Nov 01 2021

CHIME21: Healthcare Prepares for Speedier Implementations in a Digital World

Digital strategies that take years to put in place will be a thing of the past. Experts at the CHIME Fall Forum share their perspectives as timelines shrink.

Healthcare’s digital makeover is picking up speed. From chatbots deployed during the COVID-19 pandemic to online patient questionnaires that can speed a virtual doctor’s visit, access to care has seen a marked evolution, especially over the past 20 months. 

The sprint isn’t over. Some 81 percent of healthcare executives say “the pace of digital transformation for their organization is accelerating,” according to a 2021 Accenture survey. Seventy-three percent say that their technology infrastructure is growing into a crucial part of their organizations’ overall success.  

Experts shared their experiences with recent digital transformations at the CHIME21 Fall Forum, taking place in person in San Diego and online. The conference, put on by the College of Healthcare Information Management Executives, has examined lessons learned during the pandemic and the importance of strong partnerships.

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From Three Years to Six Weeks

The time it takes for a healthcare system to implement a digital strategy will only decrease further as time goes on, said Donna Roach, CIO of University of Utah Health.

“In this digital world, you can’t have a three-year implementation. You have to have very quick wins — two-week turnarounds, six-week turnarounds — so that you’re constantly doing the improvement,” she said during a digital discussion titled “Digital Health Results: ROI-Driven Use Cases and Lessons from the Forefront.”

When she stepped into her role as CIO a year ago, Roach said, the expansion of virtual care and telehealth were foundational pieces of the organization’s digital strategy. She also cultivated a strong partnership with Chief Medical Information Officer Dr. Maia Hightower.

“I was very lucky to walk into an organization were they already had a huge 2025 strategy refresh,” Roach said. “We took that strategy refresh and looked at what was on it that was digitally enabled and designed our digital strategy and our digital work, even our digital governance, based on the strategy refresh.”

Not only did University of Utah Health improve its virtual care offerings, Roach said, it also addressed self-service access for patients.

MORE FROM CHIME21: Find out why human experience is the future of healthcare.

“The barrier is rethinking how you deliver products and services in a very agile, quick-win kind of terminology, and also getting people behind that kind of structure. It’s really focusing on that design thinking,” she added. “It’s creating that ‘Mode 2’ way of thinking in terms of agile, innovation and turning around the new offerings you can do with digital.”

Roach also said making sure strategies aligned with stakeholders instead of having her team come in and take over projects was important in building relationships and having conversations earlier in the process.

“Doing that right upfront and putting a lot of time and effort into that relationship-building helped me discover other initiatives, and there are a lot of other initiatives out there,” she said.

Jim Feen, senior vice president and CIO of Southcoast Health in Massachusetts, added that moving beyond conversations and into action is key.

“You can spend a lot of time talking about the strategy of digital and really what it’s all about,” Feen said. “As CIOs, we’re concerned, rightfully, with what that means to your technology stack, what that means to cybersecurity, what that means to your process. But I think it’s spending more time on the what and not the how, and simplifying what the needs are.”

Partnerships Help the Process

Healthcare organizations looking for new enterprise resource planning solutions need to be intentional in their strategies, said Tim Oberschlake, vice president at technology management and consulting firm Avaap, during a digital discussion titled “Considerations for Cloud ERP System Selection in Digital Transformation.”

“When you’re thinking about a new ERP system, make sure you don’t do it the same way you did it with your legacy ERP implementation or selection process,” he said. “I think that’s the biggest mistake people make.”

Working with a partner that has experience in ERP implementation and has strong vendor knowledge can help ease the process, especially as the digital landscape continues to evolve.

READ MORE: Where can cloud adoption go wrong and how can health IT teams fix those problems?

“At the end of the day, you’re not getting a new system because you want to keep doing what you’re doing today,” Oberschlake said. “You’re getting a new system so that you can actually go and improve yourself, improve your efficiency as an organization moving forward.”

At a separate digital discussion titled “The Patient in Focus: Rapid Deployment of a Digital Patient Experience to Increase Access and Efficiency,” John Hamm, vice president of IT, artificial intelligence, data, clinical and business solutions at Texas Children’s Hospital, highlighted the importance of partnerships during rapid transformations that helped scale IT and bring in much-needed skill sets.

“We needed to do this in a quick fashion, and so we took a step back and started to transform the underlying foundation, including the implementation of agile methodologies, not just within IT but across the organization,” Hamm said.

Keep this page bookmarked for our ongoing virtual coverage of CHIME21. Follow us on Twitter at @HealthTechMag and join the conversation at #CHIME21Fall.

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