“Digital transformation” is not just a popular buzzword — it’s the standard that many businesses strive toward. But what does “digital transformation” really mean?
Through integrating technology, such as internet of things, cloud-based intelligence and artificial intelligence to redefine the operating model, digital transformation allows organizations to reimagine their business operations to improve customer experience and meet emerging market demands.
We’ve seen successful examples of digital transformations across many industries: Amazon’s game-changing customer insight-driven platform and business model, DHL’s automated stock management supply chain system, and GE’s predictive analytic tools that measure equipment data for proactive maintenance. Even banking — governed by strict security and legislation frameworks designed to protect customer privacy — has evolved from branches to ATMs to mobile apps.
The healthcare sector has the same opportunity to revolutionize operations to reduce costs, improve efficiency and enhance safety and clinical outcomes. Pharmacy — specifically hospital pharmacy— is a key area where digital transformation can have a significant impact.
Hospitals and pharmacies across the U.S. lose billions annually due to expired or unused medications. But medication supply chain visibility and the insights that can be mined from that intelligence can improve operational efficiency and staff/patient satisfaction.
One health system in Texas purchased more than $150 million in pharmaceutical products each year, but until recently had no real-time visibility into that inventory. This was resulting in more than $2.5 million in expired medications and $17 million in dead stock inventory. We helped this health system implement a phased approach to automating pharmacy processes and implementing a data-driven medication supply chain. Now, it has 95% visibility into inventory and usage data that supports optimization opportunities and reduces drug waste.
Here are three simple tips to help not just pharmacy leaders — but business leaders across all industries —ensure a successful digital transformation.
1. Articulate your Digital Transformation Vision and Strategy Throughout the Organization
Pharmacy leaders should define and communicate — both to C-level executives as well as across the extended organization — the potential a digital change has for improved financial, operational and clinical outcomes. Specifically, explain what new operating and business models the program can enable, and describe the competitive advantage digitization offers. Then define the road map’s timelines, targets and responsibilities. A digital transformation should be communicated as a solution to the everyday challenges facing healthcare leaders, such as patient safety, staff satisfaction and operational inefficiencies that must be addressed across a rapidly changing care landscape. The result: eliminating costly, error-prone manual workflows and allowing pharmacists, nurses and other clinicians to focus on what matters most: delivering safe and effective medication therapy.
2. Get Organizational Buy-in for Investing in Digital Technology Solutions
Getting buy-in for a digital transformation proposal requires having a plan that demonstrates to senior leaders defined business goals and clear benefits of the technology investment. For example, describe how a digital transformation can support a culture of accountability and operational success. Emphasize both the soft and hard value of transforming your operation digitally, and especially highlight the measurable impact that it will have on the bottom line. Show how analytical tools and dashboards can empower executive teams with the ability to see firsthand the impact digital transformation has on improved business and patient outcomes.
The chief pharmacy officer of a hospital in Kansas got buy-in for her vision by defining six pillars of excellence, which ranged from improvements in inpatient operations services to finance and medication acquisitions that would be maximized with a supporting digital transformation. In short, the ability to present a clear transformation vision with the promise of a measurable, positive impact on business and patient outcomes is a very persuasive argument that’s hard to ignore.
Once you have organizational buy-in and begin researching technology vendors, try to find one that aligns with your digital transformation strategy. And look for technology solutions that work well with your current systems and enable you to easily share data across the operation.
3. Implement Incrementally to Calm the Fear of Change
Hospitals that try to boil the ocean with a digital transformation can fail or get backed into a corner where the implemented tools and processes are inconsistent with expectations. Instead, aim for an agile rollout with a push to a small division; then, gather feedback from that existing user base to tweak the technology as you scale the implementation across the organization.
Success starts with executive buy-in and is followed by continuous and extensive communication across the organization and with all of its stakeholders, including senior leaders, nurses, information services staff, electronic health records staff and others. Build each implementation on learning from previous efforts. This is exactly how our health system partner in Texas ensured a successful digital transformation. It started with smaller satellite campuses and then scaled across the enterprise, building internal confidence and excitement as the process rolled out. When it comes to digital transformation, incremental deployments tend to be the best practice.
Today, an agile approach can help healthcare organizations meet ever-evolving challenges. Digital transformation is not a single project; it’s a technology-driven strategy that requires continual evaluation and adjustments to meet established goals. The term "digital transformation" may be overused, but the tenet of rethinking old operating models is based on maximizing strategic goals. And it can be pivotal to improving business and achieving patient care goals.
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