Organizational change in healthcare is no simple task. As an industry that must navigate tight financial margins, strict regulations, and the pressure to provide consistently high standards of care, finding avenues for innovation becomes a true challenge for healthcare leaders.
However, beyond simply identifying and executing on the opportunities for digital transformation, healthcare leaders must also consider how these changes impact their employees, their operations, their quality of care, and the organization as a whole. We spoke with Andy Sajous, Field CTO at AHEAD, to find out where the specific barriers to transformation arise and how to effectively manage them within a healthcare system.
No industry has been put under as much strain as healthcare over the last few years. What do you see as the primary challenges facing healthcare organizations today?
I think the biggest challenge is going to be staffing shortages – and it’s not necessarily just the staffing shortages on the clinical side, but also on the operational side, which is just as important. We’re seeing that healthcare systems as a whole are suffering from these shortages – whether it’s the bedside nurses, clinical staff, administrative staff, technical staff, etc. I think this is going to continue to be the biggest barrier to operations. And as we look forward to the next 12 to 18 months, this is a challenge that is not necessarily going to go away.
How do technology and innovation help to address these obstacles?
We’re now seeing the emergence of clinical AI platforms that enable health systems to gather camera sensor data that feeds into a central command center or central nurse’s station. This type of innovation allows organizations to leverage automaton to augment mundane tasks (e.g., bedside monitoring) typically completed by clinical staff. Further, health systems have so much more to gain by breaking down siloed operational data and applying predictive modeling to produce more valuable insights. If health systems can more easily predict same-day cancellations or uncover opportunities to leverage bed vacancies, they can use these insights to directly maximize the staffing resources available to them.
With so many different components to juggle like patient experiences, financial concerns, operational roadblocks, and compliance management, what do you think healthcare organizations can do to help align themselves in solving these problems?
I think for me, it’s about first making sure that the organization has bought into these types of transformations at the leadership level. And knowing that there’s a shift happening with regard to digital experience, it becomes critical that every facet of the organization – from the back-end administration to the clinical and operational – is on board with these changes.
Early on in the pandemic, we saw telehealth and telemedicine take off and expand adoption fairly quickly. I think what we’re now starting to see is many organizations putting increased focus on the digital user experience. While new platforms and solutions have significantly improved patient convenience and experiences, they do generate a shift in the overall operating model of traditional health systems. As a result, health systems will need to be organizationally (finance, operations, and compliance) aligned to ensure these types of technologies are part of the patient acquisition strategy.
What would you say to a healthcare CTO who understands the need for innovation in their health system, but simply does not know where to start?
Start by making sure that you have a defined strategy. This even goes back to the previous question where, from an organizational perspective, how do we define what that strategy is? And it’s not just the technologies; it’s the people and the processes. It’s about making sure that the people within a health system understand that there may be an operational shift in the way their roles and responsibilities play out, but also ensuring that we define new processes to support that. I think healthcare has always been a little bit slower when it comes to technology innovation, but we’re now seeing them on the forefront with some of the newer telehealth and telemedicine platforms being rolled out. What it then comes down to is making sure that as an organization, you have a set strategy for how you’re going to get the people and the processes to move with the technology – not just as a result of it.
As organizations adopt more technology solutions to improve their operations and overall efficiency, data privacy is always a chief concern. In healthcare, that concern is even more pronounced. How can health systems navigate the need for new technology without putting patients’ private information at risk?
I think that when we look at the security posture from a healthcare perspective, there has always been a hesitation around consuming things like cloud services, for example. However, we’ve seen organizations successfully execute that on that by carefully assessing how to put the proper process and governance in place to make sure that they’re protecting not only their data, but their digital assets as well. From my perspective, I don’t think we’ve ever seen more importance around security posture, specifically as we start to branch out to newer platforms.
One good example of this, as I mentioned earlier, is the increase of clinical AI platforms that are heavily dependent on new types of sensor data. Security posture around MIoT and sensor devices becomes even more critical. I think most CIOs and CISOs will agree that ransomware and other security attacks are always top of mind. Finding the right security posture allows organization to ensure they’re putting the right controls in place while allowing the organization to be innovative.
This type of innovation-driven transformation has the potential to significantly change the way a health system operates, which will always be met with some level of hesitance or skepticism. What do you think healthcare leaders can do to encourage organizational buy-in?
So, this ties back to the strategy answer that was given previously around people and process, which holds a lot of our focus when we discuss organizational change management (OCM). I would even say that a lot of the early theories that were written generally around OCM were directly related to healthcare.
For example, roughly 10-15 years ago, when hospitals first moved from paper records to electronic medical records (EMRs), many clinicians were resistant to change. A lot of clinicians and administrative staff didn’t like the new process that was being rolled out with regard to EMRs. Eventually, not only did we get there, but organizations started to see the value and efficiency that these types of systems brought. So, I think from a leadership perspective, it’s about asking: ‘how do we make sure that we get the people to see the vision of where we want to be while instilling confidence that they will be supported as job functions and processes change?’ And as an organization, the goal is that once that vision comes to fruition, the successful outcomes and operational efficiencies will be apparent.