'Not the same thing as ride-share': Transformation chiefs assess healthcare's digital shift

Healthcare lags other industries in its digital transformation, but as one transformation chief told Becker's, this isn't "ride-share."

So what will it take for healthcare to catch up? For answers, Becker's turned to hospital and health systems leaders with "transformation" in their titles.

Tarun Kapoor, MD. Senior Vice President and Chief Digital Transformation Officer of Virtua Health (Marlton, N.J.). Healthcare has a tricky road for digital transformation, and direct comparisons to the transformations in retail and financial services may not be entirely fair or helpful.

No doubt healthcare must accelerate, but healthcare has a triple consumer group to engage in the process: patients, clinicians, and staff. Combine that with the fact that an already complex medical knowledge base now doubles in under 90 days, and you have perhaps the most complex digital transformation on the planet.

John Lock. Chief Digital Transformation Officer of MedStar Health (Columbia, Md.). While the healthcare industry has generally been considered behind other industries in digital transformation, the pandemic drove enormous investment in the digitization of the sector that significantly closed the gap.

Reasons often cited for moving more slowly would include patient and data privacy and the sensitivity of the work — in many cases, healthcare systems are making decisions that have short- and long-term implications on a patient's life. In other words, many would say, it's not the same thing as ride-share.

Being behind, though, isn't necessarily a disadvantage as the healthcare sector can leverage the experiences and borrow/customize technologies developed (or developing in) other industries in order to transform more efficiently. There is much to learn from other industries about consumer preference, experience, and how to enable change for internal teams.

One thing to keep in mind is that digital isn't just about the technology; in my experience, it's more about how you change the underlying processes and systems to leverage the new tools.

So I believe the healthcare industry's (1) willingness to understand and invest in change management as well as (2) openness to invest in and use technologies that may have been used in other industries, not specifically healthcare, are two key ingredients, among others, to continue to move with speed.

Laura Marquez. Senior Director of Digital Transformation of University of Utah Health (Salt Lake City). Compared to other industries, healthcare is behind in the digital transformation journey. However, it's just that — a journey. Many organizations have adopted, or are in the process of moving to, an agile framework with cross-functional product teams to accelerate value delivery.

By introducing "plan, do, check, adjust," as Jeff Sutherland illustrates in his Scrum book, we seek to leverage short learning cycles to iterate with rapid continuous feedback. Part of the feedback loop is gaining insights from customers, both patients and caregivers, to help capture and illustrate the total experience. We plan to craft customer journeys so we can pinpoint the friction areas, identify opportunities to leverage or maximize technology, and define new metrics of success. Coupling agility with strong change management will better position healthcare to get caught up in the digital age.

James Whitfill, MD. Senior Vice President and Chief Transformation Officer of HonorHealth (Scottsdale, Ariz.). When looking at opportunities for digital transformation in healthcare, pundits look at industries, such as retail, manufacturing, or finance to see what the opportunities are for digital transformation. Certainly, by those measures healthcare still has a long way to go.

But we need to compare healthcare to other industries that are highly labor-intensive and need face-to-face interaction to optimally occur. Two examples are K-12 education or vendor-sponsored healthcare conferences. The COVID epidemic provides us a test case of forcing these industries along with healthcare fully virtual. The results have been mixed at best and concerning in many cases.

There will be progress for healthcare, but it's increasingly clear to me that for the next few years the digital transformation of healthcare is going to be highly focused on the administration of care more than the actual delivery of care.

Marty Bonick. President and CEO of Ardent Health Services (Nashville, Tenn.). The industry has realized it has to change. The adage of "if you build it, they will come" is no longer true. Historically, patients have come to us and had to play by our rules. Today, patients, as consumers, have options and expect better access and service. This has been a wakeup call to the industry and the industry is responding.

Partnerships help to fuel that innovation. By partnering with tech companies that understand the consumer experience, we can provide a powerful combination of solutions that improve the consumer experience and reduce the burden placed on our caregivers.

Karen Murphy, PhD, RN. Executive Vice President and Chief Innovation and Digital Transformation Officer of Geisinger (Danville, Pa.). Comparatively speaking, digital transformation within the healthcare industry has happened more slowly than in retail or banking, for example. The reason for the slower adoption is operational complexity as well as competing resources.

Factors that will continue to accelerate digital transformation include the entrance of nontraditional, digitally enabled players offering healthcare services. These digital-enabled companies entering the market, coupled with the digital capabilities of other economic sectors, will increase our patient/consumer expectations, leaving the healthcare industry little choice but to advance digital transformation to improve experience.

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