The Problems of Digital Health Transformation
There are some problems related with Digital Health Transformation. It is so normal in our digital age, the focus on technology is highlighting developments and innovations. When modernizing healthcare however, this emphasizes on technology is overshadowing the real centre of where change needs to happen… people.
Digital health transformation is by many presumed to be about transferring vast amounts of data and having technology as “ready to go” solution. Healthcare however is a people business, centring around the needs and desires of humans giving and receiving care. This makes that when it comes to making digital health transformation happen, the difficulties do not lie with building the right technology, but with the behaviour changes that need to happen.
This makes that first step to successful digital health transformation is to understand the problems of digital health transformation lying underneath.
Understand the problem
This seems very simple but is often harder than you think. For example, when healthcare providers would like the system of patient recording to change from let’s say paper to electronic. It might seem like you have fixed the problem by implementing the newest electronic system that enhances access, with lots of different options and shining innovative attributes.
However, when asking why they want the system changed and what the specific problems are with the current system, you might find out that for care givers a simple system, with fewer options and a user friendly interface is key to perform their jobs effective and efficiently.
In that case, your beautiful new system would be far from desired.
“It’s about finding the pain points and determining how that translates to the needs of caregivers or patients.” – (Travis Good, 2017)
Make the technology fit into the workflows
After you have a clear understanding of the problem it is key to gain insight into how the technology will fit into the workflow of the healthcare provider. Try looking at the work as an operation project rather than an IT project. This ensures that the technology will be aligned with the strategic initiatives and objectives of the overall department.
An example, a project around operating procedures replacing hips and knees. Having an IT perspective we might focus on gathering the data from the electronic health records to improve the inventory levels of replacement joints which boosts the return on investment by sterilizing fewer equipment, reduction in employee costs and other efficiencies.
This of course would already help a lot. However, taking an operation project perspective and while speaking with operational people, the director of the OR for example, you might find out that there are additional department goals which could be well implemented in this system. Think about accurate and timely data to help with budgeting or supply chain management.
Standardize your Digital Health Transformation
Healthcare systems are often highly complex and interlinked with various systems and processes. Therefore, to successfully implement digital health, standardization is key.
The technology tool itself but also the processes and support systems around it, such as training and compliance need to be interlinked and standardized. This can reduce complexity each time another application is added to the ecosystem and therewith creates system sustainability.
When deciding whether or not to add a new technology, standardization should be applied as well. A piece of technology can be highly innovative and change the way care is provided, however the new IT might not be suitable to be built into the existing system. There should be a process in place to understand whether it is a smart long-term investment.
The digital health conversation is dominated by technology but most people working outside IT do not know what is possible in this field. This makes that for doctors for example it is hard to formulate what exactly the technology should do.
Using the technology such as documentation tools for people to type into, costs them time away with patients. Especially since IT people build the systems without a clear value proposition, healthcare professionals complain since they have all the data but are not using it.
For this reason discussions needs to change. More non-technological and subject related experts need to sit around the table. Information need to be gained from the people technology is serving, patients, doctors and nurses. What are they experiencing, what would truly benefit them and how would it fit their needs, desires and ways of working.
“In the short term, having more voices around the table won’t necessarily make the process of transformation more efficient. But, in the long-term, broadening beyond a technology discussion will be necessary.”– (Travis Good, 2017)
If we truly want successful digital health transformation and receive the benefits from such systems, we need to go back to the before the time of the tower of babel and try to speak the same language, understanding each other.