With cloud, a lot of healthcare executives can “talk the talk.” But far fewer get to “walk the walk.” That needs to change.
We’re now seeing non-IT healthcare executives become more comfortable with terms like artificial intelligence, machine learning, 3D digital learning, genomic research and virtual reality. Clearly, healthcare leaders—from clinical and nurse executives to operations and finance managers—have significant interest in these innovative and enabling technologies. What isn’t widely understood is that all of these capabilities rely on the cloud to operate at scale.
An untapped pool of enthusiasm
But Accenture research suggests that few healthcare organizations are tapping into this ready pool of enthusiasm to bring business and IT together to drive better outcomes. A recent cloud readiness survey we conducted among healthcare IT leaders reveals that only about 18% have engaged non-IT executives on cloud issues or involved them in cloud strategy discussions.1 Going forward, cloud—and the innovation and enabling technologies it unlocks—should be part of every business strategy discussion.
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Times are changing—fast
Perhaps involving non-IT leaders was unwarranted at one point, but the times are changing. Many years ago, I played on two teams at once as both a surgeon and a technologist. Back then, the idea of cloud was new. But I was actively pushing colleagues to give it a try even as healthcare organizations were hesitant to do so.
The ones that did focused more on cloud technology as an infrastructure play and less on the business value and improved care it could help deliver. Frankly, that probably made sense, since cloud thinking itself was embryonic—and to an extent, untested. Getting it right was the paramount concern.
However, this year has revealed a clear shift in thinking. Fellow physicians, nurse executives and other frontline staff talk about employing intelligent services to improve their clinical operations and financial performance while achieving better population health results.
As both a physician and a technologist, I see four reasons why it is time to include executives outside of IT in every cloud strategy or strategic technology dialogue.
- Expand the cloud dialogue beyond technology. Many CIOs and CTOs have traditionally focused on infrastructure and applications—how to support both clinical and back-office needs in a reliable and cost-effective manner. But clinical, nurse and other executives—those outside of IT—bring new frontline perspectives regarding their expectations from technology and what is necessary to innovate in their business areas, all of which can now be enhanced by cloud. The diverse topics that non-IT executives discuss with me include data science, employee experience, productivity, clinical research and innovation, peer-to-peer collaboration and talent retention. These considerations are only fully realized in the cloud at scale and through technology transformation. As we think about modernizing all aspects of care delivery, we need to embrace these new opportunities, tap into these perspectives and expand the cloud dialogue beyond IT.
- Data and advanced analytics have strategic value. Executives have many agendas that do not seemingly intersect, but that are born out of the same core capabilities, creating business and social value. For example, operations and finance leaders talk about how they aspire to deliver better business intelligence and real-time decision making. They note an array of value drivers that matter to them, including enhanced cost efficiency, improved productivity and increased business agility. Many leaders would like to bring clinical, financial and operational data together from across the enterprise (and beyond), employing advanced analytics to improve efficiency and patient care. Many clinical-oriented executives recognize cloud’s potential to access real-world medical evidence gathered during clinical trials, then combine it with routinely collected health data such as electronic health records, registries and claims information to advance new diagnostic and treatment approaches. While non-IT executives have worked cross-functionally for a long time, CIOs have excluded them from key cloud conversations. It’s time to end this practice and embrace key stakeholders early in the cloud dialogue.
- There’s a growing hunger to collaborate with peers and organizations on research and beyond. Cloud allows business and technology platforms to co-exist, enabling access to interprofessional collaboration in research and operations. Many see the cloud as a catalyst to boost research efficacy—a better way to exchange datasets, derive insights from each other’s data and combine them with in-house information. The cloud enables better access and analysis of additional resources—third party data sets—that can lead to more complex and meaningful investigations and better results. How will a healthcare organization effectively exchange, share and analyze data in the future if it isn’t fully embracing new cloud paradigms that make this collaboration more seamless? Cloud strategies focused solely on moving applications or workloads, which don’t contemplate how to enable new data insights and new ways of collaborating on that data, are missing the broader opportunity.
- Healthcare must dial into consumer and employee perspectives. The healthcare industry has embraced many technology innovations over the years. However, many executives focused on care delivery and not on “core IT” and don’t look at their IT counterparts as key partners in their journey. IT experts are often not health experts and often think of themselves as technology “caretakers” versus business innovators. Deploying methods to marry those areas of expertise is critical. Capturing business use cases from the front line and applying new technology opportunities that will fuel their needs, in a more agile, cloud modern way, will accelerate a number of clinical innovations. Cloud is a new delivery vehicle. It allows for more rapid experimentation and forces organizations to build capabilities differently. This is the opportunity to change the perception of IT and the role it plays from supporting to accelerating new technology innovation.
When business, clinical and IT intersect
Cloud has entered the healthcare mainstream. But many IT leaders continue to view themselves as the domain of experts. To unleash the technology’s true potential, healthcare organizations need to tap into insights beyond IT to clinical, operations and finance executives, when formulating their cloud strategy. The fabric of cloud should be a business dialogue in our modern health systems of the future. Not a pure IT play.
Read more about how to maximize the value of cloud—and how the industry can break down barriers to care.
1Survey of Accenture Technology Services Leads, n=276, Internal Survey, January 2020