Are health organizations ready for the digital transformation?

What is the level of maturity of healthcare organizations to face the digital transformation? Let’s try to understand together which aspects have to be considered in order to evaluate the readiness to this change.

Often the digital transformation is meant of technological innovation only, leaving out other very important aspects. Here are the main ones.

  • Objectives of the transformation. It may seem strange but often there is no clarity and awareness about what the goals of the digital transformation are. This cannot be driven by technological innovation alone, which is instrumental to the process of change, and cannot replace its motivations. In other words, the reasons and the objectives of the digital transformation must concern the crucial aspects of the healthcare organizations and not the technological updating or the exploitation, for its own sake, of the opportunities that the digital technologies offer. Objectives such as increasing the effectiveness of care, engaging patients more in the protection of their health or managing chronic patients with new care models are some examples of a correct approach to digital transformation.
  • Aptitude for change. Any transformation project must deal with the changing attitude of the professionals and patients involved. Neglecting this aspect is a very serious mistake. For this reason, it is necessary, before starting a transformation project, to assess the aptitude for change and prepare a change management plan that includes the conviction and involvement of stakeholders.
  • Level of digital culture. In addition to the aptitude for change, equally important is the digital culture level of the users (professionals and citizens, if the project directly affects them). The use of innovative technologies requires not only technical but multi-professional skills, depending on the field of intervention; for example, the introduction of a CRM may require skills concerning the digital relations (use of social media integrated with CRM). Training is crucial here and should be considered in a broad sense, not just to use an application.
  • Organizational review. The digital transformation, to be effective, must include a thorough review of business processes that must be reviewed in light of objectives and potentiality offered by technologies. Making paper digital, leaving processes as they are, is the best way to waste money and time.
  • Technological infrastructure. It seems insignificant, but this aspect is not always evaluated in the correct way. The availability of a reliable, secure and fully equipped technological infrastructure is a binding condition, a prerequisite for further development of digital transformation. In turn, the infrastructure must be created according to the company’s objectives.
  • Availability of economic resources. This is a mandatory condition for any digital transformation project. The estimated funding must include all the aspects we are speaking about, not just the costs of technological solutions. A digital transformation project that does not address all the key aspects is doomed to failure.
  • Ability to plan and execute. Does the healthcare organization have all the skills to plan the digital transformation and then carry it out? Capacity means the required human resources, skills and experience.
  • Transformation strategy. In order to achieve a digital transformation, a strategy must be developed which considers all the key aspects mentioned above. It is essential to draw up an overall plan that highlights the interrelationships existing between the different aspects, the present criticalities, the risk factors and the actions to be taken.

In my experience as a consultant, both with public and private healthcare companies, the aspects I mentioned are usually problematic. Generally, there is little aptitude for change, low level of digital culture and a lot of resistance to reviewing organizational processes.

Economic resources are inadequate, as are the planning and execution capabilities of health organizations. It is rare to find well-defined and comprehensive innovation strategies, being difficult to translate business objectives into digital transformation plans.

It is necessary to invest in the aptitude for change, digital culture and process engineering to create the basic conditions for a real digital transformation. We need to invest in human capital before we invest in technology!

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