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Digital health competition and consumer demands are increasingly challenging health care organizations while millions of people are using health apps and thereby creating new opportunities to increase engagement and consumer loyalty.

At the same time, COVID-19 has accelerated the pace of next-generation IT in health care and while that is well understood this deep into the pandemic, an altogether different circumstance may very well impact the future of health systems and health plans: new entrants.

“For our digital-first competitors and disruptors in particular, COVID-19 paid the marketing tab they would otherwise have had to invest in convincing patients and consumers to try and adopt their solutions,” said Aaron Martin, Executive Vice President and Chief Digital Officer, Providence. “So it not only accelerated the industry, but it also empowered a lot of these big disruptors as well as small disruptors coming into the market.

That reality will only add to the competitive pressure CEOs are facing. What’s more, preliminary Health Evolution research determined that approximately 50 percent of health care organizations have an executive dedicated entirely to digital health while the other half do not.

To help CEOs understand which aspects of digital transformation to concentrate their leadership on either at the outset or en route to becoming more mature digital organizations, during the Health Evolution Forum Town Hall virtual event Forum Fellows outlined the following aspects of a digital strategy:

    • Defining a digital portfolio
    • Understanding the competitive landscape
    • Partnering with external organizations
    • Ensuring that the digital strategy is omni-channel
    • Creating a culture of innovation
    • Investing in your own digital brand

“It’s clear that a digital revolution is happening across our industry and while we may have been slow to the digital parade, we are making up for lost time,” said Nancy Agee, President & CEO, Carilion Clinic. “The CEO must be engaged such that digital health transformation is a priority. This work can’t be put off to the side of someone’s desk.”

Defining a digital portfolio
One of the initial challenges that Agee encountered was determining what should be included in Carilion’s digital portfolio. She and her team divided the initiative into two broad domains: virtual care including telemedicine and asynchronous visits and the digital front door, which encompassed app utilization and development as well as patient education using short video and bots where applicable. “Once these domains were established, stakeholders were identified to help develop an overall system strategy and a roadmap,” Agee said. That included councils for consumerism and virtual care to build strategic integration. “These two groups challenged us to remove barriers and are beginning to build a digital culture across our full system.”

Tom Sullivan

Tom Sullivan brings more than two decades in editing and journalism experience to Health Evolution. Sullivan most recently served as Editor-in-Chief at HIMSS, leading Healthcare IT News, Health Finance, MobiHealthNews. Prior to HIMSS Media, Sullivan was News Editor of IDG’s InfoWorld, directing a dozen reporters’ coverage for the weekly print publication and daily website.