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Becoming a Digital Health System

In a previous blog, I defined the digital health system that I believe delivery systems will need to implement in the next three years in order to function, thrive, and fulfill their mission.  Here are some of the attitudes and activities you’ll need to get there.

Change your strategic planning horizon. App-happy consumers expect immediate results.  No matter its size, every system must become flexible and agile.  The old construct for strategic planning timelines has to give way to a more impatient and aggressive framework.

Redefine the center of care.  Redefining the center of care may well require rethinking and rewriting mission, vision, and value statements. Most providers claim to put the patient at the center of everything they do.  As part of this fundamental transformation to a digital state, the patient and family, the provider, payer, and community all belong at the center of our efforts. The challenge then becomes one of balancing the needs of more that one constituency simultaneously.  Incentives must be aligned to encourage desired behaviors and create a shared success model.  Representatives from each constituency need to be present to listen and to speak up in building the digital health system.   Designing a digital world without them is very limiting and too constrained to create better practice.  Without their presence and participation, constituents cannot hear and understand your vision.  They will likely have a more challenging time partnering with you.

Connect the patient to their family. There is so much communication promoting patient engagement– articles, advertisements, activities.   The term “patient engagement” is insufficient to describe what is or should be happening.  We should use the phrase “patients and families”, not just patients.

In a digital world, patients and their families – however they choose to be defined and shaped – must move beyond engagement.  They must become active participants in the wellness and care processes. We must adapt the existing digital tools and create more that will encourage and enable real activation.

Enliven the role of technology. Digital health organizations must adopt and embrace a wide range of technologies including but not limited to the Internet of Health Things (IoHT) and the more familiar IoT, CRM (Customer Relationship Management), mobile, wayfinding, portals (untethered if possible), augmented and virtual reality, chatbots, augmented intelligence (AI), wearables, telepresence, clinical trial management, and virtual assistants.  Above all, the technologies used must produce value for the user-patient, family, or any other stakeholder – with the goal of creating and implementing care plans that are simultaneously proactive, predictive, preventive, and precise.

Use social media to maximize impact. To state the obvious, in a digital world you must create, manage, constantly update, and monitor social media.  Meaningful social media products provide something for every one of the constituents at the center of care.  As content is developed, do a reality check.  Make sure it’s relevant and interesting to the target audience.  One of the biggest challenges is keeping content fresh – removing stale and adding new content– based on pre-determined measures of success – clicks, views, responses, time on site, and so many more. Meaningful messaging will inform, resonate, provoke, engage, and ultimately activate.

Look to the past to create the future.  Embrace innovation even if you cannot fund a separate innovation initiative.  Go beyond automating paper-based processes to create new digital powered experiences – innovations that could not be accomplished within the limitations of the physical world.  No matter the size or shape of your current system, the old adage applies – “Cogitate beyond the container” – think outside the box!

Related Article:

Digital Health – Is Healthcare Ready? Are You and Your Organization Ready?


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