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Mike McSherryMike McSherry, CEO and co-founder of Xealth

The innovator’s dilemma: Can health systems afford a digital health future? Can they afford not to?

When it comes to digital health strategies, few large health systems are implementing them effectively and at scale. While many are aspirational, we often see them stuck in analysis paralysis and unable to actuate real changes across their organization.

On the other hand, some organizations act quickly without a solid plan or governing strategy, essentially blindly throwing darts at digital health and hoping something sticks. However, it’s becoming more apparent that patients want access to a more holistic, digital approach to care—the health systems that stay inactive or act without proper planning risk losing patients. 

Inaction amongst health systems

In the past, doctors were the primary gatekeepers of medicine, so when we saw the rise of digital health, many believed they would be the ones driving it forward. However, over the last five years, digital health initiatives have largely bypassed doctors and hospital systems. It’s been payer, employer, and consumer-driven—hospital systems have been slow to meet the need.

Some of that is financially motivated as hospital systems mostly still get paid by seeing someone in a face-to-face visit encounter. Digital health is often categorized as self-help, self-care, telehealth, RPM or asynchronous health, and hospital systems don’t get adequately reimbursed for that. Ultimately, if they don’t get paid, they don’t care.

In many respects, payers, employers, and even patients themselves are doing a better job of approaching health more holistically than hospital systems.

An ideal digital health strategy for large health systems

Ideally, a digital health strategy stems from the top down. An organization needs absolute executive-level attention towards any digital change management. They also need the budget and authority to drive these initiatives through.

Then, they need to set up dedicated teams to strategize their priorities, resources, and budget and be held accountable for their goals, ROI, and execution of that framework. Without the proper strategy, execution, and management, comprehensive digital health programs won’t come to fruition.

Top 10 must-haves of an ideal digital health strategy

Many factors determine the success of a digital health program, which sometimes makes it difficult to know where to start. Incorporating these ten must-haves into your digital health strategy will help your organization pave the road to its success.

  1. Digital strategy ownership
    You must own the execution, delivery, and management of your digital health strategy.
  2. Governance & prioritization
    To ensure deliverability, there must be clearly defined internal management processes and prioritization within the organization. What service lines and patient populations to prove organizational competencies and ROI achievement.
  3. Operational execution
    An appointed employee must work in a project management capacity to oversee the day-to-day, nitty-gritty processes that make a comprehensive program run smoothly.
  4. Clinician buy-in
    Without supportive, involved clinicians, digital health programs won’t work. Organizations must ensure their clinicians want to be a part of their digital health program, see its value, know how to navigate it, and talk about it with their patients.
  5. Patient awareness & enrollment
    Making patients aware of a digital health program and presenting it to them in a manner that promotes adoption will drive engagement levels.
  6. Financial considerations
    Most hospital systems don’t get paid unless a patient comes in for a face-to-face visit. So, systems must consider their capitation arrangements. They can either assume risk or work with the local payers to share risk.
  7. Measurements
    Measurements provide an in-depth view into a digital health program. Clearly define your goals and the measurements you will use to track the progress of the goals. Ongoing, repetitive feedback will help.
  8. Budget
    Nothing comes for free. Organizations need to contemplate where they invest their dollars and find the ROI and effectiveness of that spend.
  9. Competence
    Build competence into the DNA of your digital care delivery. Train every staff member who will interact with the digital health program to ensure their competence.
  10. Payer / Employer contracts
    When clinicians prescribe a digital health program to their patients, compared to a payer or employer, there is a significantly higher adoption rate. It’s essential to negotiate payer and employer contracts that compensate your organization accordingly, especially when you’re able to show improved outcomes and other results.

Stay competitive with digital health: Competence & Convenience!

Patients are looking for cost-effective, convenient, helpful care. If a hospital system doesn’t provide that, a competitor will. Organizations that don’t adapt to these changing wants, needs, and expectations will lose their competitive edge. Don’t let your health system face the same fate as Blockbuster.

Xealth can help your organization implement a comprehensive digital health strategy that checks off all the “must-have” boxes in implementing your digital health strategies.

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