Getting ahead with digital transformation in healthcare

Blue and green vector design depicting heart rate on a tech background.

The healthcare sector, historically burdened by fragmented structures and manual procedures, has recently undergone a significant shift due to the COVID-19 pandemic, spurred by new technological advancements. Despite these advancements, only a fraction of healthcare organizations have fully embraced digital transformation.

It’s in the interest of healthcare organizations to invest fully in digital transformation or risk being left behind. In this piece, we’re going to explore the impact that new technologies and a cultural shift can have on digital transformation healthcare operations, along with the challenges that may be encountered.

The current state of digital transformation in healthcare

Digital transformation in the healthcare sector was, until recently, moving at a steady pace. However, the pandemic accelerated this technological evolution significantly. Virtual appointments, for example, became part of the “new normal,” a development that has reduced in-patient visits significantly.

The use of collaboration platforms has also risen, allowing healthcare professionals to share information and communicate from anywhere. Meanwhile, there has been a shift to the cloud for the storage of digital health records, which in turn has increased the need for stringent data security measures. But despite these changes, only 12% of healthcare organizations have achieved complete digital transformation – though 99% acknowledge its necessity (Salesforce, 2023).

As is the case in many industries, AI has already left its mark on healthcare. With the ability to analyze medical images and patient data, these solutions have been proven to help detect health issues earlier and with greater accuracy than had previously been possible. The use of AI in diagnosis is helping patients to receive medical interventions sooner, thus leading to better treatment outcomes.

On the administrative side, automation has meant the reduction of manual procedures that once consumed a lot of resources and employee time. This gives time back to healthcare providers so they’re able to focus on patient care instead.

However, the adoption of new technologies in healthcare is far from standardised. At this stage, a hybrid model that combines traditional and digital healthcare delivery methods is the most common. Around 57% of healthcare organizations are working in this way, which is projected to grow to 63% by 2023. The reality is, digital transformation in healthcare still has a long way to go (Salesforce, 2023).

Medical infographics on patient data

Benefits and challenges of digital transformation in healthcare

Digital transformation brings big advantages to healthcare organizations. However, it's not all smooth sailing, as several challenges frequently arise. Let’s start with the benefits first.

Benefits of digital transformation in healthcare

Improved data management: With digital transformation comes improved accessibility and accuracy of essential data. Electronic health records and advanced analytics tools give healthcare providers a clearer view of patient information, aiding their decision-making and thereby improving patient care.

Lowered operational costs: Automating tasks like appointment scheduling and billing brings substantial money savings. Healthcare organizations no longer have to rely so heavily on manual labor to complete these tasks, reducing operational costs and freeing up resources to be allocated to more important aspects of patient care.

Workflow efficiency: Maximum operational efficiency can be realized through the introduction of automated workflows. Tasks that once took hours now can be completed in a fraction of the time, with minimal manual intervention. Scattered processes are streamlined and errors are significantly reduced.

When implementing digital transformation in healthcare, be prepared for these common challenges.

Challenges of digital transformation in healthcare

Data security: The digitization of patient health records does have ramifications on data security. This is compounded by a prevalence of poor adherence to security measures, with 22% of healthcare organizations reporting lax protocols (Heidrick & Struggles, 2021). Protecting patient data is a legal and moral priority that demands investment in strong data security.

Integration complexity: Healthcare organizations usually have existing legacy software that can be incompatible with new technology solutions. Merging disparate systems is a project that’s riddled with complications and can require a lot of time, money, and expertise to resolve.

Resistance to change: Introducing new technology and ways of working can trigger pushback from employees. A cultural shift is needed to make digital transformation a success, a feat which is attainable through strong leadership, clear communication, and extensive training.

Strategies for effective digital transformation in healthcare

These steps can help to make a success of digital transformation in the healthcare industry.

1.) Incorporate AI and machine learning: Eliminate inefficiencies and streamline processes by employing AI and machine learning technologies in healthcare operations. Research shows that integrating AI and speech recognition software enables healthcare providers to record patient information at the time of care, reducing documentation time by 45%. This signifies the remarkable impact AI can have on efficiency and, consequently, the quality of patient care.

2.) Data management: Integrate data sources with the goal of increasing the interoperability of information between healthcare systems. Along with secure data management, interoperability is vital to gain clear insight into patient data, make informed decisions, and coordinate care among providers. However, as of this year, only 38% of healthcare organizations have attained full integration.

3.) Change management strategies: A transition to digital procedures will be easier with the use of change management strategies to nurture a culture that welcomes innovation. Focus on stakeholder engagement, clear communication, and active leadership to handle any turbulence that arises through digital transformation.

4.) Training and development for healthcare professionals: Introducing new technologies without investing in the training and upskilling of healthcare workers is the biggest culprit for resistance to change. Training programs should be comprehensive and ongoing, so as to equip workers with the requisite skills and knowledge to handle new tools and procedures effectively.

The future of digital transformation in healthcare

The technologies below are among the most prevalent of the cutting-edge technologies at the forefront of digital transformation in healthcare.

Telemedicine: Remote consultations, diagnostics, and patient monitoring are reimagining healthcare services. Telehealth advancements are expected to continue and gain more widespread adoption in the coming years.

Blockchain technology: The decentralized structure of blockchain has the potential to revolutionize medical records management. It’s tamper-resistant and eliminates the need for a single person or organization to manage and check records, improving the interoperability of patient data across healthcare systems.

Personalized medicine: The aim of personalized medicine is to deliver more effective treatments with fewer side effects. This is made possible by advances in genomic research and precision medicine which are set to tailor medicine to individuals based on their unique genetic makeup.

Consumer expectations and healthcare technology

As healthcare technology evolves, so do patient expectations. People are increasingly seeking convenient, accessible, and personalized healthcare experiences, moving away from outdated websites and phone booking procedures in favor of user-friendly interfaces and mobile apps.

The regulatory landscape

The requirements of local laws have impacted the need and urgency for digital transformation in healthcare. Compliance with regulations like GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) in the EU or HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) in the US, is essential to avoid damaging repercussions. Healthcare organizations are increasingly adopting technologies that simplify compliance with these laws and protect patient data.

Ethical considerations

As the healthcare industry goes through this period of digital transformation, ethical standards must be diligently maintained. This requires striking a delicate balance between progress and moral responsibilities, ensuring technological advancements serve the greater good without compromising patient safety and trust.

Transform healthcare operations with Enate

Enate’s end-to-end workflow platform addresses the need in healthcare for streamlined processes. It integrates seamlessly with your current tech stack, enabling you to create, manage, and track workflows in a unified platform. Identify opportunities for automation and use advanced data analytics for real-time insights into operations to attain unmatched efficiency. Enate facilitates digital transformation in healthcare for the benefit of both your workforce and the quality of service you provide to patients.

Zell is a Head of Content with over a decade of experience in copywriting, brand storytelling, PR and SEO. She has worked both agency side and in-house for brands ranging from speciality coffee to cosmetics. In her current role at Enate, Zell is responsible for distilling complex tech concepts into language users understand and resonate with, writing AI and orchestration content and generally being the go-to person for anything involving copy.
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Zell Dello Ioio