GUESS WHAT? Digital transformation in healthcare happened in March 2020. At least that’s how it feels to many in an industry where medical innovation has been fast but IT adoption notoriously slow–until COVID left no other option.
Other industry changes had already laid some groundwork. For instance, a shift from fee-for-service to value-based care—improving quality while reducing costs—prompted spending on remote health technologies that accelerated in 2020, according to technology research firm IDC. Then the COVID triple threat of increased demand, decreased access, and mandatory distancing put healthcare IT front and center, a position channel pros can expect it to hold for a while.
For the foreseeable future, five issues will be top of mind for healthcare organizations: reaching patients, reaching each other, and security, security, security.
First, hospitals and medical professionals will want help to ensure telehealth communications are as accessible and enjoyable as possible, helping to foster “customers for life” who refer friends and family. In 2020, “there was somewhere around one billion telehealth interactions between patients and providers,” says Mike Machulsky, executive vice president of strategic partnerships at Pixel Health, a healthcare technology and consulting company in Holyoke, Mass. The well-executed ones produced both better care and patient loyalty.
Second, like many industries during the pandemic, healthcare administrators and medical researchers are working and collaborating off-site, often from home. “Some organizations used eight to 10 telehealth contracts with different groups,” says Barbara Casey, CEO of Nectar Strategic Consulting, a Pixel Health company. Now they need help figuring out effective virtual health strategies across their organizations moving forward.
Finally, remote work and care significantly increase the threat footprint. With privacy and regulatory compliance hugely important, there’s little room for error. A successful integrator will have to show deep understanding of security dangers and demonstrate the ability to mitigate risks. The good news, though, is that healthcare organizations have money allocated for security.
“The number one protected budget, the one always on top, always consistent, never got touched, was security,” says Mike Riley, U.S. vice president of healthcare and GovEd at Logicalis, an international MSP headquartered in New York.
Navigating the Culture
Channel pros new to healthcare IT need to recognize that decisions aren’t made by traditional IT departments, according to Riley. Innovation usually happens on the clinical side of the business; the drive for a new platform will often come from doctors, not technical staff.
MSPs will also have to navigate cultures that hampered digital adoption long before COVID. “The hardest part about this transition is the people,” says Casey. “It’s either the mindsets or the change management they need to go through.”
She says needed digital change might require reorganizing longstanding structures. “There’s a ton of complexity in this industry, but there are a lot of old paradigms that need to shift in order for the transformation to take place more rapidly.”
Riley said Logicalis underwent its own cultural shift when engineers suddenly couldn’t reach on-site hardware. Developing a solution required “getting into the mindset of the sales and delivery organization to say we can accomplish this, we don’t need to be in the building.” In turn, he believes quickly developing remote services created some of the biggest value for Logicalis healthcare customers.