17 Sep Digital Transformation: Nigerian Healthcare Businesses in Perspective
In today’s business ecosystem, digital
transformation is not just forward-thinking, it is survival. It focuses on the
integration of digital technology into various aspects of businesses, which
essentially transforms the value delivered to customers, the culture and
operation of the business. Digital platforms have become important tools for
meeting changing customer demands, enhancing customer and employee engagement,
and optimizing business processes. Overall, it is a fundamental driver of
business productivity. With the COVID-19 pandemic bringing business and
economic activities nearly to a halt, businesses have been forced to digitally
transform various aspects of their operations to adapt to current
socio-economic realities. Healthcare businesses are not left out, as the
pandemic has further stressed some of the existing lapses in the industry
including manpower and infrastructural shortages, most of which would have been
addressed by the comprehensive adoption of digital transformation in the
Digital transformation in healthcare is the
adoption of technology in various aspects of healthcare delivery, to strengthen
the interaction between patients and health care providers, improve patient
outcomes, streamline medical practitioners’ work, optimize operations and
systems, reduce medical errors, and lower costs.
This article aims to assess the current state of digital transformation among healthcare organizations in Nigeria. To identify the gaps, understand the perspectives of healthcare organizations regarding digital transformation, and eventually make recommendations to promote adoption of digital transformation, Ciuci Consulting surveyed randomly selected healthcare practitioners working in either privately or publicly owned organizations. The data collected was analyzed based on the adoption and integration of digital technology in the following areas:
- Business Model
This refers to an organization’s plan for profit-making by – among other things – identifying and delivering the products or services the business plans to sell. For organizations in the healthcare space, services offered for sale include preventive, curative, palliative, and rehabilitative care. The key question is how organizations in this space have digitally transformed their service delivery to efficiently meet the demand for their services and the gaps inherent in the Nigerian healthcare space. To meet such needs, several healthcare organizations have evolved and introduced e-health services. E-health is the use of telecommunications and digital technologies which include the internet, computers, smartphones, and mobile devices, to facilitate the delivery of health care services. As e-health evolved, telemedicine – a field in which telecommunication technologies are used to provide healthcare remotely – emerged. Telemedicine – also known as telehealth – is any two-way communication between a doctor and a patient using video, audio, or chat technology. In other words, it facilitates communication between doctors and patients without both of them being physically present within the same space. To connect patients with doctors, telemedicine uses several platforms from web to mobile applications.
Based on our survey, only 13.5% of the respondents indicated that their organizations offer e-health services. Although some of these organizations offered more than one e-health service, the two most common services were teleconsultations and telepharmacy services. With few numbers offering e-health services, it was evident that the digitalization of service delivery is not yet mainstream amongst these respondents. Hence, the reality is that only a few of these businesses are available to offer services that can be used by first responders for consultation during emergencies, lockdowns, curfews, pandemics, or in military battlefield situations. Also, only a handful of these respondents have the digital capacity to provide consultations for patients in rural and remote areas or provide consumers with the benefit of ordering prescriptions online and ensuring direct delivery to their homes.
This refers to several activities that a business engages in daily to increase its value and earn a profit, which requires employees performing several tasks such as accounting, marketing, customer engagement, etc. Business operations within a healthcare facility include administrative support, finance, legal, human resources, etc. To avoid glitches and ensure efficient business operations, there ought to be adequate interconnectedness amongst all business units. For healthcare organizations, a major cog in the wheels of its business operations is the practice of silo operations concerning data and resources, within departments, and amongst stakeholders and decision-makers that play a role in the delivery of healthcare services. These silos tend to make the patient journey complex and less integrated. However, embracing digital transformation at the core enables operational excellence, and creates a more unified approach to service delivery through digital platforms and software.
When the respondents were asked if the business units at their organization are well connected with the aid of digital platforms, 50% said that they were well connected, while the other 50% said they were not connected. In comparing the digital transformation of the business model with that of the operations, it was clear that the respondents paid more attention to the latter. However, when the respondents were asked specifically if they had adopted the use of digital platforms for service delivery, 63.5% of them said no. This buttresses our earlier findings that only a few of these businesses offer digital and e-health services.
This refers to the collection of expectations, values, and practices that influence and inform the actions of all team members. For organizations in the healthcare space, culture is salient as it affects several aspects of service delivery and becomes manifest in the patterns and attitude of employees toward patient care. It is an integration of ethical values, employee engagement, professionalism, employee efficiency, commitment to quality, strategic thinking, etc. However, the adoption rate of a digitized culture among these organizations were so minimal that organizational culture is deemed as one of the barriers to digital transformation in this space.
