Healthcare companies must iron out their digital strategies to ensure future growth

Healthbox's Enabling Digital Strategy Report lays out the steps of establishing a digital strategy for health companies.
By Mallory Hackett
03:16 pm

Throughout the coronavirus pandemic, healthcare companies have begun using new digital tools to help keep patients healthy. From virus-tracking APIs to remote monitoring, healthcare stakeholders are discovering just how important digital tools and strategies can be. 

Having an effective digital strategy is different for each business, but it “largely consists of the organized use of tools and technology-enabled services to create and strengthen connections between healthcare stakeholders,” according to the Enabling Digital Strategy Report from Healthbox (part of MobiHealthNews' parent company, HIMSS).

While stakeholders agree that a digital strategy is important, understanding exactly what that means is still causing a lot of confusion in the business arena. 

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“Despite understanding digital transformation as an inevitable and essential part of business longevity, there are many misconceptions around what a successful strategy to address it is and how to go about developing one,” according to the report. “Oftentimes, digital strategy is conflated with adopting digital solutions or digital initiatives, but having these digital tools does not equate to having a robust digital strategy.” 

The report is aimed at clearing up some of this confusion and laying out the benefits of such a strategy. 

“Digitization is here to stay and will continue to revolutionize the way we live our lives and connect with one another,” the report says. “Leveraging digital strategy, closely paired with overall organizational strategy, to deepen the connections between healthcare systems, physicians, patients and other stakeholders has the power to not only make care more affordable and accessible but to make communities safer and healthier.”

Johnson & Johnson (J&J) is one example of a company that recently underwent a digital transformation that aligns with recommendations from the Healthbox report. J&J revamped its digital strategy to include cross-functional partnerships and a new culture around dealing with its digital tools, all while making sure that solutions are available across the company.

The first step is setting the scope of digital strategy. Companies can achieve this by determining the areas that stakeholders say need adjusting. 

“Collecting data, conducting interviews, focus groups and other forms of research should be pursued to build a clear understanding of which aspects of the experience or operation could be improved, added or removed,” the report says.

Stuart McGuian, the chief information officer at J&J, prioritized three main areas for improvement: speed, efficiency and consistency. At the same time, he said he aimed to ensure that all the digital initiatives lined up with the company’s core mission of improving patient’s lives. 

Another step in the digital transformation process is creating a diverse team that includes more than just the IT department. 

“True digital transformation touches every part of the organization … it has to be an integrated effort rather than a separate one,” McGuian said.

Johnson & Johnson’s strategy has not only been integrated into all aspects of the company, it is built to grow across 265 of its operating companies. 

“Many organizations fail to see a return from their digital investments because projects are unable to scale beyond the initial test site,” the Healthbox report reads. “A digital strategy must provide the process and resources to support successful projects to expand from one portion of the organization to the whole.”

Before a system can be implemented, investing in the right infrastructure is key because, without them, other processes can’t be built, according to Healthbox. These can include data management, cybersecurity and identity management. 

McGuian says that J&J’s investments into solid digital infrastructure have more than paid off. Its cybersecurity is able to scan the entire system every 15 minutes, and it has redesigned data repositories for easy solution selection.

The Healthbox report also recommends creating specific, measurable and relevant metrics early on in the process. It says this will help with further digital strategy investments down the road. 

Now, with the shift towards its new digital strategy, J&J is seeing a 100% compliance rate which will improve patient and provider experiences while cutting costs.

“We are at a tipping point where technology is becoming the medium through which healthcare can become a more effective and efficient system,” Sandi Peterson, worldwide chairman at J&J, wrote in the report. 



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