8 must-haves of digital transformation


Dr Maggie Haertsch (RN, PhD) Consulting Clinical Research Director, Talius Group Ltd. and Principal Fellow, Melbourne School of Population and Global Health, University of Melbourne.

Digital transformation is not new. Industries such as finance, manufacturing and retail are all examples of where digital transformation has reshaped entire businesses, helped improve efficiencies, scaled and improved profitability. The delays of the health and aged care sectors to use many of the now well-proven technologies are understandable. We are dealing with people’s lives so there is no room for error on critical issues that could jeopardise safety. There are also compliance and regulatory requirements, including security, privacy and confidentially, that are essential and non-negotiable. The implementation process in finance and retail sectors provide lessons that help pave the way for improved roadmaps and checkpoints along the journey towards digital transformation in aged care. What are some of the success factors?


1. Digital transformation is a journey and not a project


Successful companies embed their digital adoption as an ongoing process. When a digital process is seen as a project with an end date, it is likely to not be sustained and maintained. A good example is the implementation of electronic health record software. After the initial training and the celebration that it is now “live” the process doesn’t stop. There will need to be a plan to support new updated versions and improve more compliance features requiring further training, organisational policy and process adjustments, and updates to the software wherever it is deployed, a designated person to oversee the new system and budget that supports the changes.

There are many emerging technologies worth reviewing to help improve the services. How is the organisation supporting such discoveries and what resources including leadership skills and budgets are allocated to navigate the digital transformation path?

2. Understand the organisational goal and design for that


A single clear goal is critical. It makes it easy for the organisation’s teams to understand and support if there is a clear vision and why. The goal drives decisions and sets up the measures needed to assess achieving this goal, it helps to make it SMART – specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound.

3. Don’t let the technology dictate how


There are many exciting devices available with many features. However, this doesn’t last and the novelty of the tech will eventually wear off if there isn’t a clear link to why the technology is in place and how it achieves the organisational goal.

4. Choose the best technology that will help to achieve that goal


A formalised technology assessment process in the transformation plan will help align the tech to the goal. Consider the data provided, security, privacy and compliance to the sector requirements, user experience, deployment ease, integration, reliability, value, and interoperability with existing or other planned systems, for example. How does the choice of technology now help the organisation for the future?

5. Have a governance process to support the journey


Leadership from the executive team is an important lesson learned from organisations that have undergone a successful transformation. Consider a governing structure to support the journey; it’s aim and membership. Experience has demonstrated that in health and aged care, a successful team includes a clinician, a technologist (ICT or CIO), and the operational manager. Have at least two Digital Technology Leads (DTL) who are working alongside the teams at the point of care or the point of change, for any implementation, is essential. Consider how complaints, risks, barriers to adoption, and resources are going to be managed. What will be the relationship of this group to the governing board, the older person, and what opportunities are there to engage the organisation’s Consumer Advisory Council in this process?

6. Plan for change to the operational model


Introducing a new process, new data to review, a system to manage, or a new way of working will disrupt the current operating model. Analysing this impact and planning for this change is critical. Will there be new revenue opportunities and billing required? Are case conferences, clinical reviews and escalating risks going to change? Will there be adjustments to existing roles in the organisation with different responsibilities? Plan for this change and the communication needed so that the goal of the transformation can be fully realised.

7. Embed the principles of change management as business as usual along the journey


Generally, humans don’t like change. Yet change is constant, particularly now with the reforms in aged care. The primary reason to resist change is through the fear of the unknown. There are a number of change management principles to follow but at their core it is to motivate, inspire and lead, listen to and address concerns. Remove any barriers to the frontline staff and engage the team in the process. Provide short term wins and milestones along the journey and keep building. You can’t over communicate. Share the vision.

8. Start small, review regularly and keep iterating while scaling


Starting with a small implementation will provide excellent lessons to then incorporate into the next stage. Creating a plan that grows from past learning will manage the risks and improve the experience of the journey reducing as much uncertainty as possible.

This is an exciting time as the aged care reforms are taking effect. The government through the development of the Support at Home program is exploring the use of assistive technologies and with the challenges of a slim workforce for the growing demands for aged care, the digital transformation journey will be essential for any organisation seeking to remain financially sustainable.

Contact Talius for more information and a free technology assessment guide.

Read an abridged version of this article in Aged Care Today.