Not getting the full value of your digital investments? It’s time to optimize


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You did the research. You identified the key metrics. You spoke to stakeholders, subject matter experts, and end users. You followed every digital transformation best practice to a tee—but you still aren’t seeing the results you expected.

If this sounds like your organization, you’re not alone. In 2020, 70% of all health systems reported not getting the value they expected from their digital investments.

That’s a problem, and not just because the tough digital headwinds in the industry have increased the expectation that digital solutions drive clear ROI. Lower-than-expected (or even just slower-than-expected) digital outcomes can put a damper on future digital investments, complicate executive buy-in, and damage the reputation of digital within an organization.

And while the initial reaction of many health systems is to blame missed innovation goals on solution selection or missing features, AVIA’s experience working with health systems has taught us that the more likely culprit is a failure to optimize the full scope of the solution ecosystem. That means not just adopting the right technology, but investing in the change management, optimizing current workflows, and evolving decision making approaches to get the most from your investment.

A culture of change

A 2022 AVIA survey of more than 40 health systems across the U.S. found that the most common barriers to achieving the full impact of digital wasn’t technology or integration, but people, processes, and culture readiness.

Cultural and process change is one of the hardest things to get right about digital transformation at any organization, and it’s especially the case in health care. Health systems are complex machines, with thousands of moving parts, large staffs, and literal human lives on the line. And without proper change management, it’s easy for digital to become a large price tag without much to show for it.

These stats line up with our own experiences working with health systems to diagnose and optimize digital project shortcomings. We’ve found that incomplete implementation, inadequate training, no sustained impact tracking mechanism, and change fatigue are far more likely to be the sticking point than simply having chosen the wrong piece of software.

For health systems, that’s both bad news and good news: bad news because it means there’s more work to be done, but good news because troubleshooting change management is significantly more affordable than replacing an existing digital solution.

Back to basics, not back to the drawing board

Last year, AVIA was approached by a health system that wanted help selecting a new workforce solution to replace one that hadn’t delivered the results they expected. But after conducting stakeholder interviews and assessing their existing capabilities, we found that the issue wasn’t the technology: it was training, implementation, and configuration.

Instead of purchasing and implementing a completely new digital solution, we were able to supply the health system with recommendations for optimizing their existing solution capabilities, better staff capability building, improving their governance systems, and planning for future staffing needs—leading to an estimated labor savings of $20 to $40 million.

This is a powerful example of the value to be found in revisiting existing solutions, but it was only possible by taking a back-to-basics approach that looked beyond the digital solution itself and prioritized the desired outcome, instead of the technology. (Remember: the actual technology is rarely the biggest barrier to success.)

If you’ve invested in digital solutions and aren’t experiencing the expected impact, there are four key elements you need to be focusing on:

  1. Uncover the root cause and core needs: Start by conducting an analysis of the current pain points and root causes of core issues, with an eye towards identifying functionality or capability gaps for key metrics. Understanding the root cause of the issues will accelerate where to focus your efforts, whatever that cause may be.
  2. Optimize technology & workflows simultaneously: Once root causes and pain points are understood, mapping out the user experience and how both technology and process workflows should be optimized is essential. Implementing a digital solution without taking a holistic view and considering the broader impact on the full patient and care team experience leads to a disjointed experience, redundant digital capabilities, and low levels of adoption. To ensure this element is fully fleshed out, we frequently work with our Members to create holistic patient and care team journey maps to inform decision making and an enterprise digital strategy to align around key priorities. 
  3. Invest in change management: Change management isn’t a process that can simply be added on top of an existing project, but rather an additive and continuous process that needs to be incorporated from the earliest phases of a project onward. This allows each step to build on those that came before and ensures the success of the rest of both the roll-out itself and the long-term viability of the initiative. Effective change management begins with a foundation that incorporates critical elements like a thorough stakeholders management plan (including non-obvious influencers); a clear understanding of responsibility from the start of the initiative; a compelling story and narrative that makes the benefits clear and personal; a robust communication strategy for staff; investment in skill building (including ongoing training); and a well-defined and measurable plan for long-term reporting, performance management, and improvement.
  4. Establish effective governance — Finally, define a governance structure and decision making approach that maps out clear responsibilities and ongoing processes to ensure the solution (and the change management process) remains well-managed, effective, and scalable. Many health systems fall into the trap of including everyone in the decision making, leading to lack of accountability and ineffective governance. Instead, focus on a few but critical decision makers to move the organization forward.

In the example above, some of these four elements had been left out or incompletely executed upon. By rewinding our analysis to the fundamental goals of the project and re-establishing elements that were initially skipped or overlooked, we were able to drive effective results (and a valuable outcome) long after the initial rollout. This same process can be successfully applied to any project, be it workforce, online scheduling, command centers, or any other process touched by digital solutions.

Finding new value in existing investments

Health systems are facing unprecedented financial headwinds, which means budgets have tightened across the board—and innovation budgets are no exception.

That means it’s more important than ever to ensure a clear ROI for your investments in digital. Ensuring that you’re getting the full value of your existing digital investments has a compounding effect: you’re not just ringing new value from existing projects, you’re also better demonstrating the power of digital investment and paving the way for future projects.

And you don’t need to go it alone: AVIA can help. We have close partnership with dozens of health systems and deep expertise in maximizing the efficiency of both new and existing digital investments, as well as a proven and repeatable methodology that can ensure digital success and drive the outcomes your health system needs.

Because ultimately, the difference between clear ROI and missed opportunity isn’t just the technology you buy. It’s how you use it.

To learn more about how AVIA can optimize and drive value from your existing digital investments and help you get back to basics without going back to the drawing board, contact us today.