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Careful plans lead to success with office tech in healthcare 

Apr 11. 2019
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By  Special to the Nation

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A new and rapidly changing healthcare landscape has emerged globally, where digital technologies are becoming increasingly normalised into the everyday delivery of healthcare.

Around the world, health service providers struggle to keep up with the pace of change.

In response, most healthcare providers have focused on back-office efficiency and improving simple transactions, while leaving the majority of patient-facing activities unchanged.

Digital technology has a vital role in the healthcare industry, especially for senior and aftercare programmes, according to a report by KPMG. 

“A combination of advanced technology can be used in multiple angles of healthcare through real-time data collection from IoT and wearable devices. Advanced analytic tools such as AI, precision medicine and Robotic Process Automation can certainly help hospitals and healthcare providers deliver healthy and quality living to the elderly.”

Navigating this new landscape is challenging for organisations and their leaders as they try to increase productivity and quality through digital technology. There is no doubt, however, that technological transformation will be one of the major differentiators between successful and unsuccessful providers over the next decade. The competing pressures of cost and expectations of quality mean that doing nothing is not a sustainable option.

However, a pattern has emerged as past technological initiatives raised high expectations of the potential from new technology, which then encountered an initial period featuring frustration and reduced productivity. Benefits of the technological shift have generally eventually materialised – often after two or more years – but weathering this “digital dip” has proved an important hurdle and many transformation strategies have been scaled back or even abandoned.

Examining both successful and unsuccessful technological implementation in healthcare, it is clear that success isn’t achieved by replacing analogue processes with digital ones. It’s about rethinking the purpose of services, re-engineering how they are delivered, and capitalising on opportunities afforded by data to adapt and learn.

In its “Digital Health: Heaven or Hell?’ report, KPMG identified seven key lessons from those that have successfully realised benefits and overcome setbacks.

1. Transformation first. Transformation comes from new ways of working, not the technology itself. You need a transformation programme supported by technology – not the other way round. This is the fundamental lesson that underpins everything else.

2. People problems not technology problems. The majority of the issues faced along the transformation journey are people problems, not technology problems. These require sophisticated leadership and change management capabilities.

3. Systems design. There has been insufficient attention to the design of systems. Technologies need to solve problems recognised by the people who are going to use them, be they patients or professionals. This requires a deep understanding of the work, as well as the needs of the worker.

4. Invest in analytics. Far too often providers make significant investments in digital systems but overlook the capabilities to use the data collected – hence the payback is never seen.

5. Multiple iterations and continuous learning. Even with careful design there may need to be a number of iterations in the design of systems. This is a continuous process and there may be several cycles – some quite painful – before systems reach a tipping point where all of this investment starts to pay off.

6. Support interoperability. The inability to share and combine data between different systems is a major hindrance to realising the full benefit of technology in healthcare. A coordinated approach to minimum interoperability standards would help accelerate healthcare providers’ digital journey.

7. Sound information governance and data security procedures. Data sharing requires strong information governance and security, particularly in the face of a growing threat from cyberattacks. Action is required at a national and local level to help organisations hold and share data safely.

 

Written by Natasak Rodjanapiches, advisory director, KPMG in Thailand.

 

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