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Here’s a step-by-step approach to tackling digital transformation in healthcare

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For hospitals facing the challenges of meeting consumer demand and making their care processes more efficient, digital transformation can seem like a daunting effort. One way to approach the process is to think of it in stages, similar to how climbers map out the ascent of a challenging cliff. Expert climbers use an approach called “chunking,” which breaks down the journey into manageable steps or “chunks” rather than planning the unfathomable climb all at once. This practice is depicted in the documentary, “The Dawn Wall,” where professional climbers Tommy Caldwell and Kevin Jorgeson plan and successfully scale what seems an impossible route  – the 3,000-foot El Capitan in Yosemite, California.

Healthcare leaders need little reminding that investing in digital health has become an urgent priority — with care staff burned out from the pandemic, a national nursing shortage looming, and consumers increasingly expecting a modern, digital experience across care settings. This environment offers many opportunities for improving care as well as the provider and patient experience, but it also comes with several challenges. Like the climbing route Tommy Caldwell pioneered on El Capitan, no template exists for transforming the digital health experience. This is new ground for the industry, and organizations need a structured approach. Chunking it down into steps can make this easier.

After many conversations with hospital leaders discussing their struggles with digital transformation, I realized that healthcare providers need a step-by-step guide to plan their digital health strategy. I created a Maturity Model that aims to chunk the process into seven stages, hoping to offer a template providers could adapt to make their own:

  1. The maturity model defines “patient engagement” as the basic first step toward creating a digital patient experience. This typically includes things like SMS messaging or simple email outreach to influence certain actions, like an appointment or instructions for an upcoming video call.
  2. “Enhanced patient engagement” can make this more useful and actionable, using intelligent, responsive technologies like chat bots to allow for two-way actions. Tactics like these have seen wide adoption by the industry to date. But to make the experience seamless and avoid fragmenting the patient’s perspective with siloed methods of outreach, providers need…
  3. “Automated care journeys” that make the patient experience a cohesive, sequenced progression. The next step in the flow can originate from a variety of sources  — from the patient’s response to SMS outreach, or, alternatively, triggered by an EHR update made by a provider. This relieves the burden on care teams to handle the many administrative tasks in the care process.
  4. “Adaptive care journeys” offer the next level of automation to be flexible and customizable based on a patient’s risks and preferences. This level of personalization creates “sticky” experiences that encourage more meaningful engagement from patients and increases their likelihood of completing again.
  5. “Coordinated care journeys” are focused on automatically assigning the next steps to providers in a more efficient way, so they act at the right time for each patient.
  6. To further optimize how the care team uses their time and skills, “enhanced coordinated care journeys” deploy AI algorithms to provide decision support tools that complement the knowledge of providers and offer members of the care team the right relevant information precisely when they need it.
  7. Finally, “fully orchestrated care journeys” leverage the EHR to proactively coordinate and automate care across the organization, different care settings, and different patient populations or conditions. With end-to-end automation, both providers and patients experience a continuous, streamlined digital care experience.

A recent survey my company conducted revealed that 78 percent of the organizations we spoke to stated they were only in the early stages of digital experience transformation (stages 0 to 2), with the majority in stage 1. However, a majority (67 percent) indicated plans to make digital investments to reach stages 3 to 6 over the next two years.

Many organizations, faced with the challenges of the pandemic, have had to deploy makeshift or improvised platforms to get patients back into the clinic and keep operating. But moving forward, competing on a digital care landscape will take more than custom-made point solutions in silos. To truly transform the digital care experience and extend it across care settings, providers should chunk the process into achievable steps that support the organization’s goals.

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