From left to right: Imprivata Chief Medical Officer Dr. Sean Kelly, UPMC CTO Chris Carmody, LifeBridge Health Chief Information and Digital Officer Tressa Springmann, Mt. San Rafael Hospital CIO Michael Archuleta, and Health First CIO William Walders discuss how healthcare organizations can approach digital transformation successfully.

Mar 28 2023

ViVE 2023: How to Create Digital Transformation and Innovation in Healthcare

Health IT leaders explained the importance of digital transformation at this moment in healthcare at the ViVE 2023 conference, taking place in Nashville, Tenn.

The meaning of digital transformation varies depending on whom you ask, but health IT leaders at ViVE 2023 agree that the time for innovation in healthcare is now. The industry is contending with clinician burnout, staff shortages, increased cyberthreats, changing patient demands and a growing wealth of data from which insights are waiting to be gleaned, all while digital health companies continue to disrupt healthcare delivery.

Speakers at ViVE, taking place March 26-29 in Nashville, Tenn., kicked off the first full day of music-themed educational sessions by addressing current priorities, challenges and considerations for digital transformation in healthcare.

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What’s So Difficult About Digital Transformation in Healthcare?

In the session “Building the Digital Transformation Plane while Flying,” Dr. Sean Kelly, chief medical officer and senior vice president of healthcare strategy for Imprivata, compared the healthcare and financial services industries. In the past, people had to go to a physical bank to complete transactions. Then ATMs made it easier to withdraw cash. Now, most banking is done online or through an app.

“There’s no banking and telebanking; it’s just banking. So why do we talk about healthcare and telehealth?” Kelly asked.

William Walders, CIO and senior vice president of integrated delivery network operations at Health First, said decades-old, legacy systems are what make digital transformation so difficult in healthcare. Many organizations also have several electronic medical records, which can make it difficult to offer a seamless experience for clinicians and patients.

Another barrier to digital transformation is culture. Mt. San Rafael Hospital CIO Michael Archuleta explained that many in the industry have always seen technology as a cost center rather than a strategic revenue contributor.

LEARN MORE: How strong leadership and integrated tools support hybrid care.

“We’re one of the most antiquated industries out there. We’re doing the most important thing by saving people’s lives and enhancing patient care, but we’re behind the curve,” he said. “Healthcare should be leading the pack in innovation and digital transformation. We don’t need a business makeover, but a true technology revolution.”

Archuleta advocated for more focus on improving organizations’ culture. He recommended that organizations bring in startups to accelerate innovation.

Data insights have the potential to transform healthcare, but much of it isn’t easily accessible for analysis. Chris Carmody, CTO for the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, said his organization has 6 trillion data points for approximately 110 of its 3,600 applications.

“We’re just scratching the surface of learning from the data we already have. Most of that data is unstructured,” Carmody said. “Generative AI can be used in different forms to extract meaning, which will help with digital transformation.”

Moving Digital Transformation Forward in Healthcare

Increased collaboration makes it more likely for healthcare organizations to achieve digital transformation. Tressa Springmann, senior vice president and chief information and digital officer at LifeBridge Health, said she is most proud of her relationship with her organization’s chief marketing officer and the marketing team. This relationship has enabled her and her team to gain a better understanding of the community and how best to reach potential patients via digital-first initiatives.

Carmody explained that he is focused on building and establishing relationships that haven’t existed in the past, such as with the chief analytics officer and data scientists to define direction and vision in UPMC’s data analytics program. Rather than being reactive, as the organization often had to be during the height of the pandemic, UPMC is now being proactive.

“Instead of building technology for use within the four walls of the hospital, we’re making our clinical services accessible to the communities we serve,” he said. “I’m optimistic. We have a great opportunity in the next few years to transform healthcare. Others, like Amazon, want to take what they do well and apply it to healthcare, but they don’t know healthcare like we do. We have to be innovative to transform healthcare.”

DIVE DEEPER: Learn about the best practices for digital transformation in senior care.

