Digital transformation fatigue – why isn’t my hospital transformed yet?

May 4, 2021 | Chief Brief | 0 comments

From the privacy of closed door, ask a hospital CFO for their thoughts on digital transformation progress.  You can hear the deep sigh already, can’t you? Now ask them if it’s margin boost or drain.  They are likely to tell you that despite three decades transformation, project overruns still seem to diminish the promises of astronomical ROI.  You could ask the same question of clinicians who are likely to respond that technology is still cumbersome or describe the constant alert fatigue.  Operational leaders are still waiting for relevant actionable insights.  A recent HIMSS study, “Patient Communication Preferences in 2021”, found that more than one-third of patients would be willing to switch providers to receive more modern communication like real-time text messaging.  The universal, yet often unspoken, underlying question is “We’ve been digitally transforming since the late 1990’s so why isn’t our hospital transformed yet?”.

The short answer is because most of the industry focused on piecemeal tactics of systems, devices, and individual, often siloed, department workflows.  These heroic efforts resulted in a technology foundation capable of supporting the rest of the journey.   As an industry, we have reached a new phase in journey.  By continuing to focus on the typical digital transformation tool set of enterprise systems (EHRs, RCMs, ERPs), emerging advancements (Big Data, Artificial Intelligence, Advanced Robotics, and IoT), hospitals can become trapped in an endless cycle of IT led projects that cycle through system selections, implementations, and optimizations. 

The new era of digital requires a shifting of focus from tactics to strategy.  Hospital CEOs and CFOs must engage in the development of robust digital strategies centered on digital value (DV$) for the overall organization.  From a strategic perspective, the central challenge for hospital executive teams is to design a business model that enables the hospital to integrate itself into the value creation structure of the market in such a way that the hospital is able to leverage a unique and indispensable contribution to the community on the basis of its specific core competencies.  A formal digital strategy, properly integrated into the overall hospital strategic plan, provides a roadmap for crossing the finish line realizing the return promises of digital initiatives.

Leading the team to digital victory requires vision, an executive level command of operational KPIs and financial metrics, along with baseline digital literacy that is now required.  That does not mean that a CEO needs CIO level command of technology, but it does mean understanding digital terms and staying up to date regarding potential impacts at the organizational level.  To get you started, DHI will be running a digital literacy series featuring foundational terminology bite sized for today’s hospital executive teams.  Subscribe to the “The Bottomline DV$” and watch for essential digital education coming your way.