Maximizing the ROI of investments in healthcare digital transformation tools
There’s more than just money on the line when healthcare organizations choose their technology partners. New health IT tools frequently bring disruption to workflows and experiences – and it’s a CIO’s job to ensure that the disruption is beneficial instead of otherwise.
In a panel discussion at ViVE 2022 in Miami Beach, CIOs and venture experts shared their strategies for identifying promising health IT solutions, measuring the value of potential partners, and fitting new tools into existing health IT ecosystems.
Build or buy tools?
To identify the right opportunities, leaders must look at their organization’s existing strengths, weaknesses, and workflow gaps.
“Even if you have a large platform EHR, there are typically nooks and crannies where systems don’t function well or can’t talk to each other,” said Dr. Neal Patel, Chief Information Officer at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. “We try to solve those problems by finding an interesting startup or developing our own tools, if that’s a viable path to finding the right solution.”
Aaron Martin, EVP and Chief Digital Officer at Providence Health in Washington State, takes a similar approach. “We start off with a prioritized set of opportunities to move the needle. Then, we ask if we already own a potential solution. If not, we scan the marketplace for companies that are working on the problem. If we don’t have it and can’t find it out there, we will develop it ourselves in our Venture Studio.”
“Most health systems are fundamentally fighting the same battles and looking for similar solutions,” he continued. “That creates opportunities for these companies to establish themselves in the larger market, which is valuable for all of us.”
Ensuring shared value in a crowded marketplace of ideas
Venture investors and product purchasers alike need to be clear about any new tool’s purpose and potential value, said Tressa Springmann, Senior Vice President and Chief Information and Digital Officer at LifeBridge Health.
“When looking for potential companies to work with, both parties must be transparent and upfront about what the partnership will look like, how it will work, and who has control over intellectual property,” she asserted. “Getting that on the table early is critical, because not knowing everything is a risk that healthcare systems can’t afford to take.”
Hard data can mitigate those risks to some extent, commented Martin. “I won’t let a team start a pilot unless they have a clear line of sight into key performance metrics,” he said. “Just saying ‘we talked to some people and it sounds like it’s working’ isn’t good enough. Meaningful data helps us course correct before it’s too late.”
Healthcare organizations must also look at the idea of “value” from multiple perspectives, Patel added. “As a CIO, I’m not just looking for something that will make workflows easier. I need to invest in products that will reduce our overall technical debt.”
“Is there something else I can turn off because this is better? Better yet, are there two things I can get rid of? We can’t just keep accumulating things – we have to reduce underlying burdens and ongoing maintenance costs. The best investments check all of those boxes.”
Managing disruption to achieve long-term ROI
Disruption is a frequent byproduct of implementing new solutions, even when that new tool is intended to improve workflows and experiences. When discontent is a possibility, a champion for change can be key for a successful implementation that leads to lasting ROI, said Springmann.
“Changing the status quo usually comes with a cost,” she acknowledged. “But if you make a change that people can get behind, the cost isn’t as high. If you have an incredibly enthusiastic internal stakeholder and you believe in their ability to successfully champion change, it can make the process must smoother so you can see faster, better returns.”
“Whether you’re building a tool from scratch or partnering with a developer, it’s always important to engage your stakeholders and get their feedback so that you can be confident in your decision making and achieve the ultimate goals you have in mind.”
Read more of our ViVE event coverage:
- Empowering nurses to lead healthcare’s digital revolution
- ONC’s 2022 agenda focuses on interoperability to enable the greater good
- How to move beyond cybersecurity compliance in healthcare? Focus on clinician workflows
- In a COVID-19 world, digital transformation of the workforce goes beyond clinical tools
- Embedding DEI initiatives into healthcare talent recruitment
- Building virtual care infrastructure begins with removal of perceived barriers
- Sutter Health staying agile to improve patient experience with digital automation
- Mayo Clinic is using AI to solve the unstructured data problem for all
Jennifer Bresnick is a journalist and freelance content creator with a decade of experience in the health IT industry. Her work has focused on leveraging innovative technology tools to create value, improve health equity, and achieve the promises of the learning health system.