Jun 21 2023
Data Analytics

How Healthcare Organizations Are Transforming and Staying Agile

Providers are accelerating their digital health strategies, evolving not just their technologies but their mindsets as well.

Though the nation’s COVID-19 public health emergency declaration ended in May, there are still many lessons from the past three years that will continue to inform healthcare organizations for years to come.

It was the urgent need to adapt and respond to the pandemic that drove health systems to embrace digital transformation, according to Michael Archuleta, CIO of southern Colorado-based Mt. San Rafael Hospital and a 2023 HealthTech influencer. “The disruption in the industry that we’ve seen wasn’t because of a CIO or CTO. It was, unfortunately, because of COVID-19,” Archuleta says.

Health systems that were prepared with “strong technology backbones” understandably led the way, he adds, “and now these organizations are accelerating their digital initiatives as they focus on moving forward.”

Before the pandemic, Archuleta says, his IT team aimed to become a “true value maker” and not just a “ticket taker and cost center” for Mt. San Rafael. To do so, it developed a digital health strategy that did away with what he calls the “brick-and-mortar theology” of healthcare. “We’re living in the digital age. Let’s start acting like a digital company,” he says.

Optimizing Care Sidebar


When the pandemic hit, Mt. San Rafael had already modernized its infrastructure with digital solutions from companies such as NetApp, Splunk, VMware and Imprivata. “We were fully virtualized, we had cloud-based initiatives, and we had a very strong and mature cybersecurity program,” Archuleta says.

When the health system suddenly had to set up telehealth clinics and send staff members home to work, the transition happened with ease, he says, “because the foundation we’d built was solid.”

Currently, Mt. San Rafael is leveraging everything from advanced analytics to robotic process automation as part of its digital transformation journey. Administrators are deploying workflow solutions to automate patient scheduling and billing, while clinicians are using artificial intelligence to predict patient outcomes and personalize treatment plans.

Overall, the organization is leaning into virtual care and other digital platforms that clinicians, staff and patients alike came to rely on during the pandemic. Archuleta says his team is committed to “staying ahead of the curve” when it comes to digital health.

“The way we see it, technology has become a critical enabler of our mission to deliver high-quality care,” he says.

Click the banner below to learn how a modern data analytics program can optimize care.

Taking Digital Health Strategies from Vision to Reality

Archuleta spoke back in March at the ViVE 2023 digital health conference in Nashville, Tenn., telling attendees that healthcare was “antiquated” compared with sectors such as energy and finance. His message, he says, was intended to serve as a rallying call for the industry.

“We’re doing the most important thing there is: taking care of people and saving lives,” he says. “I think it’s time for us to step up and be at the forefront of innovation and digital transformation.”

Though other healthcare leaders agree, surveys have found that many are having trouble getting their plans off the ground. “Healthcare’s digital mindset and execution are not always aligned,” according to an analysis from Huron Consulting.

Healthcare organizations are investing in technologies such as cloud applications and data platforms, says Huron Managing Director David Devine, “but they’re struggling to connect these tools to their patients and to use cases where they can really make a difference.”

One major medical system that has successfully turned its vision for digital health into reality is Pittsburgh-based UPMC. In 2017, the health system shifted its digital transformation campaign into high gear by moving to a new, state-of-the-art data center, says CTO Christian Carmody.

“We were growing really quickly, and we knew it was important to position our infrastructure to support and enable that no matter what,” he says.

Michael Archuleta Quote
Photography by Patrick Cavan Brown


The data center would be the linchpin of UPMC’s plans for additional networking capacity. “We wanted to be able to connect and collaborate not just within the four walls of the organization but outside with patients in their homes,” Carmody adds.

As it turns out, that kind of agility was exactly what was needed when the pandemic happened. Thankfully, UPMC was prepared, Carmody says, noting that the organization had also transitioned to Microsoft 365. “With the cloud services we were using and our data capabilities, we were in a good position,” he adds.

Today, Carmody says the investments UPMC made in digital health have paid dividends again and again. The health system, for example, leveraged clinical analytics to assess and optimize therapies administered to patients during the pandemic, and now it’s in another partnership with Microsoft to bolster the technology with AI and machine learning.

In fact, UPMC’s providers already have access to 13 clinical predictive algorithms supported by more than 1,300 automated processes designed to advance patient care, Carmody says. When patients are admitted to a UPMC hospital, for example, their data is automatically processed through an algorithm that determines their risk of readmission. Another algorithm can identify patients at high risk of developing uncontrolled diabetes.

UPMC didn’t get to where it is overnight, Carmody adds: “None of this would have been possible without the infrastructure and the technology strategy we’ve pursued to evolve as a global healthcare company.”

READ MORE: Learn how to create digital transformation and innovation in healthcare.

Digital Health Strategies Offer Plenty of Opportunities

Deploying new and innovative technologies that allow her organization to evolve has also been a top priority for Tressa Springmann, chief information and digital officer at Maryland-based LifeBridge Health.

“Until a couple of years ago, the typical IT organization was well positioned to support its clinicians but not the public,” she says. LifeBridge’s new digital health strategy recognizes that patients want more flexibility in how and where they receive care. “We really doubled down on the idea of the digital consumer as a user of technology that we need to serve and support.”


The estimated percentage of healthcare organizations that will rely on digital-first strategies by 2027

Source: IDC, “IDC FutureScape: Worldwide Health Industry 2023 Predictions,” October 2022

Today, LifeBridge Health offers patients a mobile app they can use to search for doctors, schedule appointments, access the patient portal, complete an asynchronous or virtual visit, check in and complete pre-visit paperwork, and pay their bills. And similar to UPMC and Mt. San Rafael, the organization has launched numerous other digital health initiatives designed to help patients and staff alike. Its medical intensivists, for example, now use a telehealth tool called an Ohmni bot to conduct virtual bedside consultations with patients in different facilities. And robotic process automation is streamlining work for the patient financial services staff.

Springmann says she believes “the sky’s the limit” for digital health. When a technology is clinically appropriate, or can be an enabler for patients, or can allow staff to do more value-added work, “that is what consumers want, and it’s what healthcare needs,” she says.

Getty Images: Pattadis Walarput, gorodenkoff, peterspiro, Morsa Images, ljubaphoto, Sean Anthony Eddy

Learn from Your Peers

What can you glean about security from other IT pros? Check out new CDW research and insight from our experts.