What disrupts or facilitates the deployment of digital health?

August 8, 2022
Implementing an IT system, a new function or a mobile application requires an analysis of frequently invisible but powerful determinants of digitalization. Some of these are beyond the managers' control, for example, the structure of the healthcare system, service reimbursement rules, availability of digitally skilled staff and data exchange infrastructure. Therefore, we will focus only on internal determinants.
  1. Strategy and data architecture
The digitalization strategy establishes a framework for the implementation of subsequent IT projects, ensuring their consistency over time. Healthcare facilities are swamped with offers of new systems and applications often offered by startups. However, buying them in a chaotic way does more harm than good. A manager is responsible for guarding the interoperability of systems and data – they are crucial for creating an ecosystem prioritizing a seamless data flow. When an organization has several or even more systems and applications that cannot be merged (different manufacturers, different standards), there is only one solution – replacement with an integrated system. The experience shows that a lack of interoperability is a silent killer of work efficiency, which is developed over time thanks to the flow of information between different system elements. There is a sentence that I repeat many times: "many strategies fail because they are not actually strategies."
  1. Leadership & internal policies
Digitalization is as vital as an HR policy and maintaining the entity's financial liquidity. Without such a mind shift, a healthcare facility will constantly struggle to meet deadlines for implementing elements of the e-health infrastructure. And this is a real problem, as delays create pressure, which generates an atmosphere of forcing changes, discouraging rather than motivating staff. Not every manager needs to be an e-health expert straight away, and following all the latest trends makes no sense. But healthcare managers should be "ambassadors of changes" that make the staff's work easier, improve the patient appointment experience, and increase the quality of health services and patient outcomes. And without digitalization, achieving these goals at some point faces an insurmountable barrier.
  1. Trust and commitment
There is a wide-ranging discussion about instilling trust in digital health solutions, but few know how to approach it. Why? Trust consists of hundreds of small, interrelated elements, including a manager's authority, data security level, internal communication standards in the healthcare facility, transparency of decisions, co-determination, team relations, etc. It is absolutely right to say that " culture eats strategy (and technology) for breakfast" – only innovations that gain trust are willingly and creatively used. Besides, staff engagement arises from the inclusion of every team member in the process of improving working procedures. John P. Kotter, the change management guru, rightly said that digital transformation is a team task and not a process that is decided behind the closed doors of the managers' office.
  1. Respecting the needs of every team member
An open organizational culture seeks to understand, support and enable the development of every employee. For some, digitalization is about making work easier and more efficient, while others are concerned about keeping their position or the necessity to work overtime entering data. Employees should know they can count on understanding and support when they have doubts regarding technology. A survey conducted by Deloitte and the Billie Jean King Leadership Initiative (BJKLI) shows that 80 percent of employees mention a so-called inclusive workplace culture as an essential factor in their choice of employer. It also determines employee turnover, job satisfaction and performance. In addition, employees feel comfortable in an organization when their personal advancement is supported. Some physicians quickly adapt to innovations in their work, while others need additional hours of training. Continuous IT training further supports an innovative organizational culture, attracts new talent, provides prospects for growth and stability, and ultimately facilitates the implementation of further solutions. All these factors are difficult to shape overnight. However, it is not about looking for a simple solution, but being aware of their importance.
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