by Justin Gernot, Vice President, Healthbox

This month marks my 21st year in healthcare. When I started, providers shook up their markets with “big iron” being lifted by crane into the hospital or by building a new tower full of beds. All of those CT scanners, surgical robots, and single-patient rooms were arriving to improve care and take market share. In the past, one new piece of equipment or one new building offered the path to growth; the experience in the hospital was what mattered. Now is different. Now, we need our patient experience to be in the exam room and in the cloud, more tech-enabled and simple versus tech-heavy and costly. That seamless digital experience which consumers have come to expect requires providers to align, plan, and execute in very new and different ways. Strategies need to go digital.

Consider the patient- or consumer-facing technologies that many have already stood up or built. Patient portals have been modest successes for most organizations. The wait times posted on billboards are well received and new websites draw positive attention. Yet plenty of room for improvement exists and significant change is needed to reach an organization’s goals of increasing share, improving patient and provider experience, reducing costs, or improving quality. Communicating with a patient’s family during surgery, effectively moving care to the home, delivering a billing experience that works? These routine parts of the patient experience typically aren’t up to par with the excellent care so many organizations provide. The negative reviews associated with “the process” can overshadow the life-saving and life-changing care patients receive. And when leaders or clinicians bring up these problems along with potential solutions to colleagues, they’re told to get in line. “The capital process starts in a few months,” “Be sure to write up a solid justification,” and “Isn’t that already included in the EMR?” are all too familiar responses. It’s hard for organizations to agree on which problems should win out, let alone secure the capital, consensus, and people needed to act on the solutions presented — until a competitor figures it out, and the first organization concedes market share as it scrambles to play catch up.

With new competitors and technologies dominating the headlines (and soon, many markets), leading providers are recognizing the need for a digital strategy to accelerate growth and create new business models. They’re defining broad digital strategies for themselves and working across functions to get it all done. An effective digital strategy aligns leaders and clinicians, includes meaningful input from patients and family caregivers, and provides a comprehensive view of competitive dynamics at the local and national level.

A digital strategy isn’t about trying on point solutions and a portfolio of disparate apps; a digital strategy requires collaboration and research to create an actionable vision that supports enterprise strategy and is executed over the course of several years.

Six Elements of an Actionable Digital Strategy

  1. Decide on core processes to improve (e.g. the patient journey) and find the internal partners to take them on.
  2. Fall in love with the problems and diagnose them with leaders and clinicians across the organization. Don’t skip ahead to the solutions just yet.
  3. Engage the patients – and the competitors’ patients – for additional insights.
  4. See what leading organizations have done.
  5. Hold off on vendor conversations until there’s agreement on which problems to solve.
  6. Make a plan and execute on the projects to deliver it.

Creating a digital strategy can dramatically accelerate the improvements in the experience, cost, and quality of care in a way that transforms the organization into the provider – and employer – of choice. An effective digital strategy directly supports achieving the enterprise’s goals.  And fortunately, it’s neither as expensive as an EHR or a new bed tower nor as all-consuming as M&A. But a digital strategy is very necessary and, for most health systems, overdue.


Healthbox Digital Strategy with Hospital Sisters Health System: Learn more about how digital strategy helped Hospital Sisters Health System understand and address the needs of their patients, physicians, and colleagues across all of their locations and geographic regions.

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Health Systems are Overdue for Digital Strategy


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