What are the four key learnings in digital transformation? A clinical leader in the space reveals
Prior to joining HealthHub as our Chief Transformation Officer, Peter Varga spent over 25 years as a registered nurse in many positions from bedside care to Chief Nursing Executive.During this time, Peter drove many digital initiatives, recognizing the value that digital health solutions have to offer. In this conversation, Peter shares insights and ideas around digital health technology and tips for implementing a digital transformation strategy.
Talk about your firsthand experience with digital transformation. Why did you choose to embark on a journey of digital transformation?
From my early days as an ICU nurse and through my experiences as a manager, director, and vice president, I have participated in and led many digital initiatives that contribute to digital transformation. I have seen how technology continues to positively impact processes and outcomes and so, for me, there’s always been a comfort with technology and digital solutions.
As the regional director of the Chronic Kidney Disease Program with Grand River Hospital, for example, I saw firsthand the benefits that came with the introduction of a middleware program to automatically upload EMR information into a reporting system. The implementation of this solution saved over $100,000 in funding and reduced thousands of nursing hours that were required to manually upload the data. This digital implementation also gave us 100% confidence in our data as it was coming directly from the EMR, and any potential discrepancies could be flagged by algorithms.
During my time at Headwaters Health Care Centre, I was involved in the CARE4 project focused on aligning 4 hospitals to one instance of Meditech Expanse. This transformation had massive implications for workflow and processes and required a fluid change management strategy.
New technology and digital health solutions can streamline costs and bring a higher level of quality, value and experience for our clinicians and patients, especially as we need to find new and innovative ways to do more with less.
Why is now the right time to invest in digital health technology/digital transformation?
Healthcare has fallen behind most industries in terms of their adoption of digital solutions and is missing so many opportunities that would improve quality of care, work life for staff and the overall experience for patients and families. As the world of healthcare evolves, the populations we serve change and technologies rapidly advance, our legacy models of care will continue to be challenged.
Digital transformation takes time and money. Although the upfront cost of digital transformation may seem daunting, the initial investment must be made to see future returns. Given the uncertainty of markets, hospitals that begin the process sooner guard themselves against unforeseen increases in the cost of borrowing.
Who has the potential to benefit from digital health technology?
All end users have the potential to benefit from digital health technology.
The term “digital health technology” covers a range of many products and services which collectively become part of digital transformation in healthcare. Virtual visits, geolocation for clinics, online registrations, modern EMRs, analytics, and chatbot solutions, to name a few, only scratch the surface of the available technologies which together, can help to advance the healthcare industry as a whole.
These tools can improve communication between patients and their loved ones to help them convalesce comfortably and remain connected. Communication between multiple healthcare providers can also be enhanced thanks to the provision of full and accurate information that digital health solutions can offer.
Through the streamlining of manual, clumsy processes, digital health technology introduces long-term cost savings and enables healthcare professionals to focus more on patient care and less on administrative tasks. For those responsible for managing and administering hospital services, they can benefit from real-time data and valuable insights provided by tools from which they can learn to improve their services.
Ultimately, the benefits of digital health solutions can transform the way we provide healthcare today and would be reaped by all.
What are three critical components of digital health solutions, in your opinion?
Firstly, I would argue that regardless of the digital health technology being introduced, if a hospital does not focus carefully on change management, the digital transformation will not be successful. In terms of the technology itself, though, there are more than just three critical components, but I would look for something that is reliable, simple and agnostic.
Reliable: It is critical that technology does what it is supposed to do. If it doesn’t, the team will revert to their legacy processes which could be extremely difficult if those are gone. Downtime, glitches and incompatibilities are unacceptable.
Simple: Each organization faces a different level of comfort/maturity with technology amongst their teams. An excellent, simple user interface and user experience is therefore critical in digital solutions. End users will appreciate more intuitive solutions, encouraging usage and leading to an improvement in services as expected.
Agnostic: It is beneficial to work with a digital health solution that is agnostic in its design and allows a hospital to get the most out of their investments. This is superior to a solution that requires the hospital to adopt the lowest common denominator of an offering and leaves the end users wanting more.
Conclusively, the ideal digital health solution offers simple, customizable tech that works.
Having experienced digital transformation and understanding the capabilities that digital health solutions offer, Peter’s outlook on the state of the healthcare industry in a digital world is positive. The hesitancy to adopt digital solutions has caused the healthcare industry to lag other industries in their ability to capitalize on the opportunities that technology provides. It is not, however, too late. There is no time like the present to begin your digital transformation and meet the needs of the community you serve.