Effective digital transformation needs careful strategizing

Health systems have “been investing in a lot of digital health solutions over the last few years,” Paddy Padmanabhan, CEO of Damo Consulting, said with a bit of understatement.

But it’s not always readily apparent whether those investments are the right ones, or were done at the right time, or were implemented optimally to work in tandem with other digital technologies.

Oftentimes, “these efforts have been somewhat isolated,” said Padmanabhan. “You have an executive who is driving, let’s say, online engagement with patients. And that executive takes the initiative to go out and invest in some tools, build out a couple of programs and offer the solution – offer virtual consults or a remote monitoring capability or a chatbot capability, things like that.

“But over time, especially as we’ve seen during the course of the pandemic, a lot of these investments have happened without really a very structured and thoughtful approach to building an enterprise roadmap,” he said.

At HIMSS22 next week, in a session with Dr. Nick Patel, chief digital officer at Greenville, South Carolina-based Prisma Health, Padmanabhan and Patel will explain how they’re working together to do just that – devise and follow a digital health roadmap to help ensure software investments are made prudently, and with an eye-toward achieving strategic objectives.

With help from Damo Consulting, Prisma Health is pursuing a phased approach to digital transformation that started with a clear-eyed assessment of its existing digital maturity, benchmarked against its health system peers. That helped identify gaps and opportunities for where technology investments might be prioritized most effectively.

Damo developed a four-stage model to help gauge a provider’s place on the continuum of front-end and back-end digital transformation.

At the most basic level one, the health system is still using its electronic health record for its primary platform for digital engagement.

The next step up, level two, finds digital initiatives focused on expanding virtual care – going “beyond the EHR to look at best-in-class tools specifically for digital front doors and those kinds of initiatives,” Padmanabhan explains. “But it’s a CIO running the show both for digital and for technology.”

By level three, providers have experience with stand-alone digital health functions. “Typically a health system will appoint an executive to drive digital, or hire a chief digital officer; maybe that executive has a few other responsibilities like remote monitoring, virtualization – it’s typically focused on the patient and care.

And at the top, level four, the health system has a strategic plan for comprehensive multi-year investments and deployments on the front and the back end, including “a handful of strategic technology partnerships, advanced data and analytics, a dedicated full-time chief digital officer, reporting up into the CEO.”

Using that approach, Prisma Health was able over a period of months to determine near- and medium-term priorities for where its digital health tools could be best implemented to meet its goals.

It developed what it calls a Virtual Hub model as a centralized driver for an array of different telehealth and virtual care programs: remote monitoring and home health, virtual primary care and specialty care, acute and post-acute care, and more.

At HIMSS22, Padmanabhan and Patel will help guide other health systems as they seek ways to track their digital maturity and develop a long-term strategic roadmap. They’ll offer advice on identifying stakeholder needs and preferences for phased implementations, and give tips on designing an organization model and governance framework for digital transformation programs.

At Prisma Health, meanwhile, the work continues.

“This is an ongoing process,” said Padmanabhan. “At the end of the day, digital transformation is a multi-year journey that is going to require a lot of technology investment, a lot of process changes, a lot of organizational change management and more. But first, you’ve got to have a vision for how you want to get from point A to point B.”

Patel and Padmanabhan’s HIMSS22 session, “Developing a Digital Road Map,” is scheduled for Thursday, March 17, from 11:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m., in Room WF3.

Twitter: @MikeMiliardHITN
Email the writer: [email protected]

Healthcare IT News is a HIMSS publication.

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