What Are The Three Biggest Barriers to Digital Healthcare?

Apr 3, 2018

The healthcare industry is changing fast thanks to a slew of new technologies. And while much progress has been made by providers on the patient-facing front, the biggest challenges facing healthcare IT leaders today are on the back end, in transforming the role of IT in the organization. Here are my top three picks.

Lack of talent and leadership

Digital healthcare will demand new skills in three areas. First, API development. Many hospitals have traditional interface teams but lack the talent to participate in an API economy. APIs are usually not the first thing you hear when it comes to healthcare, but they’re set to play a big role in the future of healthcare—particularly in expanding a provider’s reach.

Second, DevOps. Providers will need to grow people who are knowledgeable in both infrastructure and development cycles, have proven coding skills, and are comfortable working in an agile environment. Star performers in infrastructure are generally the ones who understand scripting as well as application development lifecycles and can work across both. Similarly, the best people in applications have a deep understanding of the underlying technology and a strong product focus.

Third, product management. IT will need to become a product and service organization, so they will need to staff up on product managers and service owners, among other roles. Most importantly, IT leaders will need to overcome organizational inertia and any aversion to change. Change must start at the top, and cultivating transformational leadership both at the middle and top levels of the organization will go a long way.

Lack of process governance

The lack maturity in critical functions such as vendor management, project management, and IT service management can hamper your digital transformation. So, it is imperative that governance is established for all key activities and processes.

For example, contracts should be negotiated by a VMO, not line managers and directors, or you risk creating unhealthy contracts that will see money bled out of the organization to suppliers. Projects should be overseen by a PMO and planned using a suitable methodology (e.g., agile). And IT services should be managed by a dedicated product management team.

Technical debt and budgetary constraints

Many IT organizations still operate reactively, checking off requests and implementing new projects year after year to meet new demand. And often a big portion of the budget goes to running networks, servers, and data centers, leaving little left for maintaining or modernizing existing infrastructure and equipment.

As a result, these organizations carry significant technical debt, costing them more and more each year to run. What’s more, poorly negotiated contracts further exacerbate the problem as the organization could see 20–30% of its spending wasted on unnecessary or inefficient products and services. Here, IT leaders need to thoroughly review where and how IT is run, and identify areas to modernize while maintaining business as usual.  


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