On the path to digital maturity

As health systems throughout Europe recover from the COVID crisis, the importance of accelerating digital maturity has never been more apparent – a topic which will be discussed in greater depth at HIMSS22 Europe this week.

But against this evolving healthcare landscape how do we evaluate the success of digital transformation and what outcomes should we be striving for to maximise return on investment?

“The maturity of healthcare organisations is directly related with their capacity to capture, manage and connect patients’ data, the big benefits and outcomes from having the data consolidated and connected, and how digital health platforms can help build a more efficient data-driven healthcare which can bring benefits to all stakeholders,” says David Labajo, vice president (VP), GE Healthcare digital sales Europe.

To achieve digital maturity in healthcare, he believes that relevant and qualified information, needs to be captured not only in the electronic medical record (EMR), but in all information systems and departments.

“The next step is to be able to consolidate and connect all that information. For that we need to eliminate the data silos in the organisations and be able to aggregate, consolidate and manage all the different data streams,” adds Labajo. “Once we have that, we will be prepared to build a data-driven healthcare organisation and apply artificial intelligence (AI) on top of that data to enable patient segmentation, risk assessment, prioritisation, and early diagnosis, personalising treatment and enabling a more personal follow-up of the patient.”

Labajo also emphasises the importance of collaboration between healthcare providers, industry players and startups, to create “an internal and external ecosystem” which can work together to develop, integrate, and make available digital solutions.

Engaging the workforce

Meanwhile Prof Sam Shah, chief medical strategy officer at men’s health startup Numan, believes the needs of the workforce and end users should be at the forefront of digital transformation.  

“Digital maturity is much more than being about data, infrastructure and technology but is also about the workforce and the needs of users,” argues Shah. “It’s likely to mean different things to different people working in different environments. Fundamentally, it’ll need the right policy conditions, strategy and funding. More importantly, the needs of the workforce need to be incorporated into any strategy.”

Roadblocks to maturity 

Although many countries worldwide have set policies and allocated resources to support digital maturity assessment, there are still many blockers to be overcome.  
“The challenges to achieving digital maturity are as much cultural as they are technical and organisational,” says Prof Shah. “One of the biggest blocks that we see in most organisations is a lack of any coherent strategy, insufficient funding and an absence of organisational design.”

Another roadblock is how to deal with huge volumes of healthcare data, much of which is unstructured, in silos and outside the system.

“Up to 30% of world’s data is generated in healthcare. The main blocker is that although we’re collecting huge amounts of data, most of it is unused, without the right quality, siloed, disconnected, fragmented and unstructured, so we can’t activate it to get better insights and improve clinical and operational efficiency,” explains Labajo. “Also, governance of the data is a major challenge, and we need to figure it out before we can move to a fully data-driven healthcare.”

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