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The Big Story: The Value of Digital Transformation – HBR

“A company that aspires to outperform needs to do the kind of end-to-end changes the bank above did across dozens of customer journeys and core business processes.”

If it’s not a seamless experience, it’s not much of an experience at all

By Tommy Barbee
3-minute read

Every healthcare organization has an array of digital tools scattered across their virtual workbench, a basket of analytics for measuring results and a desire to build a seamless digital experience for patients and staff alike.

Of course, it’s no secret that you can’t become a “digital leader” by merely stacking digital capabilities on top of each other like a pile of bricks. Successful leaders infuse digital tools into the entire customer journey, so that no matter when or where a new customer interacts with the organization, they can instantly receive the service they need.

When done right, organizations earn markedly greater stakeholder satisfaction and ROI than those that didn’t push digital far enough or effectively instill it throughout the organization. For healthcare providers eyeing digital transformation – and other commendable infusion-worthy initiatives – here are a few things to consider:

  • Don’t just add something to check a box.
  • Meet your audiences where they are.
  • Remember that your brand is represented, but not defined, by your logo.
  • Marketing and operations must work in concert to achieve a seamless brand.
  • Follow the data and allow for iterative change as your audience changes.
  • Doing the back-end work first is critical to success.
  • Successful change also depends on culture and requires willing buy-in from all stakeholders.

Those directives apply to any brand positioning effort – or major change initiative for that matter. The goal is to create an experience that works end-to-end and helps people get what they came for, with no headaches involved. And that pays dividends for every aspect of an organization.

So, having used digital transformation as the avatar for big change, let’s look at three areas where full, intentional integration matters most today:

Exhibit A: Digital transformation

We’ll start with the easy one and keep the conversation about digital going. It’s simply not enough to have a patient portal and a mobile app. That’s table stakes, merely checking a box, just stacking another brick.

Before adding any new digital tool or social media platform, smart healthcare marketers are asking their teams, “Who are we and how do we show that to our patients?” Universally, the goal is to get people the care they need, when they need it, in the most comfortable and comforting way possible. So, what tools are necessary to give them that experience?

Bear in mind the patient journey: Help a patient find your organization, identify a desired clinician, schedule an appointment at a convenient time, submit necessary paperwork once, move between specialists, receive care at home or virtually, review charges, make payments and simply ask questions along the way.

Defining how each step can be accomplished is the back-end work that must come before talking to a developer. Once those steps are defined, it’s just as important to understand how patients get from one to the next and provide the right information each time. It’s not just offering a menu of choices but delighting patients along the way by intuitively understanding their needs. Otherwise, you’re merely flipping switches to say the lights are on, not illuminating the path.

Exhibit B: Branding and integration

Swapping out logos is an early step in post-merger integration. And it’s an important step. Don’t get us wrong, a clear visual brand is vital for success. But is a logo alone a sign of transformational excellence? Or a bandage covering deep divisions?

For better or worse, your brand is an external expression of what exists internally. It is not just a visual representation, but the story of your organization. Strong culture, transparent leadership, clear communications, patient and employee experience. Those are your brand, and they’re the product of deep operational decisions made with the answer to the question, “Who are we?” constantly in mind.

Remember back to COVID days. Dark hallways, caution tape and fearful staff led to a terrible patient experience, even for well-known, highly respected healthcare brands. The specifics were an aberration, unique to the early pandemic. Yet the idea of entering a shiny building only to have an uncomfortable, fragmented experience – for employees and patients – on the inside is exactly what can happen if the emphasis is misplaced. That is, if the deep work of communications and cultural integration isn’t pursued with as much vigor as the operational work of integrating the tech stack in creating a useful and personalized patient journey. It’s about cohesiveness.

Exhibit C: DEI

Nowhere is the importance of clear operational decisions, defined investment and accountability and deep cultural commitment more apparent than in diversity, equity and inclusion efforts. Highlighting members of your diverse workforce and hosting a couple of sessions on inclusive language is the equivalent of setting up an online payment portal or app. Table stakes. Important, but only a fragment. Bluntly: not transformative.

We recently wrote about six high-level steps healthcare leaders can take to advance equity: Unite, Engage, Educate, Equip, Identify and Listen.

As you consider the user journey, DEI is integral as it is the opportunity to ensure that the steps and data that are included as part of that user journey are inclusive of the community you serve.

There are few things worse than making assumptions or running a campaign based on faulty or incomplete data, so make sure you truly understand the communities you are serving and make the website experience inclusive for all. That can be done through multilingual web experiences, content that is not only ADA compliant but also optimized, and being culturally relevant and sensitive in a way that goes far beyond checking a box.

Seamlessness takes work. It doesn’t happen via fragmented efforts or marginal investments.

While the HBR article goes to great lengths to quantify the actual ROI of digital transformation, we don’t have numbers to quantify the gains from cultural integration and embedding DEI across an organization. But we do know, from long experience – and, frankly, common sense – that the cost of not doing this deep work is lower patient loyalty, higher staff turnover and greater scrutiny from stakeholders.

Also, if you don’t do it, you can bet your competitors will.

You aspire to outperform, not just financially but in the care you deliver and the engagement and growth you provide your people. And that requires transformational, seamless change.

It’s worth the investment.

Contributors: David Shifrin, Emme Baxter, David Jarrard
Image Credit: Savannah Ray