Healthbox Virtual Forum Reflections

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Last month, Healthbox held two virtual forum events focused on digital transformation and converting opportunities into outcomes. While I sincerely missed getting to spend the day with attendees in person like normal years, this think-tank style event for fellow health system executive attendees to learn from peers and experts did not disappoint.

With over 25 digital health and innovation leaders, each session was full of energy and learnings for how to take action on digital healthcare transformation. The event was led by speakers Anne Snowdon, RN, PhD, FAAN, director of clinical research, HIMSS and Julie Campbell, director, Healthbox and included fascinating panel discussions with Sara Vaezy, chief digital strategy and business development officer, Providence St. Joseph Health; Amy Trainor, vice president, clinical systems, Ochsner Health; and Betty Jo Rocchio, chief nursing officer, Mercy.

The sessions started by level-setting—using the HIMSS Digital Health Indicator as the measure of a health system’s capacity and progress toward a digital health ecosystem—and discussing why digital healthcare has moved from a nice-to-have to a mission-critical element of any healthcare provider’s strategy.

At Healthbox, we believe that health systems must prioritize and excel in all four dimensions of digital health:

  1. Workforce and governance
  2. Interoperability
  3. Predictive analytics
  4. Person-enabled health

Each of these four dimensions are key to continuing progress and success in their digital healthcare transformation journey. For the many organizations that align with this perspective, questions regarding strategy and execution remain.

Where do you focus?

At Healthbox, we have long stated that you must fall in love with the problem. If you don’t begin with a problem-focused approach, you will have little success in seeing the necessary outcomes—and thus will struggle in building the case for further digital health investment.

There were three distinct, yet not conflicting perspectives from our forum sessions that I held onto.

• “What is going to kill me first? Go after that.” – Sara Vaezy, Chief Digital Strategy & Business Development Officer, Providence St. Joseph Health
• “Don’t just go after the shiny objects. If your base isn’t created well, you won’t be successful with the shiny objects in the long term anyways. Look at what [data set] you are starting from.” – Amy Trainor, Vice President, Clinical Systems, Ochsner Health
• “You can either take on the least complex or the most complex environment. We decided to attack the area where we knew we’d get the biggest bang for our buck…where the dollars come from, the perioperative space.” – Betty Jo Rocchio, Chief Nursing Officer, Mercy

The issue of competing priorities is well-known to healthcare organizations. The number of opportunities to enhance consumer and care team experience, improve quality and reduce costs makes prioritization sometimes seem like an impossible task. The guidance above from successful digital leaders is a powerful reminder to cut through the noise, choose a direction— and then act.

How do you move at the pace that is needed?

With priorities set, the next major challenge is avoiding bureaucracy and moving quickly. Digital transformation can fizzle if weighed down by committee consensus, waterfall project management, etc. An accelerated pace can be achieved with strong governance, strategic stakeholder buy-in and ongoing evaluation processes to check that metrics are moving in the desired direction.

It is critical to establish an overall digital transformation governance structure so that digital does not live in a silo separate from IT, clinical and operational decisions. As you’ll note later in this section, governance should play the critical role of direction-setting and removing barriers—but should not overly engineer the process to get to the desired outcomes. Further, the digital priorities or focus areas must be championed by clinicians and resourced by the organization. As put by Betty Jo, digital transformation should be “clinically led and operationally driven. And it has to be in that order.” Missing either of these two inputs will slow your pace.

As an industrial and systems engineer, I see the incredible value that process can have on outcomes. That said, when it comes to risk, I found Providence St. Joseph’s approach to be wise. “We try to take an objective-oriented view—as opposed to a process-oriented view—to assess risk. This has allowed for limited “governance” in the tactics being deployed [which accelerates pace] and also adds accountability to the progress being made,” Vaezy stated.

The metric-tracking and evaluation strategy you set in place should be robust enough to flag radar items—giving peace of mind that no matter the tactics being deployed, there will be an agile-approach to pivoting when needed.

How do you know that you are doing matters and is useful to your patients?

“You can’t make the shift to an outcome-based framework without very robust data infrastructure, data analytics applied to it, and digital tools provider teams need at their fingertips to engage patients very personalized way,” shared Snowdon. “You must invest in and build the foundational layers for digital healthcare to be successful in the long-run.”

Taking inspiration from outside of healthcare is a worthwhile technique to see how other industries are engaging with their consumers.

“The root of personalization is really about data and understanding all the things that are relevant to an individual… without bombarding them with everything and anything that you can possibly think of, but rather surfacing insights up to them in a personally relevant way,” said Vaezy.

“One example of this working really well is Amazon’s merchandising engine. For Amazon, they are just trying to get us to buy things. In healthcare, we have much more important objectives—to manage their health, do the right things before and after surgery, etc. We are building our version of Amazon’s merchandising engine.”

I urge healthcare systems to interrogate themselves with questions such as: What are you achieving? Is it meaningful? Is it driving, strengthening and improving health and wellness?

We all know achieving outcomes is where the future is. Do our digital health systems have the agility to shift from tracking transactions to focusing on if what they’re doing for patients matters? That is what healthcare transformation must be focused on.

The Journey to Healthcare Transformation Starts Here

Healthbox, a HIMSS Solution and healthcare advisory firm, drives innovation from the inside and out, helping organizations build internal innovation programs, assess the potential of employee-led projects, and look to the market to find solutions to implement or invest in.

Identify your organization’s strengths and opportunities to inform a comprehensive digital health strategy with the complimentary HIMSS Digital Health Indicator (DHI) Virtual Assessment.

Learn more about Healthbox’s approach to developing a digital strategy for healthcare, key considerations to mitigate inevitable challenges that arise, and examples of various types of organizations that have successfully implemented digital strategies to enhance their value and build for the future in the Healthbox Report: Enabling Digital Strategy

For more information on how Healthbox partners and guides organizations through a Digital Strategy engagement, read the Healthbox Case Study: Digital Strategy with Hospital Sisters Health System.

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