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The past year has prompted healthcare organisations to prioritise their approach to digital transformation in response to threats like COVID-19. And as part of this, the importance of being able to benchmark digital progress across hospitals and healthcare organisations has come into the spotlight.

HIMSS collaborated with Hyland recently and gathered together experts for its two-part Digital Dialogue Series of virtual panel discussions, folic acid methotrexate to discuss how digital maturity models like the Electronic Medical Record Adoption Model (EMRAM) and Digital Imaging Adoption Model (DIAM) have come to the fore, as a means to benchmark digital transformation.

Hospitals with high levels of digital maturity have fared best over this crisis, said Laura Pietromica, customer success manager at Hyland, in the first webinar, ‘Digital Maturity Models: Creating Roadmaps to Digital Excellence’. “It has been really interesting to see how everything has shifted and how hospitals have adapted to meet the crisis. And how those who have had low levels of digital maturity have really struggled to do so. Those working towards HIMSS Stage 7, however, have really seen the benefits of getting digitalised.”

Benchmarking digital progress for better outcomes

The webinar, which was moderated by HIMSS Analytics regional director (EMEA) John Rayner, explored the benefits of adopting digital maturity models such as HIMSS’ EMRAM to benchmark hospitals’ digital progress, leading to better connected care, healthcare system resilience and better patient outcomes. Panellists also included Dr Shankar Sridharan, CCIO at Great Ormond Street Hospital in London, UK and Dr Ronald Petru, Pediatric Intensivist, Clinical Data Scientist, Radboudumc in The Netherlands.

Dr Petru explained how his hospital responded to the crisis: “We quickly agreed that everyone who could work from home should work from home. We were able to upscale in one weekend. This was really only possible because everything is paperless, everything is digitalised, everything is virtualised.”

“For us, HIMSS EMRAM Stage 7 was not a goal, it was a means to achieve something -better healthcare. If you have a really stable, solid base – well thought through, virtualised, digitally secure – that means you are much better equipped to cope with unexpected situations.”

A business case for digital maturity

The pandemic has done much to strengthen the business case for digital maturity in hospitals, said Dr Sridharan. “All of this has really sold the idea of digitalisation to our hospital even further. You always have some non-believers who ask, ‘Why are we doing this?’ or, ’Why are we doing that?’ But digital maturity continues to be a key priority for us, because there’s more we need to accomplish to make our platforms and capabilities more intelligent, so we can see what we’re not seeing – and respond faster.”

That’s not to say that any hospital cannot be effective, regardless of its standard of digital maturity, according to Dr Sridharan: “I don’t think you need to be at EMRAM Stage 7 to be able to leverage technology and do well. And even if you do little things to improve access, improve communication, all that has downstream effects to make the caring we deliver more robust and better.”

The second webinar,Digital Maturity Models: Focus on Image Sharing and Collaboration’, moderated by Jorg Studzinski, director of research and advisory services at HIMSS Analytics, Germany, looked at how digital imaging maturity models like HIMSS’ DIAM have enhanced image sharing and collaboration throughout the COVID period. Panellists included Saduf Ali-Drakesmith, healthcare manager, Solutions Team EMEA & APAC at Hyland, Jan Boers, director of IT & IS at OLVG in the Netherlands (a DIAM Stage 4 hospital) and Lluis Donoso-Bach, head of Diagnostic Imaging at the Hospital Clinic of Barcelona, University of Barcelona, Spain (a DIAM Stage 5 hospital).

Though the topics of the two webinars were quite diverse, some of the conclusions drawn, especially around the benefits of digital maturity on patient care during the pandemic, were surprisingly similar.

2020: The year interoperability became a reality

Though interoperability had been discussed and sought for many years, it was only when the pandemic reared its head that it became a reality. “People have talked about interoperability and deploying XDS for a long time, but it didn’t really start to happen until the coronavirus hit,” said Ali-Drakesmith, from Hyland.

Boers agreed: “COVID was dramatic for patients and hospital staff involved, but it’s been a blessing for digital health, because it’s really speeding up all kinds of development around data exchange, XDS and exchange of images.”

And hospitals’ level of maturity of imaging adoption (or DIAM status) really helped. “At the beginning of the COVID crisis, it was a huge advantage to have all the infrastructure set,” said Donoso-Bach.

Technology is not the problem – we are!

Although the debate about interoperability and image sharing has been a hot topic for years, the capacity for this has been there for some time, said Hyland’s Ali-Drakesmith: “Technology is not the inhibitor here. We know that technically we can do this.

“For myself I see this as almost a political or systematic issue. Sometimes it’s about policies and procedures that slow us down, as we don’t have agreements to share data. So technology isn’t the problem. It’s people; it’s policy; and it’s resistance to change.”

This was reinforced by Dr Petru in the first panel: “The technology is moving very fast. But what we need now is the ‘real’ digital transformation. What I mean by that is policies, processes, everything needs to change to keep up with the technology – and this in my point of view we’re just starting.

“Not that we needed the pandemic, exactly – but let’s at least make the best of the situation, now it’s here – and demonstrate how the technological advances that we’ve seen in the last few years can change our primary process and make it more effective.”

So, in conclusion, it would seem that the case for digital maturity in hospitals has only been strengthened by the COVID crisis. Perhaps there are still cultural learnings to be integrated from the period, however, before the healthcare system can fully benefit from the huge technological leaps forward that are now being made.

You can view Part 1 and Part 2 of the webinar series on demand.

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