Understandably, people were nervous about releasing details about their medical history into the digital ether. So that digital transformation that has changed every other area of our lives has been slower to take hold in the world of health. But all that changed with the onset of the pandemic.
The main thing that had irritated physicians about the move to digital was that, instead of helping them with their admin, if anything it seemed to make it even worse. Endless drop-downs, alerts, and regulatory reporting only added to an already overburdened workload.
The pandemic immediately produced two changes. On the one hand, it forced senior healthcare leaders to actively champion something they’d previously been skeptical about. As suddenly, moving from the physical to the digital wasn’t an option anymore, but an urgent necessity. And on the other, it forced technology to improve on the solutions it provided them with.
There were of course a number of prominent health care leaders who had already been pushing for a more aggressive move to digital. Principally, as a way of addressing the problems caused by an aging population, which is something that is of particular concern in Europe. As Erik Jylling, from the Danish Regions, says
“This demographic shift of the ageing population requires redevelopment of the healthcare system with more standardization, sharing of data, AI, robots, automatization, and other tools available from the digital shift in the future.”
What the pandemic did was suddenly accelerate that move. And exactly the same journey will now need to be embarked on in the organizations that serve the healthcare sector. That’s one of the key findings in Deloitte’s Digital Transformation, from a buzzword to an imperative for health systems, from October 26th 2021:
It defines digital transformation as:
“The use of digital technologies to radically improve the performance or reach of an organization (which) enable improved processes, engaged talent, and new business models.”
Their survey of leaders and technology executives from a wide range of health systems across the US reveals that, as far as digital transformation goes, the main pain points are “culture, communication ownership, and transparency”. What that means in practical terms is that many organizations have failed to make that transition to digital for two reasons. On the one hand;
“20% (of them) are still in planning stages and another 40% may not have a well-defined (digital) strategy.”
Which is bad enough. But on the other, and much more fundamentally, they have failed to understand that going digital isn’t an optional extra. It’s the very fulcrum around which all organizational structures will now revolve. As Cherodeep Goswami, system vice president and CIO at the University of Wisconsin Health, succinctly put it:
“Digital strategy is not and should not be separate from organizational strategy.”
What’s needed then is for exactly the same process that has now begun to happen at the frontline of health care-giving to begin in the organizations helping them to provide it. Or at the very least, to significantly accelerate that process. What organizations need to do, then, they conclude, is to;
“Create a digital leadership and governance structure aligned to overall business strategy, (to) build a culture for digital, with leadership driving support through communication and transparency to all organizational levels.”
By re-orientating organizational culture around digital, leaders and managers will have the license to lead creatively. This will improve employee engagement, speed up product development cycles and help to streamline the recruitment process. Which will then produce operational and financial efficiencies. All of which will help the organization to realize its long-term strategies and goals.
In other words, it’s all about leadership, and the re-imagining of organizational structures that inspired leadership produces.