Health Tech Trends

Health Tech Trends 2022: the biggest challenges faced by digital transformation

It’s time to explore some of the results of our Health Tech Trends series, through which we explore the ideas, challenges and priorities for leaders in health and care. Earlier this year, we released a survey posing questions on key digital topics, to gather opinions and thoughts from across the industry.

To start, we’ll be exploring the responses to “What is the biggest challenge you or your organisation is facing with digital transformation?”

Perhaps predictably, one of the major issues raised in survey responses was that of resourcing. 32% of respondents stated that the biggest challenge they have faced comes down to not having the resources they need to effectively implement digital transformation, or keep up the level of work required to make digital transformation successful alongside completing other necessary tasks and projects. Time was raised as a key issue along with staffing requirements, finances and physical space.

“Getting the space for teams on the ground to be able to deliver digital change effectively” is a particular challenge, according to the director of an organisation dedicated to delivering technology solutions within healthcare, but time isn’t only required for delivery. Splitting time between digital work and other areas can also be difficult; “time [isn’t] provided within job plans for frontline clinicians to be involved with configuring new electronic care records,” said one respondent from a Health and Social Care Trust in Northern Ireland.

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused additional difficulties when it comes to resourcing; “we have a tight roadmap for delivery and having to respond to COVID and switch to remote working has added extra pressure,” said an EPR Pharmacy Specialist for an NHS Trust.

Another key theme among the survey responses was culture, with 29% of respondents highlighting that “capacity for change and appropriate workforce engagement” can form significant barriers for digital transformation. “Getting a buy-in for different digital transformation projects is still a real challenge,” shared a Research Officer from an NHS Health Centre, with an NHS Digital Lead Nurse Implementer agreeing: “Engagement and acceptance can be variable.”

A respondent from NHS England and Improvement said that there is a “need to change the culture, [to] educate people on the art of the possible/achievable, breaking the traditional siloed thinking and adapt an approach which builds in flexibility and adaptability.”

Some survey responses believe that basic patterns of work and even thought must be consciously altered in order to support digital transformation. There is “underlying paper-based thinking across all areas and positions,” according to a Lead Pharmacist ICT for an NHS Trust, adding that staff uncertainty around data and its impact on outcomes presents an additional challenge.

Of course, a challenge linked in to that of culture is the scale of the work involved – change is one thing, but bite-sized change is certainly more palatable than huge differences to embedded ways of working and attitudes. The scale of the work also means that “agreeing priorities” and “getting several organisations aligned” can present difficulties.

Complicated processes and systems are highlighted as additional challenges. The director of a strategic healthcare consultancy stated that their clients face a “lack of a simplified framework landscape”, with NHS systems “fragmented”.

The respondent for NHS England and Improvement agreed that this is a major challenge, noting that “creating a robust procurement brief that captures the basic requirements whilst at the same time considers the wider implications, synergies, interconnected programmes, cost, integration, interoperability” is not simple or easy.

Additional technological challenges raised in the survey responses include network speeds causing practical problems in day-to-day work and patients themselves not having the necessary technology, which means that they do not benefit and also prevents a complete move over to digital ways of working.

Whether managing patient expectations or staff views and habits, many of the survey responses make it clear that how the change is managed is perhaps as important as the change itself.

“It is critical to balance immediate deliverables (including business processes, employees and customers) with future plans and opportunities for further digital innovation,” said the Managing Director for a healthcare communications organisation. “Rather than spending too much time trying to predict the future… we need to ensure that our methods of working are flexible, and that our technology is adaptable to the ever-changing demands of the digital health landscape.”

We’ll be exploring more of the Health Tech Trend survey responses over the next few days – keep an eye on HTN for the next article, which will look into practical ways and ideas to tackle these challenges.

Or visit our Health Tech Trends Series channel here.