The healthcare sector is going through fundamental technology-enabled changes in the way care is delivered, how providers interact with their patients, and how payments are made. To take advantage of digital technology and create more effective systems that help health professionals deliver better care, providers are moving rapidly toward becoming digital enterprises. For example, they are borrowing lessons from e-commerce leaders on how to acquire and retain patients through data analytics and from manufacturing entities on managing patient throughput and optimizing clinical supply chains. Providers are also leveraging apps on smartphones to engage patients remotely in new ways that improve outcomes, and they are using digital tech­nologies to support clinical decisions and streamline hospital operations. In this way, the adoption of more sophisticated analytics has simplified processes and significantly reduced manual workloads.

The pressure of enabling the digital enterprise is landing squarely on the shoulders of the IT department, and this presents tough challenges in a sector that has traditionally lagged behind others in the adoption of information technology. For example, according to Gartner, IT spending as a portion of revenue is 6.3 percent in banking and financial services and 4.2 percent in healthcare. Despite this history, IT departments are now being asked to deliver the core digital platforms that will enable far-reaching changes for healthcare providers. At the same time, in the spirit of doing more with less, these IT departments are being asked to improve service levels and increase IT efficiency.

IT departments will need to take a comprehensive view of how to meet the demands of all core IT functions rather than undertake discrete initiatives. IT leaders will have to address topics such as IT-infrastructure architecture and services, cybersecurity, advanced analytics and data management, and the rationalization of application port­folios. IT departments must carefully juggle a “two-speed IT infrastructure”—balancing the acceleration of new digital capabilities against the maintenance of legacy systems.

All this will require a more efficient and effective IT workforce. That’s why the appli­cation of lean principles is one important element for healthcare providers across the globe pursuing digitization.