Unlocking health system IT capabilities through digital unification

By | July 26, 2021

Immense value lies waiting to be derived from the millions of dollars health systems have previously invested in technology. Realizing that value is a matter of shifting focus away, to some extent, from tech features and capabilities themselves and onto the overall human experience that those features and capabilities need to create. What’s needed is a digital mindset that meets the patient where they are and guides them along their care journey. The output of that mindset is what we call digital unification

Digital unification is a process of improving experiences and creating connections between various systems and technologies, all while ensuring that those experiences translate to value for your organization and its constituents. It’s a matter of forming deliberate connections on the surface of your underlying technologies. 

What does it (really) mean to be a digital health system? 

Being “digital” is not only the path to improved patient experiences and sustainable, cost-saving processes, but also means deriving the full extent of the value of IT investments you’ve likely already made before you even begin to worry about aiming new tech at old problems. 

Digital is not IT. It’s about humanizing technology, whereas IT is about creating (and maintaining) a foundation of technology systems. While that may sound like semantics, the primary reasons for this distinction are clear: cost and viability. Health systems have invested large sums of money in IT but have yet to derive the value of those investments, largely due to incomplete or ineffective visions for the experiences those investments need to create and support. In other words, there ends up being an outer operational, human layer under which past investments in technology capabilities sit, and the two are difficult to connect. 

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But it’s not only possible to turn your past IT investments into tangible, cost-saving, and value-creating experiences for patients and clinicians alike, it’s essential. This is what it means to be digital.

The value of digital transformation in healthcare

The path to being a digital health system starts with a simple question: How can engagement be maximized for all constituents in way that creates sustainable financial value and improved outcomes and experiences? We believe it comes down to four basic principles: 

  1. Don’t do a transplant, do a bypass – don’t rip-and-replace or layer new tech on old problems; create the right connectors for what you already have, based on an understanding of the experiences you’re trying to create 
  2. Start with a small, interdisciplinary team – having the right cooks in the kitchen (and keeping that kitchen small enough to be nimble and collaborative) is essential to a human-centered design methodology aimed at categorizing, prioritizing, and creatively approaching business problems 
  3. Run short sprints and create a well-defined, iterative path to value – make the transition manageable and your goals modest and achievable; iteration emphasizes reframing problems from the user perspective and rapidly prototyping and testing to achieve value-add solutions and more efficient, faster delivery  
  4. Have each initiative “auto-fuel” subsequent initiatives – value will be recovered through the generation of investible capital to help you fund further digital unification projects while consistently and repeatedly proving the ROI of your initiatives and opening up pathways to creative new solutions   

Bringing it all together with digital unification

Is your health system unlocking the capabilities you’ve invested so much in to improve every aspect of the experience patients and providers have with your organization? If not, you have the opportunity to not only change the familiar cost dynamics around IT investments, but also to positively affect your organization’s growth and outcomes. The future of healthcare lies along this path to value recovery, and while it is a long road, the foundation and course can be established quickly if the four principles above are followed.  

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