Article originally published in Managed Healthcare Executive on September 26, 2021.

By Rick Halton, VP of Marketing at Lumeon

Digital-first experiences are commonplace for consumers today, with one exception—healthcare—where telehealth recently became just a stopgap. The pandemic has highlighted the real depth of this digital divide, especially when it comes to care coordination.

In fact, a recent survey of 91 hospital, integrated delivery network, and ambulatory care center leaders by healthcare consultancy Sage Growth Partners and Lumeon, a care orchestration platform provider, reveals that most believe their organizations must take steps to bridge this digital disconnect—and quickly.

Eighty-eight percent of respondents said that digital transformation is moderately or very important to their organizations over the next 12 months, and 93% said it will be during the next three years.

So, why are so many healthcare leaders turning to digital transformation? Digital transformation creates more efficient processes for healthcare staff, which reduces burnout and helps with retention, both of which have been exacerbated by the pandemic. It also makes care more accessible, convenient, and proactive, improving the overall patient experience.

The survey findings underscore these benefits—and many others. When asked to identify their top three goals for digital transformation in the next 12 months, 59% of survey respondents said improving patient access, 34% said improving care transitions, and 31% said gaining a competitive advantage.

What is Digital Transformation?

Digital transformation embraces technology to automate and coordinate the process of care. It supports personalized, timely interactions with patients to help them navigate their care end-to-end. The most effective digital transformation technology incorporates an orchestration engine that guides every patient and care team along the care journey together, adapting to each patient’s preferences, progress, and risk factors.

This, in turn, means stronger patient communication, more preventive care, and a better, stickier patient experience. Happier patients, of course, also contribute to happier staff and therefore, higher retention rates.

We’re Only at the Earliest Stages

The survey offers a telling snapshot of the embryonic maturity of digital transformation in healthcare organizations across the country. More than half of providers (52%) said they haven’t started or are in stage 1 of maturity, defined as employing basic tools for patient engagement, including online scheduling, patient portals, appointment reminders, and video calls. Almost 20% said they are in stage 2—using automation for triage, instruction, rescheduling, and digital check-in.

No respondents said they are in the most mature stage, stage 7, defined as having personalized care journeys that leverage the EHR to proactively coordinate and automate care across the organization, settings, and patients.

Clearly, most healthcare organizations have a long way to go to reach full digital transformation maturity. How can health leaders start thinking strategically about digital transformation? They can start by asking themselves these questions:

1) How can we shift from rudimentary patient engagement to driving a fluid patient experience?

2) How can we create a more meaningful care experience by personalizing the journey to patient preferences, languages, risks, status, and compliance in real-time?

3) How can we ensure our staff is efficiently orchestrated around the needs and status of the patient throughout the care journey?

4) How can we help staff focus on the right task at the right time?

5) How can we reduce the burden on teams by automating laborious engagement, tasks, and decisions?

6) How can we break down functional silos by integrating and leveraging data and workflow across departments?

Taking the First Steps

If your organization is still at the early stages of digital transformation, the good news is that there are strategies to successfully accelerate your digital transformation momentum. Here are some ways to get started:

  • Lean in to the fact that digitization and automation increase care access—and ensure this objective is prioritized when exploring different digital transformation approaches.
  • Understand that digital transformation should offer engaging, end-to-end experiences for patients while making more efficient use of care teams.
  • The administrative and clinical workflow is central to your digital transformation endeavors. Ensure your teams are deeply involved when evaluating and identifying transformation opportunities.
  • Ensure your transformation initiatives integrate with your EHR to create more personalized care journeys and stronger care coordination across your organization.

Research shows that patient engagement is now only part of the story. Patient experience is the brass ring, and for astute healthcare leaders, so is the experience for the staff and care team. Honestly, they are symbiotic. The impact of patient experience on employee satisfaction and the top and bottom lines is clear. Many healthcare organizations don’t yet realize that staff feed directly off patient experience—as is the converse—so the orchestration of them both is key to retaining patients and staff alike.

To learn more about how Lumeon can support your organization’s digital transformation journey, contact us today.