Use Quick Wins to Speed Your Healthcare Digital Transformation

By Steve Berriatua

As customer expectations for streamlined digital experiences increase, healthcare organizations need to adopt processes and technologies to improve operations, enhance patient care, and stay equal to (if not ahead of) the competition. This “digital transformation” has the potential to improve an organization’s efficiency, performance, and care quality. Fulfilling that potential, however, is challenging for several reasons, such as misaligned digital strategies, security and privacy issues, embedded legacy systems, existing processes impacting agility, implementation delays, and lack of internal collaboration.

Organizations that fail to keep up with the digital Joneses not only miss out on potential gains, but also risk severe operational setbacks due to continued reliance on aging and vulnerable legacy systems and processes. Yet achieving a successful transformation is often difficult. According to a BCG study, just 30% of digital transformation efforts in all industries meet or exceed their goals or result in sustainable change. Healthcare lags other industries in part due to its reliance on legacy systems, its plethora of regulatory requirements, and its constant security challenges.

Quick wins to combat change resistance

What does it take for a healthcare organization to expedite and achieve a digital transformation? Start with the fundamentals, like having an integrated transformation strategy with clear goals across the enterprise, visible and vocal top-down leadership, and tactical talent for implementation. Next, consider pursuing multiple “quick wins” to demonstrate success and obtain buy-in.

Why quick wins? A digital transformation is a massive change effort, fraught with internal resistance when handled incorrectly. Conversely, nothing motivates more than success. That’s why change management guru John Kotter made achieving quick wins a pivotal step in his seminal Eight Steps for Leading Change. Often, companies try to leap from strategy to execution to operations without considering the many gaps that quick wins can help fill.

By front-loading your digital transformation strategy with plans for quick wins, tangible results can help dissolve internal resistance to change. Quick wins are typically about experimenting, learning, building trust, delighting colleagues and customers, and celebrating and modeling a better way. By focusing as much on the small-scale “how” of those quick wins as on the bigger “what” of overall digital transformation, you’ll have a good chance of transforming internal naysayers into champions and change agents.

Your strategy should also work to break down internal silos and focus on meeting the needs of members, providers, and employees. Many digital transformation efforts fail when leaders get caught up with a shiny new technology but fail to think through its scalability and usability.

Attaining your digital strategy quick wins

Once your strategy for quick wins is set, here are five ways to attain them:

1. Name your ”transformation ambassadors.” Start by designating a digital transformation team comprised of members from across the company with digital transformation experience, as well as those with organizational experience. Ensure this team has direct access to your organization’s top leaders. These are your transformation ambassadors. They provide the connective tissue for transformation across the company, ensuring everyone is aligned and understands their objectives. Their charter is to lead the company through the transformation and collaboratively celebrate quick wins.

2. Improve on member experience. Identify a single opportunity for your organization’s members to experience success, such as more efficiently finding appointment slots online or expediting the steps to refill a prescription online. Leverage quick wins by deploying such opportunities and then measuring feedback for iterative enhancements. Don’t wait for “big buckets” containing multiple new features to deploy. Having a fierce focus on member needs, and a commitment to quick deployment, will help your organization stay connected and remain relevant.

3. Increase internal agility. Being able to pivot is crucial for a company that wants to meet its members’ needs. Form a single agile team with all the skill sets needed to design, build, and deliver a solution. For example, at the start of the COVID-19 outbreak, healthcare organizations created immediate online solutions for their members, including chatbots and interactive symptom checkers, to quickly guide members to assistance. This was achieved by agile teams pivoting and working toward a common goal, using quick wins for speed to market.

4. Optimize a value stream. Evaluate the company’s value streams and, through a mapping exercise, identify significant wait times or waste impacting the success of a value stream. Create a quick-win scenario to change one aspect of the end-to-end value stream flow. Measure and show the success to achieve employee buy-in and trust, then continue improvements.

5. Plan proofs of concept. New technologies are the “enablers” for product road maps to realize business benefits and new product opportunities. For example, plan a proof of concept for moving company assets into the cloud. Or, conversely, build one new component that can be used by multiple products. This approach enables teams to quickly determine whether vendor products or service offerings will meet company needs—without having to waste time and money. Often, a company will create a plan containing multiple new technologies and components, resulting in deployment delays and overspending as the teams rush to implement.

The quick-win approach promotes continuous deliveries, learnings, and confidence boosts, plus allows employees to celebrate the wins and feel included. By equipping the right quick-win strategy and applying tactics such as those suggested above, you’ll be more likely to undergo a successful digital transformation.

Steve Berriatua is digital transformation consultant for Freed Associates.