Digital health and healthcare organisation strategy: four views, one vision.

Article posted on: August 15th, 2016 in the HIMSS Europe blog. Revised August 30th, 2016. Reposted with permission of HIMSS Europe.

The role of healthcare CIOs has been changing in recent years.

Initially they were a sole system’s Kerberos that was refractory to any kind of innovation, with a mindset limited to solve administrative, financial tasks.

Now, they have a more global mindset, watching over the whole organisation, and have taken on the role of the CEO’s right hand man. They are switching the focus of IT systems and services from being cost centers to being profit centers. They are conscious that their work impacts the way care is delivered and how patients / customers perceive quality of service.

But the challenges are increasing: the next step is ensuring that IT-related activities fit healthcare organisation strategy. It is key that these activities are fully aligned with the strategy defined by top management.

How can this be done?

Aligning IT with the organisation’s strategy
Let me introduce the concept of the balanced scorecard. The balanced scorecard is a way to align the entire organisation to the strategy and also to measure their performance. First described by Robert S. Kaplan and David P. Norton in the article, “The balanced scorecard – Measures that drive performance”, in the Harvard Business Review January-February 1992 issue. It was seen as revolutionary back then, because they were the first to say “what you measure is what you get”.

The balanced scorecard is defined as a set of measurements that give top management a fast, but comprehensive view of the business. And Kaplan and Norton point out that the operational measures drive financial performance.

Let me adapt it for a classical healthcare CIO role.

Courtesy of Costaisa Group ®

For them, a balanced scorecard offers a view on performance from four different perspectives: Production & Innovation, People, Customers & Patients and Financial. The healthcare CIO needs to focus on getting the best performance in each one of these areas.

Let me step into the shoes of a healthcare CIO for a moment.

Production & Innovation 
In this area we could identify for example EPRs, telemedicine and fully integrated tele-monitoring systems. We should work to avoid isolated information silos and we should be focused not only on recording data correctly but also on how to extract knowledge from this data, too. 

Initiatives such as programs to improve delivery of service to e-patients, practice communities to empower GPs, and data mining systems that could deep dive into our data repositories (big data), or perhaps programs to explore local patient behaviour in social networks that can be filtered for our community. 

This could also include, all the activities related to innovation and the different approaches to it, and could even consider searching “put-to-market” scenarios. 

Our healthcare professionals. Our most valuable asset. We should empower them by promoting a culture of collaboration, across departments, with the aim to share knowledge. We should unlock the incredible power of corporate social networks. 

We could improve the visibility of our healthcare professionals helping them to build strong digital identities, through professional networks like LinkedIn, social networks like Facebook and Twitter, even supporting them in the creation of a strong professional blog ecosystem. 

It’s the best way to involve our healthcare professionals; without them, its impossible to avoid failure. 

Customers & patients 
We should improve the communication channels between patients and the healthcare organisation. And that means all channels. Social networks is a crucial part of this. 

A strategy of starting conversations via social networks is a necessary first step. Every citizen should be able to ask us using the communication channel they prefer and need to be answered in a very short time. The use of apps, mobile devices, and even the possibility to ask our professional’s anonymous questions should be considered. 

Who pays the party? Because It’s necessary to know how to finance it. Donations? Corporate responsibility? Government funds? Advertising? 

The only limit is our imagination. 

CIOs should be prepared to play a determinant role in their healthcare organizations. They have got a well-trained mind. They are able to deploy paperless scenarios (and not only at a clinical level, trust me). They have got entire healthcare processes in their heads. The consequence should be better delivering of care, along with a better and more collaborative way to deliver it. 

Having a CIO’s unique view of the whole healthcare organization is the key for success. 

This is one of topics to be discussed at the new HIMSS Europe World of Health IT (WoHIT) Conference & Exhibition which will be taking place on 21–22 November 2016 in Barcelona, Spain (