Healthcare costs continue to increase year on year, putting both private and public sector healthcare organisations under pressure. Now more than ever, it is essential to increase the efficiency of backend and administrative processes to enable improved service provision while optimising costs, writes Theresa Ackerman, Manager of Operational Excellence at T-Systems South Africa.

Digital transformation is the answer to simplifying and streamlining processes, enhancing operational efficiency while improving patient experiences. However, there remains a significant gap between healthcare and technology which has made adoption of digital solutions difficult. Temporary Employment Services (TES) can help healthcare organisations to bridge this gap, providing the skills and experience necessary to support the digital transformation journey.

The benefits of going digital
Digitalisation in the healthcare sector means moving businesses from the current state of manual-driven operation into a digital landscape. Some areas that are prime candidates for automation include Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP), record keeping and patient management. For example, rather than maintaining paper-based patient files, digitising this area could provide numerous benefits.

All patient information could become instantly available to all doctors and other medical practitioners who need it, without having to wait for a physical file to be delivered. This improves the patient experience and allows for faster and more accurate diagnosis based on all available information. It also improves efficiency and thus the potential for cost savings is significant.

Files no longer run the risk of being misplaced, administrative tasks are made simpler and faster, and fewer staff are required for administrative tasks, freeing up budget for other areas. From a security perspective, digital files with appropriate backup and recovery solutions are also protected from physical disasters such as fire or flood that could be catastrophic in a paper-based environment. There is also potential for analytics to be applied to patient data to help make better diagnoses and improve outcomes for future patients.

Change management is essential
IT and healthcare have traditionally been two entirely separate sectors. The challenge is that traditionally healthcare people are not trained in IT, and IT staff know next to nothing about healthcare. In addition, while there are many benefits to implementing digital processes, it also brings challenges for staff, particularly nurses and administrative staff who have been trained in manual processes. In order for digitalisation to be successful, the two sectors need to be amalgamated. All healthcare staff will need to learn additional skills in IT and will have to change their ways of working to accommodate new systems.

This needs to be properly handled otherwise resistance to change will stymie progress on the digital transformation journey. Change management is critical and training is essential to help mitigate the negative impacts of change and help people to understand the benefits. It is also important to cross-skill and upskill staff, as digital processes inevitably change job specifications and all job roles in the future will have some digital elements to them.

New skills are needed
Managing, supporting and maintaining a digital environment requires a whole new skills set not seen before in the healthcare space. Historically any technology within the healthcare setting has been managed by the IT department, which has always had little to no visibility into actual healthcare. Digital transformation blurs the boundaries and makes it critical to bridge this gap. Everything is cloud-driven and can be delivered as a service.

The goal is to create better experiences for patients while improving costs and efficiency. There is a palpable need for IT people who understand the healthcare sector and for healthcare people who understand technology.

TES to the rescue
TES can help healthcare organisations to bridge the gap by providing the skills necessary during the digital transformation journey. Often functions such as change management and skills transfer are not permanent requirements, so temporary employment is the ideal solution. When new projects need to be implemented, temporary staff can be brought in to assist with project managing and implementation, as well as change management.

The combination of IT skills and healthcare knowledge is a scarce skill set, so using a provider with experience in this space is essential. In order to facilitate the success of a digitalisation project, a hybrid of skills in IT and a background in healthcare are essential. TES can also assist with training of staff and helping them to understand the benefits of digital transformation to maximise uptake of new solutions.

Staff from a TES provider experienced in IT and the healthcare space will have a variety of skills and experience gained from working on projects at different organisations. This adds value and can help to smooth out any teething problems that may be associated with a new technology implementation.

Changing needs for a changing world
Digital working requires a different way of thinking compared to manually-driven processes, and this is the biggest gap that needs to be bridged. Effective training and management are key to delivering successful digitalisation projects and easing the shift from manual to digital. Skills transfer is essential to ensure that existing staff remain employable and understand that digital will not cost them their job, but rather simplify it and help them to be more efficient.

Healthcare needs to become digital to keep up with the changing needs of a digital world, but in the same vein, digital also needs to become more focused on healthcare. TES is the ideal convergence of the skills of healthcare and IT, offering the missing link to help healthcare facilities on their digital transformation journey.

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