Achieving digital health transformation – Top tips

By Event Correspondent Chantelle Bailey, PGCert MSc PhD CPHIMS-CA

The 2022 Western Regional Virtual Conference was held on March 28th to March 29th. It was a highly informative conference where participants had opportunities to share and learn about best practices in digital health innovation—development and implementation, from the perspectives of several experienced digital health professionals and other key stakeholders. Day 1 focused on the future of equitable and sustainable healthcare in Alberta. Day 2 focused on the reflections and predictions for digital health collaborations in British Columbia. Based on the discussions over the two-day conference, here is a list of key recommendations for developing, implementing, and evaluating digital health innovations within health systems.

Who are you trying to address? You should understand the characteristics, needs, perspectives, and desired outcomes of the target population such as broadband needs, and current digital health literacy levels, for your proposed innovative interventions before implementing digital health solutions.

What type of service provision and delivery model exists within your health system? You need to clearly define and understand the healthcare delivery models across your health system e.g., provider-centric vs. patient-centric systems or reactive vs. proactive systems.

What is your data governance framework e.g., centralized vs. decentralized models? Accessibility to high-quality data is fundamental to developing and implementing effective digital health innovations. Therefore, health systems need to consider their current data maturity models, and data governance standards (and processes) including data security, data integration and interoperability across intersectoral agencies and their role in ensuring the continual monitoring of data quality, usability and accuracy.

Who are your internal and external stakeholders? You should engage with stakeholders throughout the development, implementation, and evaluation of your digital health innovations. Stakeholders can be vital in co-creating and shaping your innovation strategies and ensuring their successful implementation and also this approach can limit implementation decay and its effects within the innovation ecosystem. You could incorporate learnings from other organizations and jurisdictions that have undertaken similar transformational approaches and have representatives from these organizations as part of your advisory committees, if possible.

Is there misalignment between your vision and the vision of your key stakeholders such as government and technology partners? You should understand where there is the potential for misalignment of vision between stakeholders e.g., profitability of innovation vs. healthcare costs vs. health outcomes and you need to create strategies to address any identified misalignment.

What is your model for system transformation? What are your logic models and/or theory of change? Do you have systems currently in place for managing change and innovation? Defining these concepts in conjunction with elucidating causal mechanisms that are resulting in undesired outcomes are crucial for effectively incorporating digital health innovations into practice, creating novel value by identifying value-added strategies, bolstering innovation capacity and culture and also the sustainability of desired outcomes e.g., improved health system navigation. Clearly defining your desired future state is an important progenitor for effective and sustainable health system transformation.

Does your health system have an effective approach for managing innovation projects and programs? Applying and adapting an agile project management approach with principles such as project quality management, project resources management (e.g., resource auditing) and project risk management can enable the successful implementation of digital health solutions, system-wide. This approach could be supplemented by conducting a 360 degree review of services and programs related to the innovation that is being implemented.

Is your system a learning health system (LHS)? This approach consists of three overlapping phases i.e., Data to Knowledge (D2K), Knowledge to Performance (K2P) and Performance to Data (P2D). This cyclical approach could ensure that the appropriate data including social determinants of health and also key performance indicators are incorporated into innovation ecosystems, which can facilitate data-driven decision-making.

What resources do you have within your health system to share learnings? You should have structures embedded within health systems that can facilitate rapid knowledge translation (KT) and mobilization (KMb) across the province and nationally.

Learn more about the Western Region Virtual Conference here.