What is healthcare digital transformation?
Digital transformation in healthcare can be seen as the organizational, operational, and cultural change of an organization or industry through the integration of digital technologies, processes, and competencies in a staged and strategic way[¹].
In contrast to digitalization in general, healthcare digital transformation is much more than simply making a switch to digital services and processes – though that is certainly part of it.
In essence, digital transformation is about digitalizing holistically as part of a long-term strategic vision that is implemented step-by-step.
This staged strategic vision then guides the adoption of foundational technologies that add value to the company and enable business leaders to adapt and pivot at a later date. If digital transformation is done right, it sets a strong digital foundation for the future and ensures that digital processes function harmoniously as part of a whole.
Why is healthcare digital transformation needed?
Patients are used to enjoying a highly digitalized and consumerized experience in most aspects of their daily lives and have increasingly come to expect the same level of ease in their healthcare journey.
Heeding this call from patients, decision-makers in healthcare organizations are increasingly recognizing the value of digital transformation in healthcare. In a report published by Accenture on health tech trends, 73%[²] of healthcare executives surveyed said that their technology architecture was becoming critical to the overall success of their organization.
With pressures mounting to maintain a fluid, adaptable and scalable approach to healthcare, successful healthcare digital transformation is the only way to cope with the challenges that the future holds.
Some of these challenges include coordinating a patient’s care between different providers and stakeholders, connecting disparate facets of an organization, and finding ways to run operations as efficiently as possible in the wake of growing numbers of patients and America’s aging population[³].
Other challenges come from outside the healthcare organization, such as higher regulatory standards and consumer demand for digital, on-demand services. With at least 9 in 10 healthcare executives[⁴] saying they are digitizing their companies with a sense of urgency this year, those who don’t may struggle to remain efficient and competitive.
What does digital transformation in healthcare look like?
Digital transformation can take many forms in healthcare – from telemedicine to remote patient monitoring – but a number of key trends are emerging as cornerstones of digital healthcare.
The digital front door
Healthcare digital transformation is all about adopting technologies that function holistically – and nowhere is this better defined than in the concept of the digital front door.
With a digital front door, healthcare organizations ensure their patient engagement tools, patient-facing app, and web portal function as a coherent, unified digital service suite for patients. Most crucially, the digital front door can, and should ideally, enable access to all of these services via a single login.
A digital front door can be a useful tool to adopt in the early stages of a phased digital transformation plan, as it can be easily built on and adapted while maintaining coherence and ease of use for patients and staff. To find out more about the concept and benefits of a digital front door, download Bridge’s free white paper here.
Remote, on-demand healthcare
Over the past few years, the use of telehealth, instant messaging, intake, and Remote Patient Monitoring (RPM) solutions have snowballed in the United States — with the RPM market predicted to double[⁵] in the next five years.
As the industry embraces the continued use of virtual care, many health organizations are just now coming to terms with inefficiencies and challenges attributed to hastily adopting piecemeal solutions. Propelled by the pandemic, companies rushed to acquire virtual care tools but later discovered the difficulties of successfully integrating these platforms with their IT systems. The result: complex workflows for staff, disjointed patient experiences across the virtual care journey, and security and compliance threats.
Moving forward, healthcare organizations may need to replace and consolidate tools in order to streamline the patient care journey across virtual touchpoints, ease staff workload, and avoid potential security breaches.
Companies can improve organizational efficiency by automating day-to-day processes like patient appointment scheduling, bill payment, HIPAA compliant patient intake, and updating online medical records.
Digital transformation in healthcare provides an opportunity for cultural change in an organization[⁶], moving away from outdated processes to make the entire operation more efficient for staff and even more convenient for patients. Automation can play a significant role in bringing about this shift.
Ensuring the rapid transfer of data between different software and devices is crucial in today’s healthcare world to facilitate internal communication and cooperation. It also plays a key role in patient-facing services and the transfer of information to third parties such as payers and testing labs.
As a strategic investment that can be effectively built on to develop several keystones digital services such as bill pay and appointment booking, adopting a healthcare API to enable connectivity should be high on a provider’s priority list when starting their healthcare digital transformation journey.
Data and artificial intelligence
Big data, AI, chatbots, and predictive analytics are set to be crucial tools for personalizing and improving patient care, as well as optimizing revenues and business processes.
In some ways, these can function as a gauge for digital transformation, guiding organizations to the most-valued and best-used services or areas where digitalization is most urgently needed to improve the quality of patient care.
Where should healthcare organizations start?
Here’s how organizations can approach digital transformation in healthcare to give them the best chance of success in the future.
- Implement foundational and adaptable technologies that can grow and change as needed, like Bridge’s patient engagement solution and a digital front door.
- Focus on automating the most inefficient processes first, especially ones that will have a high impact on patients, like the handling and inputting patient data, patient intake, appointment scheduling, and managing new workflows.
- If obsolete patient portal technology or multiple patient portals are in use, consider consolidating and making the patient portal a core element of the healthcare digital transformation strategy.
- Lay the foundations for the future of virtual care with modern telehealth, HIPAA-compliant messaging, chatbots, appointment scheduling, and patient intake solutions.
- Future-proof digital tools by ensuring that they can scale to handle larger patient demand (e.g. by using cloud hosting).
- Make cybersecurity a priority to avoid a catastrophic situation that can easily arise with the implementation of multiple patient-facing technologies.
- Keep a close eye on the new innovations in healthcare that will become mainstream and develop a plan for piloting such technologies, including artificial intelligence, remote patient monitoring, etc.
If done in the right way, digital transformation can have far-reaching benefits, bringing about an important culture shift and providing the best foundation for the future.
With so much change underway in the world of health, now is the time for organizations to launch their own healthcare digital transformation initiatives.
- i-SCOOP. (2015). Digital transformation: online guide to digital transformation. [online] i-SCOOP. Available at: https://www.i-scoop.eu/digital-transformation/
- Safavi K, Thompson A, Kalis B, McHugh J. (2021). Accenture Digital Health Technology Vision 2021. [online] Accenture. Available at: https://www.accenture.com/_acnmedia/PDF-156/Accenture-Digital-Health-Tech-Vision-2021.pdf
- The Administration for Community Living. (2020) 2020 PROFILE OF OLDER AMERICANS.[online] The Administration for Community Living. Available at: https://acl.gov/sites/default/files/Aging%20and%20Disability%20in%20America/2020ProfileOlderAmericans.Final_.pdf
- Hackett, M. (2021). The digital transformation in healthcare has just begun, according to Accenture report. [online] MobiHealthNews. Available at: https://www.mobihealthnews.com/news/digital-transformation-healthcare-has-just-begun-according-accenture-report
- Jercich, K. (2020). RPM market will double in next five years, predict stakeholders. [online] Healthcare IT News. Available at: https://www.healthcareitnews.com/news/rpm-market-will-double-next-five-years-predict-stakeholders
- Abutaleb, M. (2021). The do’s and don’ts of digital transformation for healthcare CIOs. [online] MedCity News. Available at: https://medcitynews.com/2021/09/the-dos-and-donts-of-digital-transformation-for-healthcare-cios/