By Carlos Bravo

Avoiding a common mistake in healthcare digital transformation

Transforming healthcare: how to avoid a common mistake during digital transformation

If there’s one sector that has leapt ahead in the digital transformation path over the past two years, it’s healthcare. Driven by need, the industry has raced to digitise legacy systems, responding live and adapting to the technology challenges brought about by the coronavirus pandemic. 

But there’s one critical mistake that many healthcare organisations are making as they plan their next technology moves. We explore what it is and how to avoid it… but first, a little background. 

The lucky country for healthcare  

Australia is fortunate to have one of the most highly ranked and efficient healthcare systems in the world. In a study this year of 11 OECD countries, when comparing healthcare spending as a percentage of GDP, Australia is the second-lowest of the 11 countries at 9.4 per cent, with the US topping the list at 16.8 per cent. In other words, Australia’s healthcare providers have already been doing more with less for quite some time.

And, broadly speaking, the sector has already had digitisation in its sights for a while, with the Australian Government releasing its National Digital Health Strategy in 2016. The strategy proposed several outcomes by 2022, including electronic health records, common high-quality data, availability and access to prescription and medicines information, digital models of care, a workforce trained and confident in using digital health technologies, and a thriving and innovative digital healthcare industry. 

However, the pandemic’s volume of change was massive, upending traditional notions about lengthy project timelines and accelerating IT-inspired mindsets like agile ways of working.  The urgency of the situation sparked faster digitisation within many hospitals and healthcare organisations, speeding up transformation journeys while significantly scaling and adjusting operations.

In Australia, enterprise IT spending in healthcare is low when compared with other vertical industries, and sits around the same levels as education, utilities and wholesale trade. Banking, communications and media, government and manufacturing sit at the other end of the spectrum with almost five times the level of spend in IT compared to healthcare. However, this year, healthcare spending in IT is forecast to grow by 8.2 per cent with strong growth likely to continue for the next few years.

It’s clear that Australia’s health and life sciences sectors have changed — and, in some ways, it may be for the better. But how can healthcare providers capitalise on momentum and make sure they’re driving forward-looking, sustainable transformation?

The pitfall of planning healthcare’s digital transformation

Healthcare, like many other asset-intensive industries, couldn’t just send employees to work from home during the pandemic. This had a significant impact on the safety of its workforce. Tragically, the World Health Organisation recently estimated that up to 180,000 healthcare workers have died from COVID-19 globally. While Australia’s response fortunately saw fewer deaths across the board, workforce shortages and employee burnout in healthcare were common problems even before the pandemic, especially as our population grows older on average and develops more complex healthcare needs. 

From a technology perspective, the nature of the pandemic has led CIOs across healthcare to explore more digital transformation and technologies that prioritise the safety of their employees, that optimise efficiency and delivery of care, and enable better patient outcomes.

They’re exploring technologies like remote monitoring and control of equipment for virtual care and remote patient monitoring, analytics and AI for better decision-making, and IOT and proximity tracking to enable faster responses to outbreaks. They’re also adapting their systems to make use of Australia’s My Health Record digital patient information and ensuring staff are well trained and adept in utilising the information for the benefit of patients.

While each of these diverse technologies is critical to the future success of healthcare, a common mistake is to double down on just one area. If you have a limited spend, then on paper it makes sense; by investing heavily in your top priority area, you could make serious headway and have an impact. That approach can work, in scenarios where you have distinct and separate aspects that aren’t interconnected and reliant on each other. The healthcare technology stack, however, is not one of these. 

Getting the technology balance right

With a limited budget, it is difficult for a healthcare provider to balance all of its priorities. Studies show that healthcare organisations that balance diverse technology objectives deliver better results and patient satisfaction. 

Delivering specialised IT initiatives could be great for the organisation, but that won’t be enough to set it apart from its competitors or deliver the best patient experience. Building a cohesive strategy that includes the right network infrastructure, AI, cloud solutions, decision support, EHR, marketing, and provider management will set the organisation up for success within a shorter time frame.

Salesforce offers more than just a CRM to organisations. With the help of MuleSoft, Salesforce has extended its capabilities to connect to practically any IT system. With the flexible platform of Salesforce coupled with Einstein automation and data analytics, organisations can put patients and their care team at the centre of their service. Technology doesn’t have to be a limiting factor in business strategy and care management. With the right solution, technology can fuel the strategy long term, and achieve positive outcomes right throughout the organisation, for its workforce and its patients.

Find out how we can simplify and support your digital transformation journey.

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