Lindsay Lucas, chief executive of Software Solved, reveals that, while digital transformation is crucial to the future of the NHS, it should not be carried out in isolation
Digital transformation will play an important role in modernising the NHS and making services more effective and efficient
As with most other industries, healthcare has seen significant benefits from digital transformation, with the adoption of new technologies helping to deliver secure, high-quality patient care and drive greater business efficiency.
Electronic health records (EHR), digital imaging, e-prescription services and enterprise resource planning systems are among the digital services that have been integrated into the extensive IT systems of many healthcare organisations.
And, as a result, healthcare providers now have more access to patient data and applications than ever before.
However, the increased complexity of the IT networks that power today’s healthcare organisations, as well as the sheer volume of data traversing these, has added to the challenge of ensuring network and data security.
Technology itself isn’t necessarily the problem when it comes to digital transformation. Many healthcare tasks have been automated or digitally enhanced for decades.
Instead, the barriers to digital transformation in healthcare are often decidedly non-technological.
With proper understanding, the healthcare sector can take digital transformation beyond IT and make a positive impact on its performance
McKinsey found that the three barriers to digital most mentioned by leaders in the pharmaceutical and medical-technology industry were culture and mind-set, organisational structure, and governance.
Businesses in the healthcare sector that are looking to start their digital transformation journey need a solid understanding of the concepts and approaches needed to transform.
With proper understanding, the healthcare sector can then take digital transformation beyond IT and make a positive impact on its performance.
But the term ‘digital transformation’ can mean a myriad of things to a lot of different healthcare providers. And that’s precisely why the sector must have a clear vision and purpose, one that serves patients, partners, and employees.
Identifying the latest-relevant and most-innovative trends, movements, solutions, and disruptive technologies in the industry – and finding the start-up, scale-up, patent, research organisation, or established company that you need to work with to deliver on a digitalisation strategy is crucial.
Digital transformation and business transformation need to work hand-in-hand in order to present new opportunities for operational gains, business process improvements, and cultural change.
Investments into digital technologies are only effective when they can deliver the intended functionality supported by the necessary IT systems, organisational culture, workforce skill set, organisational strategy, and business models
The domain of business process transformation encapsulates the changes in business processes and organisational culture. These changes are centred around the investments in digital technologies, therefore requiring strong sponsorship engagement from key stakeholders, especially top executives and end users.
And the transformation must be driven by business and healthcare goals that can be effectively fulfilled through the digital technology investments.
It is also crucial that the sector has the necessary skills and support to take advantage of the new technologies and solutions.
IT systems and support provided by third parties can underpin the deployment of new technology solutions that process existing IT workloads and data assets to provide enhanced features and functionality.
But the IT environment should be capable of running new digital solutions without causing issues related to technology integration, performance, or security.
As technology rapidly evolves, new digital technologies may not always support the existing IT environment and systems.
Technology must be integrated across all aspects of the business, transforming the operational and business models, culture, tools, processes, and strategies.
In essence, IT transformation and business process transformation are the necessary enablers to digital transformation.
Transformation must be driven by business and healthcare goals that can be effectively fulfilled through the digital technology investments
Investments into digital technologies are only effective when they can deliver the intended functionality supported by the necessary IT systems, organisational culture, workforce skill set, organisational strategy, and business models. If you are missing the right tools, business drivers, or mindset, digital transformation will only magnify the flaws within your existing operational model.
This transformation across these domains enables the healthcare sector, which is arguably still somewhat traditional, to find and engage a user base in a digital world.
Digital transformation should not be done in isolation, but rather as part of a wider business transformation.
Isolating digital transformation means that staff have not bought into the changes and therefore may not understand or accept them, so communication throughout the process is key to ensuring any transformation is effective and adopted by staff.
The pandemic saw the healthcare sector rapidly implementing technology in order to ensure it wasn’t overwhelmed and to maintain continuity.
As working practises have continued to settle down and new ‘normals’ are now accepted, overall business transformation will have to happen and, while digital transformation plays a big part in this, it should not be done in isolation
On the whole much of this worked. However, it has in some cases set a dangerous precedent for boards looking at quick wins for digital transformation rather than long-term fixes.
The healthcare sector is working very differently to how it was before the pandemic.
As working practises have continued to settle down and new ‘normals’ are now accepted, overall business transformation will have to happen and, while digital transformation plays a big part in this, it should not be done in isolation. It is a core part of business transformation, but not a standalone action.
Knowing where to start is critical for unlocking value through a business transformation. And prioritisation will allow the healthcare sector to quickly evolve. It will also allow it to build the discipline needed to evolve continuously, and help establish the new trajectory needed to keep pace with disruption.