Whether they lack the deep technical expertise or try to make do with do-it-yourself efforts, healthcare providers often stumble when pursuing digital transformation efforts, such as moving patient data into the cloud or creating successful engagement with patient portals.

Frequent Pitfalls Providers Face in Digital Transformation

Digital transformation can improve your business agility and consumer experience. You can leverage cloud to store and utilize patient data securely, comply with federal and state healthcare regulations, improve patient care with data-driven treatments, and increase transparency of price and control costs. However, with digital tools come important considerations.

Some of the common mistakes seen among healthcare providers approaching digital transformation include:

  • Focusing on apps or solutions first, and then trying to rationalize security and compliance as an afterthought in the process
  • Not engaging key stakeholders throughout the project
  • Trying to go through digital transformation alone instead of tapping the expertise of partners

Build with Compliance Front and Center

Data breaches in healthcare are more costly than in any industry, and the reputational damage organizations can face is significant. A culture of compliance not only reduces the likelihood of a breach, but also lessens the cost in the event of a breech. Compliance must be front and center in every digital transformation effort. Too many organizations concentrate on building their app or solution first, and then try to fit compliance to the solution. With a compliance-first culture, you will end up with a better, more secure solution. For organizations that don’t know where to begin, work with partners who have compliance baked into everything they do. 

Engage Key Stakeholders

You need to engage stakeholders throughout the digital transformation process.  Digital transformation efforts are less likely to succeed with blind spots and siloed information. For example, one reason why some electronic health record implementation efforts fail is because providers build digital tools for clinicians without obtaining clinician feedback. The sooner you engage your influencers inside your organization, the more successful you’ll be. That’s especially true for executive staff such as the CISO (Chief Information Security Officer), who is legally obligated to be sure any security risks are taken into account in your planning and implementation.

Leverage the Expertise of Others

While providers have a unique set of requirements and challenges, they can take advantage of the fact that they aren’t the first healthcare organizations to undertake digital transformation projects. Providers can look to other healthcare segments like payers, and even non-healthcare early adopters, for insight into possible pitfalls and inspiring success stories. Additionally, leveraging the experience of third parties to support areas of digital transformation that are challenging for your organization can save money and improve project outcomes. In a 2019 survey by Masergy, 64 percent of enterprise IT professionals reported needing third-party support to meet their digital transformation goals.1 Because digital transformation projects in healthcare often involve changing the way protected health information (PHI) is managed, some providers seek third-party support in managing their cloud compliance efforts so they can remain focused on core business goals.

Where Should You Start?

To avoid many of these pitfalls, providers may want to start their digital transformation efforts with small pilot projects that are less costly and risky, yet offer potentially large returns. For example, many begin with portals that allow patients to schedule appointments, request prescription refills, or manage preventative care. Others have started by moving data storage into the cloud as that technology has improved and become more secure. As technology advances, many organizations have realized they need virtual care in order to remain competitive, and have increased investment in virtual care technologies.

Benefits of Digital Transformation

When done correctly, digital transformation can provide you with substantial benefits. It can increase price transparency and provide new ways for you to connect with consumers. It also can help improve quality of service because it will enable you to make more informed decisions for personalized care – something patients have learned to expect as industries like retail and banking have reached digital maturity.

Digital transformation will allow you to better engage patients, reduce cost and improve quality. In addition, it will allow your organization to remain competitive in the consumerization of healthcare.

Digital transformation can increase your profitability. Research shows that providers have shrinking revenue and increasing costs as the industry pivots away from fee-for-service models. But the digitally transformed organization using big data or machine learning can see increased efficiencies.

The New Digital World

Digital transformation is changing the way providers do business and is revolutionizing patient care in an era of shifting healthcare economics. As patient outcomes become a critical variable in the reimbursement equation, providers must be able to deliver personalized, data-driven treatments and ensure patients adhere to treatment plans and take their prescriptions.

Without digital transformation, providers face a bleak future as healthcare costs, especially for chronic diseases, continue to rise. The Centers for Disease Control states that 70 percent of healthcare spending is on chronic disease.

Personalized care through digital transformation can help prevent chronic disease in many cases and better manage it in many others. The end result is healthier patients and lower costs.

The impact of failing to pursue digital transformation efforts, such as personalized care, can be illustrated by the statistic shared recently by CNBC, which indicates two-thirds of people who file for bankruptcy cite medical issues as a key contributor to their financial downfall. Many Americans who have health insurance can’t even afford to pay the out-of-pocket expenses that accompany their insurance plans. Because care is costly, many people wait to seek care until later in an illness when more expensive hospitalizations are required as opposed to taking advantage of the more engaged preventative care possible with digital technologies.

There are many important considerations for providers in digital transformation programs. Failing to navigate around these challenges effectively can make a difference not only in whether a provider can improve its own operations, but also in its ability to meet increasingly complex security and compliance regulations. On the other hand, successful digital transformation programs hold the potential to improve patient care and outcomes dramatically while generating substantial cost savings for providers.