7 Rules That Distinguish Top Digital Health Leaders  

3 May 2021
We usually think about digitalization in terms of a project, which boils down to implementing software X to achieve goal Y. In order to carry out such a project, it’s needed to purchase software, implement it and provide training for the staff. Perceiving digitalization in terms of technologies, tools, and targeted results is rooted in the knowledge acquired during management studies. In fact, digitization is a process with a very high potential for disruptions and obstacles, where that perfect plan often ends in a colossal fiasco. This is because digitization changes the organizational culture, communication, the roles and habits of the medical staff. Sometimes it imposes new duties, transforms care procedures, and introduces automation that not everyone is comfortable with. Today, many top managers use the skills learned at business schools or during MBA healthcare management studies. But being a good leader also requires some soft skills and mind-shift that can be mastered by yourself.
  1. A curiosity for novelties, a passion for change
The digital technologies market continues to develop at a rate that is hard to keep up with. Hospital information systems (HIS) gain new functions, including artificial intelligence (AI) components; new start-ups offer solutions that support the decision-making or improve clinical effectiveness. It is challenging to implement all these innovations, but even knowing about them may help you in looking for the ones that could be useful in solving specific problems, dealing with bottlenecks, or improving the standards of care. Those who enjoy digital innovations are also referred to as early innovators, responding to new trends and seeing them as opportunities to seek benefits for themselves. A conservative approach and being in denial about the need for digital development is an anchor that holds back any organizational change.
  1. Strategic planning and digitization scenarios
It is impossible to predict the reality a few years in advance, which also applies to the development of new technologies. However, it is possible to develop a vision of digital growth that has to be consistently carried out and adjusted to the changing conditions. A strategy that outlines the big picture, helping the employees to understand the shared goals and feel included. Knowing the direction in which the organization is going gives people a feeling of stability, despite the demanding changes.
  1. Experimenting
Innovators have one characteristic in common – they conclude from their own experiences without being guided by prejudices and preconceived beliefs. The next time a start-up approaches you with a pilot project, maybe it is worth giving it a try? The most promising ideas—especially those put forward by employees—should be given full consideration. Sometimes these ideas fail, but innovators have a right to make mistakes. However, when risky initiatives become successful, they can generate the courage for more innovations.
  1. Looking for new solutions in a familiar environment
Hospital information systems are expensive solutions and can take years to implement. As a result, employees get used to IT functionalities that correspond to their scope of duties—or the ones they have to use—so the potential of IT systems is exploited only to a small extent. A leader in digital change makes every effort to derive the maximum benefit from the available digital infrastructure. Do you know why some functions are never used? What new features are included in subsequent system updates? Do you have access to a complete list of features with an indication of those not used? Do you audit the degree to which the IT potential is used? New technologies may be tempting, but it pays off to check what you already have before buying yet another upgrade or new software.
  1. Generating or copying ideas
It is commonly believed that innovators are incredibly creative and inventive. This is not exactly the truth. Talented leaders observe, get inspired, adjust the best innovations to the needs of the organization. Benchmarking, one of the standard management tools, is a practice of comparing own business processes to best practices from other companies. There is nothing wrong with being encouraged by other people’s ideas—a common practice for artists, large corporations, and governments. Provided that you do not violate intellectual property rights or copy someone else’s idea, using other people’s experiences is a normal thing to do.
  1. Going beyond the limitations
“But” is a word that can nip any idea in the bud. Leaders often hear “but we are short of money, but we do not have time, but we will not make it, but we don’t know how.” Getting rid of these limitations mentally and focusing on looking for solutions is an invaluable trait that requires a pinch of stubbornness, self-confidence, and the energy to make the changes happen. Healthcare is a sector with numerous legal, financial, organizational limitations. Many of them serve as an excuse not to launch a new online platform for patients or implement a clinical decision support system. But trying to play it safe means you lose opportunities.
  1. Digitization is not the goal
IT systems are not implemented to have a new solution in a hospital. The goal of digitization is not to make a healthcare facility digitalized. Digitization requires a clearly defined goal, and IT systems are just a tool used to achieve it. Healthcare facilities often implement electronic medical records just to make documentation digital rather than improve the organization’s workflow, make documentation more accessible, and enhance the quality of patient care. Which processes should be optimized? Does the priority lie in improving the safety of data? How can a new IT system reduce the time dedicated to administrative actions? When you only think about technology, the implemented solution just reinforces old problems.