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4 Keys for Executives Driving Digital Transformation in Healthcare

, , | January 4, 2023 | By

by Dr. Rob Nelson –

From restaurants and finance to education and manufacturing, digital transformation seems to be everywhere, and it has been for well over a decade.

Despite this momentum, the healthcare industry has been trailing the curve when it comes to implementing similar digital innovations. One report notes that more than half (53 percent) of healthcare organizations spend less than 10 percent of their budget on technology, compared to 42 percent of companies in all industries. Why?

Driven by both customer demands for responsive, personalized service and a desire to lower costs, organizations frequently turn toward digital transformation. In fact, nine out of 10 respondents to a survey about technology usage by their medical providers said they “place importance on their doctor using the latest technology.”

What could be holding healthcare organizations (HCOs) back from fully embracing digital transformation and how can they begin to overcome these hurdles? Let’s dig in.

The Benefits of Digital Transformation in Healthcare

Digital transformation is driven by two equally important purposes: to streamline operations and to improve customer satisfaction and engagement. These forces have taken hold in other industries and are helping digital transformation gain traction in the healthcare industry, too.

As a result of an effective digital transformation strategy, HCOs can experience:

  • An increase in overall patient and customer satisfaction, which builds loyalty
  • The ability of doctors and caregivers to deliver more personalized and responsive service while also improving their productivity (in one study, around 92 percent of healthcare professionals achieved better performance from digital transformation)
  • The formation of a foundation for continuous technical innovation and faster adoption of new patient services and business models
  • Increased ability to streamline operational costs by enabling data-driven decisions around staffing, patient care, scheduling, inventory management, and more

4 Opportunities for Leaders Driving Digital Transformation in Healthcare

As in any industry, leading digital transformation in healthcare can be a complex, stressful endeavor—but also one that can reap big organizational and operational benefits. Here are four challenges that have the potential to blunt the impact of digital transformation and how healthcare leaders can turn them into opportunities to amplify their impact.

1. Taking a True Transformation Mindset; Positioning for a Healthy, Long Journey Ahead

IT projects as a whole have a reputation for ballooning schedules and budgets, so it is no surprise that one group of healthcare survey respondents acknowledged that their transformation journey was longer than expected.

Instead of positioning digital transformation efforts like any other technology initiative, leaders should emphasize that the organization’s digital transformation program is a journey. It is about changing not only your platform but also evolving your value proposition to customers, partners, and patients.

Focus on identifying and targeting interim goals and milestones as a way to measure progress, build momentum, and demonstrate the return on investment of the organization’s digital transformation program. Use these waypoints to course correct as needed.

2. Overcoming the Hesitation to Rethink Digital Experiences

Healthcare organizations can learn from the digital transformation successes and experiences of other industries. This mindset may seem like a leap at first glance—what can retail teach healthcare about digital strategy, for instance? Retailers have to find the right blend of digital convenience and in-person service to keep customers coming back, buying more, and building loyalty.

Like businesses in other industries—banks, airlines, and retailers, to name a few—HCOs can offer an easy, digital front-end experience to their patients and stakeholders, going beyond just visual updates to provide comprehensive redesigns that focus on providing high-quality, cost-effective virtual care through telehealth and interactive digital tools.

3. Redirecting a Lack of Focus on Change Management

Successfully implementing a new digital platform or process means nothing if the end users who are supposed to experience it, use it, or benefit from it resist the change or do not have the tools to access it. As put more plainly in a quote widely attributed to Peter Drucker, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.”

Leaders can get out ahead of these potential points of resistance by gaining the support of an executive champion and building a guiding coalition throughout their organization. These steps help:

  • Achieve critical alignment and define and  prioritize what is important
  • Provide representation of all the key affected stakeholders
  • Guide communication, tone, and messaging—and celebrate accomplishments!
  • Support transparency of change and progress as well as setbacks and lessons learned
  • Make resources (e.g., coaching, training, and so forth) available along the way

When properly done, 80 percent of respondents in one study found that executive support and active sponsorship  is a key accelerator to digital transformation in healthcare.

4. Avoiding Change That Is Too Big, Too Fast

In the rush to show a return on investment and progress, organizations can also fall into the trap of trying to tackle too many projects at once. This can lead to budgets, resources, and patience spreading too thin.

HCOs should be strategic but laser-focused on projects with a clear definition of how that particular initiative is creating value for patients or driving operational efficiency. One way to find the right balance between cost, speed, risk, and impact is to consider using smaller-scale pilot projects or building proofs of concept that can be used to demonstrate effectiveness and collect lessons learned before a larger implementation.

Get the Right Partner in Your Corner

The common theme through each of these challenges is knowing how to bring the right resources, technology, and people together at the right place—and at the right time.

That’s why many HCOs turn to experienced professionals like those at RCG, who not only know the intricacies of the healthcare industry but also bring accelerators, best practices, and insights to bear in maximizing the impact of their digital transformation initiatives.

Want to learn more about what it means to have a trusted partner like the RCG team in your corner? Schedule your personalized discussion with us!