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Digital Maturity Is Six Steps Away. How Close Is Your Healthcare Organization?

The healthcare industry dragged sorely behind other industries in digital maturity just three years ago, according to McKinsey. Then, the pandemic shifted priorities and accelerated the progress of digital transformation by several years. No industry felt this shift as strongly as healthcare. With the rapid increase in telehealth appointments and remote care necessities, medical institutions faced the challenge of making several years’ worth of virtual enhancements in just a few months — if not sooner.

Now healthcare professionals grapple with heightened patient expectations and mass employee burnout amid The Great Resignation. And although virtual healthcare and its associated digital processes have improved since 2019, many organizations continue to face challenges associated with low levels of digital maturity. Healthcare practitioners and decision-makers must review their internal processes and forge a future-proof digital maturity strategy to address these challenges.

To start that process, let’s assess the priorities shared by digitally mature (“Optimized”) organizations and the pitfalls faced by less digitally evolved (“Limited”) enterprises.

1. Build cultures that embrace change.

Operational agility is key to adopting new technologies. But digital maturity doesn’t end with flexibility in workplace processes — it also requires a shift in workplace culture. Research suggests that digitally optimized organizations are more likely to encourage innovation among employees, with 83% of survey respondents from Optimized organizations reporting they feel supported when they test new ideas. But a paradigm shift is, of course, more complicated in practice than on paper.

Many organizations in digital limbo subscribe to the adage: “If it’s not broken, don’t fix it.” More than half of respondents in the Limited stage report that digital transformation isn’t a priority for their organization because existing processes are simply the status quo. Other common roadblocks to digital transformation include perceived reliance on legacy tools (33%) and difficulty receiving buy-in from executives (25%). These problems particularly plague the healthcare industry.

Healthcare professionals seeking to assess their organization’s digital maturity — or move the needle toward workplace change — will find that data is a valuable resource. Practitioners who track KPIs like tool performance and time spent on manual processing may reveal several organizational inefficiencies. That data can prove crucial when contending with skeptical decision-makers about adopting automated workflows and modern toolkits.

2. Prioritize eliminating paper.

For many modernized organizations, “paperwork” has a less literal meaning. More than 70% of Optimized organizations have digitized all forms and documents. That’s great news because document digitization improves security and data accuracy by eliminating human error and access vulnerabilities. Digital processing also improves the customer and employee experience, which is a pivotal component of — and reason for — digital maturity.

Limited organizations largely miss out on those benefits. More than half of Limited respondents (57%) reported that their organization’s forms and documents remain primarily paper-based. Interestingly, 62% of organizations in the very next stage of digital maturity (“Invested”) reported the opposite — that their forms and documents were largely digital. This remarkable disparity suggests that paper elimination is a critical first step to advancing digital maturation. Most organizations acknowledge that paper documents are outdated, with two-thirds of respondents indicating their organization has an initiative to eliminate physical documents altogether.

Paper is most pervasive and problematic when it comes to documents like healthcare records that require a wet signature. Thus, healthcare professionals can set actionable goals toward digital maturity by advocating for electronic health records (EHR) and other digital processing tools.

3. Focus on improving the customer experience.

During the pandemic, telehealth rose in prominence, leaving many modern patients expecting an elevated standard of digital care. Now, a majority of patients prefer digital healthcare access. According to a report from Kyruus, 60% of patients conduct their preliminary healthcare research online. Yet many healthcare organizations lag behind consumer expectations and offer lackluster online support options due to insufficient digital maturity. Worse, only 40% of Limited organizations report that customer experience is a high priority.

Deloitte reports that 92% of professionals at healthcare organizations undertaking a digital transformation cite improved patient experiences as their most desired outcome. Similarly, research found that Optimized organizations place a higher premium on customer experience and therefore find it less challenging to meet consumer expectations than Limited organizations.

Healthcare organizations that prioritize the patient experience are more likely to embrace necessary digital changes in line with evolving patient desires. To assess their organization’s commitment to high-quality patient care, practitioners can again turn to data. Healthcare professionals can glean the effectiveness of their organization’s existing technologies, workflows, and processes by tracking patient feedback.

4. Use automation to reduce busy work and turnover.

The Great Resignation has devastated healthcare. Some estimates place workforce reduction as high as 20%. As thousands of burnt-out practitioners seek other opportunities or leave the medical field entirely, decision-makers must ask themselves: How can healthcare institutions retain staff and simultaneously maintain a high level of critical care service?

Digitally mature organizations overwhelmingly find this question less troubling. Only a quarter of Optimized organizations reported employee retention as a challenge, compared to 46% of Limited enterprises. That’s because companies committed to digital transformation are more likely to address common workplace frustrations — including tedious paperwork processes and manual procedures — than Limited organizations. Eliminating workplace headaches improves the overall employee experience and reduces the likelihood of burnout.

Regardless of an institution’s perceived level of digital maturity, decision-makers ought to audit their existing workflows and determine whether automation could improve them. Effectively integrating AI and machine learning (ML) tools into workplace processes reduces repetitive tasks, allowing practitioners to deliver an elevated level of care to each patient and eliminating frustrating, manual tasks.

5. Remove technical roadblocks.

Traditional understandings of healthcare operations equate success with excess — i.e., a higher headcount means more resources, more tools translate to better workflows, and so on. But Optimized organizations are highly skilled in accomplishing more with less. All respondents from Optimized companies reported using one tool, or a set of well-integrated tools, to automate their workflows. Meanwhile, Limited organizations often contend with clunky legacy tools. These enterprises would benefit from conducting frequent tech stack audits, streamlining integrations and prioritizing those solutions that are easiest to maintain and provide the highest organizational value.

Just as important, respondents from Optimized organizations found it relatively easy to get new technologies approved. Digitally mature organizations are more likely to fast-track the adoption of crucial workflow technologies because their decision-makers understand that legacy systems often create workflow blockage and technical delays. To facilitate a smooth transition, healthcare organizations must prioritize a digital-first strategy at the highest level.

6. Empower employees with no-code tools.

As previously discussed, workplace culture greatly influences any digital strategy’s effectiveness. Symbiotically, the solutions that an organization provides its practitioners have a significant impact on an employee’s ability to digitally succeed. Employees at Optimized organizations overwhelmingly use technologies that will drive future success, according to research — whereas Limited organizations often adopt tools on an as-needed basis.

The forward-looking mindset adopted by digitally mature organizations contributes to their heightened adoption of no-code software. These tools require no coding experience, instead presenting users with drag-and-drop interfaces that allow all team members — not just IT professionals — to contribute to simplified, automated workflows. Common examples of no-code tools include WordPress, Zapier, Formstack, and Parabola.

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