How Digital Transformation Can Increase Connection in Healthcare

By Inderpal Kohli, VP & Chief Information Officer, Englewood Health

Shorter wait times, care on demand, immediate results, and real-time access to doctors and health information: this is the promise of digital transformation in healthcare. Here is how your organization can begin to reimagine care for the new age.

Patients are at the heart of what we do in healthcare. Figuring out where and how best to reach patients is at the core of our mission to deliver care, improve the health of our communities, and reduce harm across patient populations.

The focus is on providing a streamlined digital experience to new and existing patients that makes going to the doctor, receiving health information, and engaging in aftercare communication as easy as a few clicks on your phone

In a world that increasingly demands flexibility, ease of use, and data accessibility, digital transformation of healthcare is essential if providers want to engage patients in preventive and routine care.

In this context, digital transformation refers to the reimagining of care through a digital lens—improving care processes in new ways, supported by the latest technology. The focus is on providing a streamlined digital experience to new and existing patients that makes going to the doctor, receiving health information, and engaging in aftercare communication as easy as a few clicks on your phone, with the ultimate goal of improving health and wellness.

If your organization is looking to enact a digital transformation, here is where to begin:

  • Team: Assemble a team of trusted clinical and administrative workgroups to lead digital transformation efforts. The team should hail from every care avenue in your organization and be able to offer insight into work processes and the patient experience.  Digital tools need to be embedded into clinical and operational workflows to be successful, so partnership between IT and Operations is critical.
  • Strategy: Consider the long-term goals of your organization. Are you looking to improve patient retention? Are you hoping to engage a new patient population? Are you interested in improving workflow and communication? Once you’ve determined your main objectives in pursuing digital transformation, develop a holistic approach that aligns with these goals while meeting existing patient expectations and operational priorities.

  • Scope: Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither will your new system of care. Determine which areas of your organization would benefit the most from digital transformation and begin your work there. Instead of enacting a sweeping overhaul, reform areas with the most need and apply the lessons you learn from that process to your future work transforming the rest of your organization.

  • Technology: Now is the time to review your current technology and systems and develop a masterplan. Which emerging technologies will you leverage in this transformation? How will those technologies be rolled out to patients and team members? What education and training support will be made available to all who utilize this technology? How and when will you phase out old processes of care?

As you plan your digital transformation, consider whether your long-term goals and execution are in alignment. Once you have a holistic strategy, be agile in the roadmap for development and implementation, and don’t be afraid to pivot and change course as necessary to ensure a successful transformation.

Remember that increasing the ease of patient access is paramount in any digital transformation and integration between digital and clinical operations is necessary to ensure that happens. The goal is interoperability between all levels of an organization, to help streamline any potential changes in workflow.

At every stage of digital transformation, leverage structured, unstructured, and external data to drive digital enablement—this is an essential transformation step for most institutions.

What does the future hold for digital transformation in healthcare?

As patients’ expectations for shorter wait times, care on demand, immediate results and real-time access to their health information pervades every avenue of care, digital transformation will continue to grow at an unprecedented rate.

The regulatory landscape must evolve to accommodate this integrated care experience, with patients and providers operating as the key drivers of reform.

The next 10 years will also see the continued growth of artificial intelligence and robotics in healthcare, as well as the use of virtual assistants for patients and clinicians. Virtual assistants have demonstrated the ability to enhance communication, identify care gaps, provide decision-support, and have a point-of-care clinical impact.

A concerted effort to deliver equitable care using these digital strategies will become a focus, increasing accessibility to all populations, especially those that have been historically identified as high-risk and underserved. Digital transformation offers an opportunity to engage patient populations that face barriers to care. Ultimately, the responsibility of ensuring these new processes improve the patient experience for everyone, falls to those teams and individuals planning and enacting the digital transformation itself.