healthtechviews-digital-healthWe know that changes in technology are starting to cause huge unheaval in the way that healthcare is delivered. But are healthcare organisations ready for this change? CapGemini Consulting has done some research into this key issue, and discovered that the picture is mixed, to say the least.

Dividing the world by digital maturity

The healthcare sector as a whole lags behind other industries in its adoption of digital technology. This research looked at two aspects of digital maturity. Digital intensity measures the state of digital initiatives in the organisation and/or industry, and transformation management intensity measures senior executives’ capability to drive change through the organisation.  Organisations were divided into four groups on this basis:

  • Digirati are the highly digital-literate organisations, high on both scales of measurement. They have a strong overarching digital vision and culture and many digital initiatives;
  • Fashionistas have high digital intensity, but lower transformational management intensity. They therefore have plenty of digital initiatives, but usually lack an overarching vision;
  • Conservatives have high transformational management intensity, but low digital intensity. Digital initiatives are few and far between, with an underdeveloped digital vision, although they are probably taking steps to develop a digital culture; and
  • Beginners lack both digital intensity and transformational management intensity. The senior management often remains unconvinced about the benefits of digital initiatives.

The healthcare sector sits somewhere between the third and fourth categories. The digirati sectors are high technology, banking and retail.

The picture in healthcare

But if healthcare as a whole lags behind other industries, around one third of healthcare organisations rank among the digirati. So what do these organisations do that is different?

  • They use social media to engage with customers

These organisations build relationships. We know that making personal contact is the best way to engage patients, and these organisations focus on connecting care users with medical experts. They provide information that is useful to patients, including general health information and not just information about their services.

  • They use mobile channels effectively

There are a huge number of mobile healthcare apps available, and their proliferation has brought new providers into the market. Some traditional providers, including the Mayo Clinic, have recognised the potential to personalise care. They have linked up with developers to create their own apps, for example, to support and monitor post-operative patients.

  • They use technology to personalise care

The use of big data and analytics has massive potential to enable healthcare to be personalised, and the most digitally-literate organisations are tapping into that. For example, Chicago’s NorthShore University Health System has developed predictive modelling to identify patients most at risk of MRSA infections.

CapGemini’s research suggests that there are key differences between the digitally-literate and others, but that they could be overcome.

Moving towards digital maturity

Digitally-literate organisations tend to have a clear vision for digital transformation, and support that with a clear road-map to show how they are going to achieve it. They also put in adequate funding for digital initiatives. Without these three key elements embedded in the organisation, digital transformation is likely to fail. Digiratis also spend time removing barriers such as resistance to change, and therefore creating a strongly digital culture.

Automation of key processes is also key. Many healthcare organisations continue to operate with manual processes, and these do not lend themselves readily to digital transformation. They also mean that staff often do not have a culture of using technology in work. This makes transformation an uphill and expensive effort.

A four-stage process to move towards digital maturity is recommended. First, organisations need to frame the digital challenge. Having established their position, they must define a vision, and ensure that top management all buy into it. The vision needs to be based around patient needs, and how technology can help to address them.

The next step is to focus investment on what matters. This requires a digital road-map, and strong investment cases for change. Once the case for change is made, organisations can engage staff and mobilise them for change. Finally, the change needs to be embedded and made sustainable, through development of capabilities and alignment of objectives, incentives and rewards.

Not easy, but essential

Nobody said becoming digitally literate was easy. But as patients look more and more to technology to address their healthcare needs, providers that don’t mobilise those channels will become irrelevant. In any industry or sector, addressing customer needs and wants is vital. Digital transformation is key to that in healthcare just at the moment.

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