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Why Healthcare Transformation Must Be a Top-Down, Bottom-Up Effort

Artificial intelligence (AI) is often perceived and characterized as a threat—and has been since the idea of “smart machines” was first conceived. Robots could not only take people’s jobs, they could also destroy humanity.

But, as researchers have learned over the last 50-odd years, AI can also be a force for good, especially in healthcare. For example, a May Harvard Business Review article identified 10 AI applications that could change healthcare—robot-assisted surgery, virtual nursing assistants, administrative workflow, fraud detection, dosage error reduction, connected machines, clinical trial participation, preliminary diagnosis, automated image diagnosis, and cybersecurity.

But to get the most out of new technologies like AI, healthcare organizations need to first overcome a few substantial hurdles. The most daunting, and most important, is culture change—specifically, moving away from a hierarchical and compartmentalized approach and toward an agile and holistic one. To adopt a digital mindset, healthcare companies must ensure they communicate the strategy to everyone in the organization—why they are implementing new technology, how it could change employees’ jobs, why adoption of the technology is critical, and how it could improve patient care.

For example, while healthcare organizations may believe a new technology like AI relates only to the day-to-day work of a small number of employees, the reality is that it pertains to people across departments and job levels.

AI is everywhere—yes, it powers advanced uses like robot-assisted surgery, but it’s also utilized throughout technology people use every day—Office 365. It helps employees cut clutter in inboxes, makes finding files easier, enables more people to work with analytics, and streamlines collaboration.

Ensuring all employees have a deeper, broader understanding of AI and other technologies provides powerful fuel for the culture shift that’s necessary for success in the digital age.

In addition to culture change, healthcare organizations must also address the skills gap, which Gartner identifies as one of six barriers to digital transformation. “Employees need new skills focused on innovation, change and creativity along with the new technologies themselves, such as artificial intelligence (AI) and the Internet of Things (IoT),” Gartner notes in a recent report.

Above all, organizations must ensure employees gain proficiency with the software they use every day—in many cases, including in healthcare organizations, that’s Office 365.

Ensuring all employees have a deeper, broader understanding of AI and other technologies provides powerful fuel for the culture shift that’s necessary for success in the digital age

Transformation doesn’t stop at user adoption (or at all, for that matter)—employees need ongoing training to increase their proficiency with software, and ongoing support to stay productive.

Speaking at the June MIT EmTech Next conference, MIT roboticist David Mindell said that his decades of studying human interactions with robots has taught him one inescapable truth—machines always need help.1 “When robots succeed, they’re never alone,” he said.

We would take that statement a step further—”When people succeed, they’re never alone.” With the right amount of training and support, employees—and, by extension, organizations—can bring about the change that’s needed for digital success.


1. “Will a robot take my job? AI conference attendees say humans will have plenty of work options,” by Hiawatha Bray, June 4, 2018, The Boston Globe. https://www.bostonglobe.com/business/2018/06/04/will-robot-take-job-the-brains-conference-say-humans-will-have-plenty-work-options/nuwo22BQAVWn4ygz0exy1K/story.html

Image: Vectorarte / Freepik

Jen is an award-winning journalist who writes about workplace productivity and technology for Vitalyst. She believes in the power of using plain language, especially when writing about technology, and lists “achieving and enabling clarity” among her life goals.

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