagine the following situation: The CIO of a hospital group has beenasked, by the CEO,to develop a digital care business case to improve the lives of p...

Imagine the following situation: The CIO of a hospital group has been asked, by the CEO, to develop a digital care business case to improve the lives of patients with chronic conditions. This will impact the way the hospital delivers ambulatory, inpatient, outpatient and day surgery services; patient record access; and virtual care. Although a growing number of clinicians and managers support the idea, there’s no overall strategy or plan for a future of digital care delivery.

This is a typical scenario for many healthcare providers, and business leaders are looking to CIOs for ways to increase the success rate of innovation and business transformation initiatives.

Providers recognise the health and business benefits of delivering care digitally, yet a significant gap exists between their digital business goals and their ability to execute, particularly from a workforce skills perspective.

Improve the ability to execute

Healthcare CIOs have a critical role to play in improving their organisation’s ability to execute on its digital ambitions, and can do so through the below:

1. Lead the definition of digital business ambition

Providers are under pressure to reduce costs and improve clinical outcomes, as well as patient satisfaction. They are undertaking dozens, if not hundreds, of digital projects with these optimisation objectives every year.

The healthcare industry is also a fertile ground for digital transformation. Many providers are taking on initiatives to create and deliver entirely new digital products and services, or create new business models capable of making money in new ways.

Providers are blurring the boundaries of optimisation and transformation goals, confusing the race to achieve their digital ambitions. The role of the CIO is to lead the organisation in defining its digital business ambition in an environment where ambitions are sometimes contradictory. Healthcare CIO’s have to ask if they are trying to optimise or transform the way their company does business. CIOs should take the lead in setting the vision, business goals and appropriate measures of success for both digital optimization and digital transformation.

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2. Identify, measure and communicate the gap between ambition and capabilities

Most healthcare executives benchmark their digital ambitions against the services and capabilities offered by digital natives like Expedia, giants. They are also beginning to recognise the danger of disruption from digital giants, including the risks to business and operating models and consumer relationships. Amazon, Apple, Microsoft and Google have all made major moves into digital health in recent years, with varying degrees of success.

The gap between the digital ambitions of executives and the ability to execute is typically very large. Managing perceptions of disruptive business risk and guiding executive expectations of appropriate responses has become a daily job for CIOs. CIOs should identify, measure and communicate the gap in their firm’s ability to execute digital initiatives. This ensures expectations are realistic, transparent and achievable.

3. Put digital business and IT platform best practices into place

The deployment of digital technology platforms should be a top investment to close the capability gap. Healthcare providers have now recognised data and analytics platforms as having the highest potential for competitive differentiation. Providers should also turn their attention to customer experience and IoT platforms, both essential for developing customer relationships and providing virtual care.

New platform business models are also important to enable coordinated, collaborative care among an expanding number of partners. Many healthcare providers are focusing on collaboration and orchestration within complex business ecosystems.

For transformational ideas, however, consider investments that enable co-creation of new product and service offerings with ecosystem partners, or that efficiently match producers and consumers, such as the right healthcare professional with the right patient in both face-to-face and virtual care settings.

4. Start a programmatic workforce skills improvement initiative

Currently, only 52% of healthcare firms have a digital dexterity program as part of their digital business strategy, compared with 72% of financial services firms and retailers.

For digital healthcare transformation, it is critical to make digital dexterity a top priority. To do this, the current workforce needs to be trained and motivated to gain the necessary skills for digital business.

To boost workforce skills, establish programs to help staff exploit existing and emerging technologies for better business outcomes. Invest in improvements for all three digital dexterity components — technology, engagement and diversity.


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