The Barriers to Digital Transformation in Healthcare

Author: Celeste Appleton

Cloud adoption, artificial intelligence (AI), and the Internet of Things (IoT) actively contribute to digital transformation. The healthcare sector is no exception, especially when adopting new, innovative technologies that transform operations and advance patient care. But there’s room for improvement. Healthcare’s reliance on legacy systems, significant regulatory concerns, and security challenges (coupled with the ongoing cybersecurity workforce shortage) make the digital transformation a complicated feature. However, addressing redundancies, partnering with industry experts, and securely implementing new technologies while keeping patient safety in mind can enable healthcare organizations to rocket ahead with digital transformation. 

Digital Transformation, explained. 

Digital transformation marks a rethinking of how an organization uses technology, people, and processes to pursue new business models and revenue streams. However, in healthcare, digital transformation enhances the ability to serve patients better by adopting technologies to improve workflows, efficiency, and patient care. Electronic Health Records (EHRs), telehealth solutions, and cloud security technologies contribute to digital transformation. 

In 2020, 70 percent of digital transformation projects failed to meet goals without significant setbacks and suboptimal results. 

How to achieve a successful digital transformation 

In 2020, 70 percent of digital transformation projects failed to meet goals without significant setbacks and suboptimal results. Therefore, it is crucial to understand the factors that contribute to a successful digital transformation. 

First, an organization should define its transformation before choosing the appropriate technologies without allowing a specific technology to dictate the nature and structure of the transformation. Then the organization should evolve its business model to enable new capabilities. And lastly, it should develop a robust organizational transformation and improve its management competency. 

It is beyond time for the healthcare industry to improve digitally, but several challenges prevent the sector from advancing. At an executive level, leaders should understand the common barriers to digital transformation and implement new technologies with security, privacy, and patient safety as their top priorities. 

The barriers 

Medical technologies have advanced well over time, yet, the healthcare industry still lags behind many other sectors in adopting many digital innovations. With the explosion of telehealth to provide care during the COVID-19 pandemic, the healthcare industry has reached a point where it must achieve greater digital transformation by leveraging new and existing technologies. 

Some experts believe that high stakes and fear of modernization may be preventing the industry from fully embracing digital transformation. The workforce shortage fuels those fears also. Because every new internet-connected technology has cybersecurity importance, an organization’s cybersecurity workforce must be available to assist with adoption and implementation to ensure the safety of patient data. Additionally, the workforce shortage could cause remaining employees to be stretched thin, permitting critical vulnerabilities and suspicious network activity to fly under the radar. 

Along with a shortage of people to commit to digital transformation and implementation, healthcare relies heavily on legacy systems to perform critical workloads. Legacy medical devices pose security concerns because they are difficult to patch and keep track of due to their portability. In addition, organizations may not want to risk updating these devices when they are still successfully performing critical services. 

Healthcare is also bound to HIPAA and other industry-specific regulations that may make digital transformation more of a challenge. For example, organizations must consider HIPAA’s privacy and security requirements while implementing and using any new technology. 

Whether dealing with EHRs or AI-driven analytics tools, organizations must prioritize the privacy and security of protected health information (PHI). These new technologies may also warrant additional staff training and security protocols, making the process more demanding. 

Healthcare faces unique challenges when it comes to digital transformation. 

Tips for a secure digital transformation 

Implementing new technologies can be time-consuming; therefore, choosing the right technologies is especially crucial for organizations that don’t have time to waste. To help, healthcare organizations should observe other industries. Learning what technologies are worth investing in will help them better understand what will help them meet their business and patient care goals. These problems, however, cannot be quickly resolved. These barriers will likely persist, but that does not mean that secure digital transformation in healthcare is impossible or far in the future. 

Making conscious procurement decisions and leaning on technology to fill the workforce gap can help reduce some of the burdens on the workforce and enable secure and rapid technological adoption. 

Industry clouds offer sector-specific cloud solutions that help organizations reinvent business processes and reduce redundancies. Investing in cohesive solutions that enable automation can also reduce security and privacy concerns and allow staff to prioritize other advancements to their organization’s security architecture. 

Finally, organizations should know when to partner with industry experts to reduce the fear of modernization. Organizations cannot transform on their own. An effective partner who can provide guidance and help build a roadmap to digital transformation is essential because mistakes can be costly.