The world is going digital, and it’s time that healthcare organizations did, too. As the healthcare industry enters a time of dramatic disruption to the traditional business model thanks to care virtualization, the time is ripe for hospital CIOs to take a good hard look at what digital convergence — or the next evolution of digital transformation — can offer, notes Nancy Green, the global healthcare business development and strategy executive leader at Verizon Enterprise Solutions.
“The amount of data that these organizations are now working with from so many different sources, both internally and externally, creates an opportunity around converging information to be consumed by clinicians and patients how they need or want to interact with it — the right information, at the right time, on the right device,” says Green.
But while most hospital CIOs know that digital convergence is a priority, many may be scratching their heads as to what the roadmap to true digital transformation looks like, or what the nuances around HIPAA compliance and protected health information (PHI) might entail.
4 Steps to Start Your Digital Convergence Journey
While digital convergence isn’t a steady state — it’s a constant evolution that follows an organization through organic growth and acquisitions — there are a few ways that healthcare executives can get started on the road to transformation.
Look Ahead. The first step on any journey to digital transformation is to envision the endpoint. “What the organization envisions their overall digital transformation to look like internally and externally is key to a successful convergence plan. The internal and external experiences are sometimes two very different paths around technology and processes,” says Green.
Set Out a Workflow Roadmap. Once the high-level vision is established, CIOs should then move to map all the different data and information sources for the internal staff’s workflow processes, as well as take a look at what workflows the organization will tackle, and when.
Envision the Patient Experience. Clinicians and staff are just one side of the digital transformation equation. Hospitals need to also think about what kind of access patients will have, which information sources they will be privy to and how the organization will offer access. “It’s important to know what the impact is [on the patient experience], both in workflow and for the security of the information traversing the network,” says Green.
Evaluate the Impact on Internal IT. While the “edge” device that clinicians or patients are using might get all the attention, it’s nearly impossible to implement digital transformation without network innovation that can deliver information anywhere — endpoints included — at the right time and on any device that is needed. “Understanding the impact of these new processes on the entire network infrastructure helps [CIOs] plan their core infrastructure innovation path,” says Green.
Challenges on the Road to Healthcare Digital Convergence
What sets healthcare apart from other organizations on the journey to digital transformation, in many ways, are the PHI and HIPAA considerations that must accompany any tech adoptions.
“It becomes important that any PHI data doesn’t reside on any digital endpoint unless properly secured. This creates a unique challenge with mobile devices, which is a large part of any digital convergence plan,” says Green.
Another significant challenge for healthcare organizations comes with legacy systems. Without fully upgrading or replacing them, it’s likely CIOs are just putting a digital process over an analog one. “The underlying issues will still be there if the specific process isn’t completely analyzed and digitally optimized,” Green emphasizes.
While it may be difficult to fully optimize legacy and other technologies without significant upheaval, Green notes that it is necessary.
“Delivering an adaptive network infrastructure plays a key role in any digital convergence plan. Transitioning to agile infrastructure and mobile tools that adapt to dynamic needs, [as well as] facilitating connectivity and collaboration are important to a successful convergence plan,” she says.
Despite these challenges, if all healthcare executives and necessary staff are committed to supporting an organization on its way to its digital destiny, transformation could be just on the horizon.
“This is a top-down initiative and not a small one, so it takes cross-functional leadership buy-in and commitment to the budget and the disruption it will cause internally,” says Green. “Focusing on that end goal with be key.”