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Overcoming 3 common digital transformation pitfalls

Digital transformation efforts can fail to meet expectations if they don’t align with business goals, lay out an implementation strategy, or address cultural change. Here’s how to stay on track.
By admin
Mar 3, 2022, 10:00 AM

It’s no secret that healthcare looks dramatically different in March 2022 than it did in March 2020. A recent survey from the financial adviser BDO found that 60% of healthcare organizations have initiated new digital projects since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, while 42% are accelerating some or even all of their existing digital transformation plans. 

Organizations should tread carefully, though. As a Deloitte analysis points out, yesterday’s technology initiatives, such as electronic health record or artificial intelligence adoption, were largely functional changes. Digital transformation, on the other hand, also requires reframing business models amid evolving customer preferences.

Related story: Part 2 – Meeting the needs of end-users during digital transformation

That puts pressure on health system leadership to get digital transformation right. This piece is the first in a three-part series exploring how to effectively manage digital transformation. We start with a look at common pitfalls associated with business goals and cultural change, while part two considers the clinical and patient experience and part three examines how to set goals and measure progress.

The most common pitfall organizations face is adopting technology without answering three key questions: 

  • How does the technology align with overall business goals?
  • What implementation strategies are necessary to get the technology up and running?
  • How will this technology change work culture, both across the organization and within the impacted business units?

As with any large-scale initiative, an executive champion for digital transformation plays a critical role. A supportive voice in executive- and board-level conversations helps leaders see how the business will benefit from digital transformation and underscores that it’s not just the typical IT project. In addition, the influence of a C-level champion helps secure staff and funding, which ensures that the teams executing the initiative have enough resources to keep digital transformation on track.

Staying on track can be a challenge, as the impact and value proposition of digital transformation is measured in years. Telehealth is a case in point. As the BDO survey pointed out, organizations that were quick to adopt telehealth in 2020 are now shifting their focus to improving technology infrastructure to better support telehealth and optimizing telehealth workflows. Neither can happen overnight.

One important strategy for keeping long-term initiatives focused is to set specific, measurable, and realistic goals, and to revisit and refine these goals on a regular basis. That way, Deloitte points out, the organization realizes value at each step and isn’t waiting until an initiative is fully complete before measuring ROI. Rather than treating digital transformation as a marathon, organizations should view it as a relay race consisting of many short sprints.

Setting many small milestones also helps to mitigate the cultural impact of digital transformation. As Harvard Business Review notes, healthcare is a knowledge-intensive industry, not just in care delivery but also in areas such as patient flow, operations, and resource management. Frequent and transparent communication as digital transformation milestones are hit, from executives as well as business unit leaders, will boost buy-in and ease the organization’s transition to digitization. 


Brian Eastwood is a Boston-based writer with more than 10 years of experience covering healthcare IT and healthcare delivery. He also writes about enterprise IT, consumer technology, and corporate leadership.

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