In driving the digitization of culture within an organization, executives and top management have a key role to play as they are the primary influencers of organizational culture. Based on our survey, 52% of our respondents stated that their executives do not set a good example in driving digitization. This implies that there would be a poor reflection of a digitized culture in such organizations. Hence, it is no surprise that 52% of our respondents stated that their organization had not used digital platforms to improve employee engagement. Also, 50% of them stated that they had not used such platforms to improve employee efficiency. Since culture influences service delivery, and there is a poor digitized culture among these organizations, it is no wonder that their services are not digitally transformed. It clearly explains why only a handful of these organizations offer digital services to customers.
This refers to all the foundational tools and resources that allow businesses to become digitized. Digital infrastructure focuses on enabling business agility and promotes user experience that drives customer loyalty and engagement. For healthcare organizations, this translates to a group of technology solutions that are developed to manage every aspect of healthcare delivery such as electronic medical records, telemedicine, operations, financial management, and adoption of digital tools for diagnosis, treatment, and management, amongst others. It also entails having a team of qualified personnel who manage these solutions.
Although only a few of the respondents have adopted digital infrastructure through e-health services like teleconsultations, data from our survey revealed that healthcare organizations in Nigeria are gradually adopting Electronic Health Records (EHR) as 61% of the respondents indicated that their organizations have adopted the use of such technology in storing patient data. EHR is a digital medical chart that includes patients’ information ranging from medical history and diagnoses to treatment plans, immunization dates, and test results.In addition to this, almost half of the respondents stated that their organizations had specific people responsible for driving digital solutions.
To ensure optimal digital transformation among healthcare businesses in Nigeria, Ciuci Consulting recommends the following:
- Needs and opportunity assessment
Healthcare facilities must first identify the services that patients need; determine what their most pressing needs are and understand where these needs emanate from, and efficiently tailor relevant services to meet the unique needs of such patients.
- Business review
All functional leaders must actively work together to assess their current state; map out their future state, and then compare this with healthcare organizations that are leading the digital transformation narrative. These would help them to identify their weaknesses and strengths; determine how to maximize their current state to reach their desired state, and develop an implementation strategy to reach the desired state.
- Integration strategy development
Priority must be given to the needs of the consumer such as the patients, physicians, and other employees, as they are the ones who will use the platforms. Hence, they must be included in the creation of such platforms. It is also important that they are properly informed and indoctrinated into the concept of digital transformation, its value, and how it affects the organization.
All functional heads must ensure that employees are properly trained on the usage of the required digital platforms and that all units of the organization are properly connected through these platforms.
To ensure proper integration of all systems and units, IT technicians must design integration systems that take into consideration the problems that are peculiar to the organization. When these platforms are properly integrated and all units are connected, service delivery to patients would be efficient.
- Executive-led change in culture
The value of culture cannot be overstated as it ultimately influences the attitude of employees towards service delivery. Considering that there is a poor digitized culture, it is imperative that the top executives first embrace digital transformation before facilitating the change in the organization. This is important as they are the custodians of culture and if they do not truly reflect a digitized culture in all their doings, all plans to digitally transform the organization and its culture among employees would fail.
Considering that digital culture is an intersection of strategy, technology, and operations, executives must be open to collaboration by bringing in expertise and perspectives of these functional leaders and map out strategies to digitally transform the organizational culture.
- Patient sensitization and re-orientation
Healthcare facilities must not only digitally transform, but they must also sensitize patients as they are the end-users and ultimate beneficiaries of a digitally transformed healthcare system. They should be encouraged and shown how they can maintain their health and manage their illnesses with minimal disruptions, outside of a hospital setting by using digital services and platforms such as mobile applications, wearable devices, teleconsultations, etc.
As with every organization, the primary goal is to develop products and services that consistently improve the quality of life or satisfy a need and want. It is important to have a clear picture of the modern healthcare landscape and leverage digital technology to transform standard practices into thriving institutions. Hence, a comprehensive adoption of digital transformation among healthcare institutions will create significant value for patients and ensure the profitability of service providers, stakeholders, and ultimately facilitate a healthy, profitable and sustainable future for all. Organizations in the healthcare space can adopt the recommendations above to build transformative experiences not just for the patients but for the institution as a whole.
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