When it comes to increasing innovativeness in healthcare, the first thing that comes to mind is a costly investment in breakthrough technologies: next-generation medtech, even more sophisticated IT infrastructure or most advanced digital platforms for patients.
However, due to financial constraints, not all facilities can afford to buy top-class solutions, employ medical information chief officers or culture change advisors. But groundbreaking changes may start with small initiatives, which over time will have a positive impact on the operations of the whole facility.
- The roadmap of transformation
Change starts at the highest level of an organization. Therefore, the management needs to have a clear vision of the digital transformation of a health care facility – not only in mind but in the form of a strategy developed and shared with all workers, broken down into the most important milestones to be completed within a pre-defined time frame.
The vision mentioned above must include a strategy for the integration of IT systems and solutions available in order to merge the patient’s paths into one coherent pathway, in accordance with the concept of coordinated care. It requires focus on interoperability and cybersecurity, a modular approach towards digital development and the utilization of available data in administrative and clinical analyses.
Managers should be up to date with current trends and follow the changing expectations of patients and medical staff. This is especially true since the COVID-19 pandemic has significantly changed how health services are provided, accelerating the adoption of telehealth and telecare. Surprisingly, due to the 2021 Healthcare CEO Future Pulse report by KPMG, most managers are aware of the ongoing transformation but do not adapt to them.
- Doctors and nurses as innovators
The competencies and engagement of employees, not technical equipment, are critical for enhancing the culture of innovation. Updating medical knowledge is vital. But in the digital era, it is equally important to hone the ability to use new technologies. The development of IT systems implemented in a facility should be treated as a never-ending process.
Is there a chief digital doctor and nurse in your organization?
Systems must be regularly reviewed, evaluated and updated to address the bottlenecks in the organization. Nobody has more knowledge about what is lacking, what goes wrong and what changes could boost the workflow than frontline workers. Nevertheless, few medical has identified chief digital physician and chief digital nurse. Not every facility needs CMIO – Chief Medical Information Officer and experts in this field are hard to find.
It’s like a head doctor and head nurse but responsible for digital-related topics. In every hospital, there are early adopters of medical technologies who can take the lead. They collect feedback from healthcare workers, recognize disruptions and bottlenecks in the existing process and discuss necessary changes with management. Chief digital physicians and nurses are bridges between healthcare professionals and management.
- CMIO and change management
Still, a worth considering solution is to appoint a Chief Medical Informatics Officer (CMIO), a person responsible for supporting the effective design, implementation and use of medical technologies in a given health care facility. Such a person combines the competencies of the IT department with medical competencies since the simple division following the principle of “the IT department deals with information technology and doctors deal with medicine” no longer applies to contemporary digital healthcare.
Even though CMIOs are hard to find on the market, they are becoming necessary in healthcare organizations like hospitals in order to bridge medicine with technology. Each doctor needs to have at least basic digital health literacy. Similarly, each IT specialist in a healthcare organization needs to know the workflows, patient journey, and processes involved in clinical decision-making.
The tasks of a CMIO include determining the digitization strategy, improving digital literacy among staff, organizing workshops, building a digital competitive advantage, as well as developing and implementing subsequent elements of the IT system.
- Better workflow, enhanced evidence-based medicine
When technological innovations are integrated into an old and inefficient structure, it can result in enormous investment costs without any benefits. The correct sequence is to review all bottlenecks in the workflows and study patient journey first and then plan reorganization supported by IT.
It’s often neglected to analyze which administrative actions need really to be taken by a doctor and which can be automated or transferred to other staff. Yet, different studies demonstrate that doctors still spent one-third of patient visit time on administrative tasks. Work efficiency when staffing shortages are exacerbated will be increasingly important.
Many new tools can contribute to improving access to information – for example, clinical decision support systems, even if it is just one computer where clinical staff can get familiar with the latest studies to make the best treatment decisions.
Whether staff catch the innovation bug or not depends on the leadership, a clearly defined digital strategy, and the ability to manage change. A culture of innovation is not easy to create. Still, once it’s established, everybody benefits – patients get high-quality care and healthcare professionals enjoy working in a well-organized healthcare facility with less frustration.