Harness digital momentum: 3 moves to drive sustainable success after COVID-19

Cynthia Perazzo, EVP, Insights and Advisory

woman in a phone looking at a hospital organization

There’s no way around it – COVID-19 has irrevocably changed how care is provided. At the beginning of the pandemic, health systems rapidly shifted to virtual care, accelerating digital solution implementation and setting the new status quo of healthcare. As health systems look to the post-COVID-19 future, digital adoption and transformation in the healthcare industry show no signs of slowing down. At AVIA, we believe that digital is the only way to move forward and sustain long-term success and growth. 

The transition to becoming a digital health system is not easy – it often requires reworking how your health system operates and cares for patients. But where do you start? Many organizations are developing and implementing digital transformation strategies to redefine how they can best provide care to patients and reduce the burden on overworked providers. AVIA recommends three areas of focus for health systems looking for ways to harness their digital momentum to drive sustainable growth beyond the pandemic.

3 Post-COVID-19 moves for sustainable success 

Size up your current state

During COVID-19, we saw health systems expedite decision-making, streamline operations and rapidly pivot in order to implement digital strategies years in the making over the course of a few weeks. These changes allowed health systems to meet shifting care demands through digital solutions to continue providing quality care to patients during the pandemic. 

As we look beyond COVID-19, organizations need to take a step back and examine their existing digital solutions. Investigate how each of these digital solutions is serving your core KPIs – which ones are driving growth or cost savings? Are they working together to support the organization as a whole, or are they siloed? Which are transforming care? Are they exponentially moving the needle, or are they giving more incremental success?

The goal of this analysis is to not only determine where your organization needs to refine current digital solutions but also to highlight the high-level procedural and organizational changes necessary to infuse digital across your entire organization. Tying together disparate, siloed digital solutions into a broader organization-wide digital transformation strategy will help your health system shift from simply “doing digital” as a reaction to the pandemic to “being digital” by building digital into your DNA. 

Shift to digital-first operations

Embedding digital into your health system’s core operations requires reimagining and retooling your operations. The three core pillars of digital – automation, virtual health, and analytics – all require a fundamentally different way of working than what was done in the past. 

Consider a physical visit compared to a virtual health visit: for physical visits, patients need a place to park, a waiting room, and an open examination room. With virtual health, none of those components matter. Instead, patients need the technology to meet with their doctor virtually, a virtual waiting room, and a way to share their health information from their home with the health system’s EHR. You cannot expect to replicate physical visits virtually and be successful – it is an entirely different way of providing care, with its unique processes, challenges, and goals. 

Health systems who are leading the charge in shifting their core operations to digital take several steps to ensure a smooth process:

  • Involve HR partners to help employees operate at top-of-license: If you’re using digital to automate a task that was done by a person in the past, your HR team can be a key resource in retraining employees so they are able to work at the top of their license, supported by automation. 
  • Remap your operational flows: Digital processes and automation require a new way of operating. As you conduct your current state analysis, compare your old operating model to your new, digitally-enabled one. How is technology changing how you use your people and your current processes? What changes need to be made to re-engineer these aspects for digital?
  • Educate and engage your workforce: Digital solutions and automation can drastically reduce the administrative burden that providers and healthcare staff are currently facing. It’s essential to incorporate employee education and methods for engagement into your digital strategy, so staff can become users and advocates for the digital tools. 

Make home the first place for care

Virtual visits helped shift care from outside of the hospital’s four walls to inside the home. As we look to a post-COVID-19 future, health systems who want to emerge as leaders should strive to make the home the first place for care, expanding beyond virtual visits into the concept of hospital at home. While the idea of providing care at home isn’t new, improved reimbursements, remote patient monitoring technology, and shifting business models are making hospital at home more feasible. Patients are also increasingly demanding these services, due to COVID-19 safety concerns in the hospital, a lack of physicians due to staffing shortages, and a migration away from urban centers.

Health systems looking to expand their at-home care offerings should start by identifying low-acuity areas of care that could easily be shifted to the home. Annual physicals or check-ups can be done at home, supported by virtual visits and remote patient monitoring devices. Diagnostic devices can support virtual visits at home, like having the patient use an otoscope to look for ear infections. 

Digital in action

While these post-COVID-19 moves are large and complex, they are an essential part of building a digital transformation strategy to ensure success in the future. Breaking down each move into an actionable roadmap tailored to your organization, with quick wins that can increase ROI, can help set your health system on a path to long-term digital growth. 

If you need a partner in shifting your health system to be digital, the experts at AVIA are here to help. We work with health systems across the country to share insights, test ideas, and uncover solutions that make digital transformation attainable and successful – contact us today to get started.