If a healthcare organization wants to be successful, Archuleta said, it needs to redefine the culture. He described patients as “the new CEO in healthcare,” meaning organizations need to cater to patient demands for digital-first experiences using tools such as asynchronous technology.

Partnerships are also important as health IT leaders and teams navigate technology implementations. Carmody warned against working with vendors that don't include assessments from an IT architecture perspective to determine how the new technology will fit into an organization’s existing ecosystem. They could be using a rogue website or cloud service, which would be a challenge to deal with after the fact.

“If someone says not to include IT, don’t listen to them,” added Springmann.

Archuleta agreed that IT has to be a core component of technology implementations. He pointed out that he’s seen failures when IT wasn’t involved, especially when it comes to security.

Defining Digital in a New Age of Digital Transformation

To begin the session “Digital-First: Live and Let Die,” panelists defined digital within their roles. Dr. Albert Chan, chief digital health officer for Sutter Health, said his relationship to digital within his role is to improve access to care and reduce friction.

Dr. Ashis Barad, chief digital and information officer at Allegheny Health Network, understands his role through what he calls the “five E framework”: experiences, engagement, empowerment, efficacy and earnings. As CDIO, his work encompasses creating positive patient and clinician experiences and well-being, and implementing digital solutions that are efficient and financially sustainable.

For Adventist Health’s Jennifer Stemmler, the role of chief digital officer involves centering the consumer as well as the digital. This is now expanding to clinicians and associates. Access, retention, engagement and growth are the key tenets of the digital experience she is creating.

Sara Vaezy, chief strategy and digital office at Providence, said her organization began its digital transformation by looking at demand generation, aggregation and capture, from discovery to care delivery. Her team is focused on driving growth for the health system through data-driven marketing, consumer data platforms and other digital experiences based on input from clinicians across the health system.

How to Design Digital Solutions for Clinicians

Due to increased burnout, Chan said, many clinicians are quiet quitting, meaning they do less work.

“When thinking about workflows, you have to take a critical look and question whether a technology may make the workflow better for clinicians,” he said. “When deploying solutions, look at 30, 60, 90 and 120 days to see the impact economically, operationally and on patient experience.”

Barad said it’s important to involve clinicians early in the process and to be clear about what problems the organizations is trying to solve.

“Often, there’s a solution that is then brought to the provider. We need to flip that and practice empathetic listening,” he explained. “What problem are we really trying to solve? Then really partner with clinicians early in the design phase.”

Vaezy agreed, adding, “For us, I don’t know what the value would be of building or deploying digital transformation from within if we don’t take advantage of the closeness with our clinical operation partners. That’s the whole value.”

EXPLORE: How CIOs are prioritizing digital transformation and its nuances.

Providence spends a lot of time on problem definition through different lenses, including the health system, patient, consumer and provider lenses. Doing this helps the organization frame the problem and understand its potential size and impact. Once a digital tool is implemented, the organization monitors how clinicians and patients interact with it to understand its efficacy.

“Whether it’s something we built or partnered on, we make sure the instrumentation is there to measure its value,” she said. “We take a holistic approach.”

However, chief digital officers need more than just clinician acceptance for a successful technology implementation. It’s also critical to get executive buy-in.

Stemmler explained that change management is hard work. “Until the executive team has bought in, getting change on the front line becomes impossible,” she added.

There is often a sense that decisions are made at the top at a level beyond the frontline healthcare team. Barad emphasized the importance of communication with the clinicians and healthcare staff to increase transparency about work being done. If clinicians are engaged from the beginning and the organization learns from them and their struggles directly, then their voice will have an impact on technology decisions.

“It’s not a top-down approach. The clinicians were all there. It was the nurses and nurse managers who did that,” he said. “It’s not coming from us. We’re just there to enable and empower.”

Keep this page bookmarked for our coverage of ViVE 2023, taking place March 26-29 in Nashville, Tenn. Follow us on Twitter at @HealthTechMag and join the conversation at #ViVE2023.


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