For the New York-based Hospital for Special Surgery, one of the top orthopedic hospitals in the country, digital health has become a way of life. This is according to Jamie Nelson, senior vice president and CIO for IT at HSS, who spoke about the hospital’s many digital health initiatives during the 2018 CHIME Fall Forum in San Diego this week.
A few of these initiatives include harnessing the power of data following the hospital’s recent electronic health record implementation, introducing digital solutions that interact with the EHR to create a more comprehensive view of care as they also optimize the patient experience.
As HSS leaps forward with digital transformation, Nelson acknowledges that it is a sea change from traditional care models and requires thinking through a new healthcare business model that includes digital health revenue streams. She also knows that getting started is possibly the most difficult part for busy CIOs.
To help organize this process, Nelson offered a seven-step list for CIOs seeking to jump-start their own digital health initiatives.
1. Define ‘Digital’ for Your Organization
“What is ‘digital’ for your organization?” asked Nelson. It might seem like a question with a simple answer, but often stakeholders have very different ideas about what it means.
For HSS, Nelson notes that at a recent board retreat “it took us half an hour to define ‘digital.’ Doctors had one opinion, IT folks had another, marketing had another, board members had another.”
Nailing down an organization-specific definition is a key foundational move for the digital care journey.
2. Define the CIO’s Role in Digital Health
As digital health takes hold, data becomes a major aspect of the healthcare organization, meaning that organizations should consider whether or not they need a chief digital officer or if current staff will fill that role.
“We’d all like to be the CDO. But, you know, I haven’t done this in retail, and maybe you need to bring somebody in from another industry that’s made a lot of advances,” said Nelson. “And if there is a CDO, what’s your relationship?”
3. Position IT to Use, Support and Exploit Digital Tools
IT teams will have the biggest role in making new healthcare tech a reality, but they will also be using these tools regularly and need to be well positioned to do both.
“Think multiplatform, think Internet of Things, APIs, artificial intelligence, blockchain: Do you have the technical infrastructure to attempt to make these a possibility?” asked Nelson.
4. Acquire IT Talent In-House
It’s no secret that tracking down and retaining talent is a challenge for healthcare CIOs, but it’s extremely important that organizations find a way to do so.
“Talent is the key here,” said Nelson, but finding employees with the skill set necessary to push innovation further won’t be easy. It also means that as CIOs begin the hiring process, they need to ask several questions: “Are you going to hire in? Are you going to take your own staff? Are your interface people now going to become API people? Do your server administrators now become API administrators? Are you going to take the time and the money to train them?”
5. Be Customer-Obsessed
Not only should the customer be central, but the move to digital health also means that organizations will need to define who exactly the customer is. “Is it the patient? Is it the consumer? We’re one of those industries where our customer varies depending on who you talk to,” said Nelson. But once the customer is defined, the customer needs to be “right up front in everything you do,” said Nelson.
6. Measure Digital Success Early and Often
Will you be measuring the success of digital health initiatives based on market share? Will you be implementing a subscription model for digital tools? These are the types of considerations CIOs must pursue in order to continue to justify digital health programs.
“Really quantifying so that you can measure return on investment on these expenditures is important,” said Nelson.
7. Make Digital Health Programs Count
It’s important to have an end goal for these initiatives that really makes a difference to the healthcare population.
“You want to develop something that isn’t a ‘nice to have’ but a ‘need to have,’” said Nelson. “You want consumers and patients using your digital tools all the time, as part of their daily routine.”