Digital Transformation in Heathcare: 4 Things Hospitals Should Consider
Despite the incredible advances in medical technology in recent decades, digital transformation in healthcare has gained an unfortunate reputation for lagging behind other industries. While hospitals invest heavily in advanced medical devices and technology, many have yet to adopt digital tools to revolutionize their business operations: supply chain management, staffing, patient experience, and operating room workflow, to name a few. The usual suspects – information silos, bureaucracy, and outdated management structures – are likely to blame in many cases. But for many hospitals, the reluctance to adopt new digital tools and systems may stem from uncertainties around successful adoption and return on investment. “We’ve always done it this way” can seem preferable to facing the unknown, especially when the stakes are high.
The Difficulties of Digital Transformation in Healthcare
There are certainly numerous things a hospital must consider before committing to a digital solution. Software is often expensive, and especially since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, many hospitals may find their budgets stretched thin. Moreover, given the nature of a hospital’s business, it must consider patient care above all else. For a hospital, therefore, digital disruption cannot be a gamble. If a hospital plans to transform a major system or process, it needs absolute assurance that the result will be real, evident improvement.
Perhaps most important of all, a hospital must ensure that it centers any adoption of technology around its people. The human aspect of digital strategy is forgotten all too often; software computing may have the capacity to do incredible things, but if it fails to benefit the people who use it, the danger of emotional burnout arises. If people are not the focus of digital transformation strategy, the likelihood of its long-term success is slim.
The Benefits of Digital Transformation in Healthcare
The benefits of digital solutions for hospitals are clear. AI-driven software can reduce waste and physician burnout, improve patient care and physician satisfaction, and eliminate communication barriers between departments and service lines. Despite the risks hospital leaders might associate with adopting new technology, therefore, hospitals should not hesitate to seek digital solutions to fix problematic systems and processes. But neither, of course, should they pour resources into a solution that won’t offer marked improvement.
In order to make the optimal decision when contemplating a software solution, here are four things hospital leaders should consider.
- Ease of Use
First, hospitals must ensure that software is user-friendly. One of the greatest advantages of a digital solution is the ability to take a laborious, manual, or repetitive process and make it effortless. If software is time-consuming or difficult to use, its long-term benefits are dubious. Many hospitals may be already familiar with this pain; EMR and EHR systems, which are now universally used in U.S. hospitals, are unfortunately known for being clunky and frustrating to use. Rather than reducing the time that nurses and physicians spend doing clerical tasks, they have been known to increase it, thus contributing to the growing problem of nurse and physician burnout. It is imperative, therefore, that hospitals ensure that any software they adopt saves time and effort for medical staff.
- Apparent User Value
Similarly, the benefits of digital tools must be clearly evident to the users. Leaders may see the value of the tools, but if the actual users do not, successful adoption and overall effectiveness are unlikely. In addition to saving time and effort in clerical work, software solutions should take the guesswork out of decisions-making through data-driven automation. The staff who use the software should be well-versed on the benefits the software is providing, and they should be able to see the effects of those benefits in their day-to-day work.
- Clear Cost Savings
For any business, an expensive software solution needs to be able to demonstrate real return on investment. For hospitals, ROI may be especially critical; according to the American College of Healthcare Executives' annual survey, hospital leaders have named financial challenges as their top concern for 16 out of the last 18 years. Digital solutions should be able to demonstrate clearly how they will improve a hospital’s bottom line through expense reduction and cost savings.
- Efficiency Improvement
Facilitating greater efficiency is another important capability of a digital solution. Complex processes involving multiple parts of an organization can easily become muddled, often due to silos created by poor communication and lack of information sharing. Software should be able to support and improve a hospital’s workflow so that healthcare workers don’t have to scramble when they need information. If software keeps information siloed, it may create or exacerbate efficiency problems for the organization.