Innovation and changeDigital TransformationSix actions to help healthcare CIOs build a healthier future

Six actions to help healthcare CIOs build a healthier future

Mike Jones, Senior Research Director at Gartner, outlines how healthcare CIOs can ensure a healthy drive towards digital

Across the healthcare industry, there’s significant evidence of the drive toward digital. Healthcare providers are looking to merge technology with resources to deliver value to consumers, change experiences while in treatment, align clinical resources to best and timely use, and, more generally, shape a new future that delivers better healthcare without any guarantee of corresponding increases in budget. However, it can be difficult to know where to start when dealing with a highly politicised environment in which poor decisions can cost lives.

CIOs play a lead role in the digital transformation of healthcare, and are at the forefront of what is changing and the technology opportunities that are available. They are also responsible for ensuring that IT assets provide maximum value. In Gartner’s 2019 CIO Survey, healthcare provider CIOs report progress in their organisations’ digital maturity, while acknowledging that there’s room to grow in terms of their overall effectiveness in making digital an integral part of the business strategy and in harvesting results.

Here are six key actions that healthcare provider CIOs need to take in order to advance digital investment and business transformation:

1. Improve financial insights to better align IT capabilities

Many healthcare organisations lack visibility into the actual costs of delivering care, and this puts them in the dangerous position of making strategic changes without fully understanding their financial impact. Additionally, they often lack the mature enterprise architecture capabilities needed to identify and design solutions that can improve clinical and financial outcomes. Gartner recommends that the CIO work with the CFO and chief medical officer (CMO). The three of them can start identifying and launching a pilot around a specific use case to advance cost-accounting methodologies and system adoption. If successful, the CIO should seek to scale up the pilot across the organisation.

2. Use enterprise architecture to plan for a digital real-time health system era

In parallel, as technology becomes more critical to the success of healthcare delivery, the technology environment becomes more challenging to manage. Gartner surveys show that healthcare providers that lack a mature enterprise architecture function have more difficulty managing the transition to digital business architectures, including the real-time health system. CIOs are advised to work with managers and clinical leaders to create high-level strategies that lay out the desired future state of a real-time health system-enabled organisation.

3. Establish key performance indicators to measure digital progress

The digital era requires new metrics to assess performance, but many healthcare organisations do not have appropriate key performance indicators (KPIs) in place. Start by instituting new digital KPI measurements that reflect optimisation and transformation efforts. Also, add specific outside-in performance metrics to ensure that optimisation efforts are focused around the patient and can be linked to positive healthcare outcomes.

4. Rationalise application portfolios to create new digital value

Gartner research shows that many healthcare providers are not realising the full value of existing technology investments, such as electronic health records (EHR) and telemedicine. Therefore, the first step is to identify and evaluate the value that each application provides within the organisation. Once the evaluation stage is complete, CIOs can optimise their application portfolio using four core strategies: reducing application procurement costs, reducing application costs in IT, improving joint IT and business costs, and enabling business innovation.

5. Create new ways to assess the value of electronic health records

An EHR is seen as an essential business tool for improving quality of care, but it is also sometimes perceived as a burden on clinical productivity because it requires a much longer time frame to yield the expected ROI than initially planned. Part of the problem here is that current value models based on conventional notions of ROI do not adequately capture the full benefits of EHRs. Organisations must embrace a mindset of continual improvement with their EHRs. They should create formal processes and governance for all stakeholders to help them measure value throughout the EHR life cycle in a way that includes the impact of remediation efforts.

6. Master soft skills to drive change more effectively

Delivering digital initiatives in the politically charged and resource-constrained environment of healthcare is not just dependent on having the right IT planning. It also relies on the ability of IT leaders to inspire and persuade. CIOs should boost their competency in four areas:

  • Politics: Manage the pervasive importance of organisational politics by building strategic partnerships with other leaders.
  • Cohesion building: Target cohesion and a sense of belonging as a goal of application rationalisation, especially when also dealing with mergers, acquisitions or public health system consolidations (shared services).
  • Upward mentoring: Mentor leaders who do not know that IT has evidence-based practices (just like medicine) or who are not yet committed to following them.
  • Visual storytelling: Elevate the visual aspect of storytelling by creating more compelling and lasting mental images of pain and potential gain.

Healthcare transformation relies on the convergence of technology and people to deliver the best care to patients and drive better value. CIOs can — and should — play a starring role.

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