Transforming lives through digital innovation in healthcare, community and inclusion

Digital innovation is changing lives. Across a range of areas, it’s leading to greater equality, inclusivity, health and general wellbeing. 

Yet despite the incredible array of benefits on offer, many organisations aren’t implementing digital  programmes in a meaningful way.

This is particularly the case in healthcare, community and inclusion settings. The NHS is perhaps the best-known example, but there are others. 

If you’re a healthcare or community leader, it’s important to understand why this is the case. And how you can avoid the many pitfalls on the journey towards successful digital evolution. 

This article looks at the whole picture. It explores challenges, common mistakes, case studies of innovation done well, tips for execution and more.

Contents

What is digital innovation in healthcare, community and inclusion?

Digital innovation in healthcare, community and inclusion is the use of the appropriate affordable and sustainable technologies to improve health services and foster inclusive, healthy communities.

Also called “digital innovation” and “digital evolution”, examples of applications include virtual consultations for accessible medical advice, wearable devices for real-time health monitoring, AI-driven diagnostics for precise treatments and smart cities with integrated IoT devices.

Digital evolution promotes equality by offering equal access to healthcare resources regardless of location or socioeconomic status. At the same time, it empowers communities to become more engaged, informed and resilient.

Digital innovation in healthcare: An in-depth look

Let's look at the main digital transformation challenges, opportunities and current practices in healthcare.

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Challenges

  • Technical infrastructure upgrades: Building platforms that can handle ever-increasing digital burdens poses significant technical challenges. In addition, legacy platforms are often written in outdated code and unsuitable for swift migration. 
  • Electronic health records integration difficulties: The full integration of electronic health records creates interoperability issues across diverse teams and organisations that may not be in regular communication.
  • Telehealth expansion barriers: Extending digital and telehealth services to improve access in underserved regions faces obstacles in adoption rates and maintaining service quality, alongside infrastructure and regulatory hurdles.
  • Cybersecurity threat complexity: As healthcare systems become more and more interconnected, safeguarding data against escalating cyber threats requires advanced, fast-evolving security measures. 
  • Workforce digital skills enhancement: Successful transformation depends on workforce training in digital skills, with investment in programmes and change management.

 

Mistakes

The most common digital transformation mistakes that healthcare organisations are making centre around understanding, budgetary issues and outdated tech:

  • Limited understanding: Many healthcare organisations struggle to form a fully-integrated vision for the use of digital solutions, resulting in irregular adoption.
  • Fear of investment: Risk aversion has led to a culture of waiting for other organisations and trusts to test innovations before adopting them. This hesitancy slows down the adoption of potentially beneficial technologies and places organisations at a competitive disadvantage.
  • Budgetary constraints: Financial limitations often force healthcare organisations to prioritise immediate needs over long-term digital investments. 
  • Lack of tech knowledge: An absence of knowledge about what’s possible with digital transformation leads to the use of legacy systems. However, these systems are no longer fit for purpose in most cases and very far from future-proof. 
  • Investing in outdated systems: Wrong-headed investment ties up money that could be spent on sustainable, affordable alternatives. Continued investment in older systems is far more costly over the long term, with limited improvements to operational efficiency and patient outcomes.

 

Opportunities

We see a host of opportunities for healthcare providers based on our extensive client work.

The most exciting possibilities fall into four categories:

  • Remote monitoring and prevention: Continuous tracking of patients' health outside clinical settings leads to improved early detection and preventative care strategies.
  • Virtual preparation: Healthcare providers' ability to plan and customise can be improved through activities like online simulations, VR training and telemedicine observations. 
  • Up-to-date private networks: Secure and rapid communication within the healthcare ecosystem facilitates access to medical records and collaboration among professionals.
  • Prevention, automation and self-service: Speeding up administrative tasks and empowering patients with direct access to services reduces wait times and practice workloads.

 

 

Digital transformation case study: Animmersion

At Waymark, we’ve collected many client case studies that showcase the application of innovations in real-world environments:

  • Optimising needling practices: We are collaborating with the NHS to improve patient positioning and needling techniques, such as regional anaesthesia. By employing VR and AR technologies, we enhanced clinical procedure accuracy, reduced recovery times and improved training around complex topics like anatomical variance.
  • Bringing realism to first-responder training: We're working with paramedic teams to provide training realism through extended reality and digital devices. Our goal is to develop mixed reality experiences that incorporate a trained actor and augmented reality to simulate various trauma scenarios.
  • Improving digital appointments: Working with NHS clinical professionals, Waymark and its XR partner Animmersion developed a new approach to reducing missed appointments, creating a virtual reality experience to alleviate MRI fears and misconceptions.

Digital innovation in community building: An in-depth look

Let’s explore the top digital transformation challenges, opportunities and current practices in community building and leadership. 

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Challenges

  • Limited skills: Community members often lack digital skills, impeding meaningful technology use and hindering engagement initiatives.
  • Technophobia: Fear or distrust of technology exacerbates the skill gap, deterring community members from embracing digital solutions and their benefits.
  • Prohibitive costs: High costs for digital infrastructure, devices and training present substantial barriers, especially among economically disadvantaged communities.
  • Unsuitable environments: Certain urban designs, like Croydon's "concrete jungle," restrict advanced digital technology deployment because of connectivity issues.

 

Mistakes

  • Free activities: While free initiatives have a place, it is important to remember that they require the use of already limited funds and are not sustainable long-term. 

  • Under-investment in education: Even where there is scope to implement solutions, a lack of skill and technophobia mean they need accompanying education programmes. These are often absent from digital transformation plans.

  • Poor prioritisation of digital services: Council and community leaders are often reluctant to prioritise digital services. A climate of underfunding and highly burdened public services sharpen the focus on immediate short-term needs.

 

Opportunities

  • Creative use of existing systems: Systems already in place are being used to drive creative outcomes. For example, ATMs and POS systems to deliver messages to residents. This approach not only maximises the utility of current infrastructure but also ensures engagement across a large demographic pool, particularly in areas where digital penetration is low.
  • Funding for smart cities: Investment in smart cities is rapidly increasing, with both public and private sectors recognising the potential for technology to transform urban living. This funding supports the development of integrated systems for tasks like traffic management, waste disposal and energy usage.
  • Growing entrepreneurship: The digital innovation sector is seeing a surge in entrepreneurial activity, as individuals and startups work with leaders to identify opportunities to solve community problems. This trend is fostering a dynamic ecosystem where innovation thrives.

 

Digital transformation case study: AgeTech

Waymark Digital engaged with clinical commissioning groups to analyse elderly care pathways, focusing on preventive measures for incidents needing urgent treatment.

By identifying the root causes of such incidents, we found opportunities for integrating smart technologies and preventive practices to enhance care quality and reduce the strain on primary and secondary care services. 

These systems use self-service and automation to limit the impact of incidents, while also addressing the challenge of social isolation through innovative, internet-enabled technologies.

 

Challenges in implementing digital innovations

Challenges in implementing digital innovations in healthcare, community and inclusion centre around ethics, timeframes and a mix of sustainability, affordability and inclusivity concerns. 

Let’s take a look at all three.

 

Ethical considerations

How can advanced technological solutions solve problems that require understanding, empathy and connection? 

This query underscores the delicate balance between using technology for efficiency and maintaining the human touch essential for empathy-driven services. 

The challenge lies in ensuring these technologies enhance, rather than replace, the nuanced human interactions central to healthcare, community support and inclusion initiatives.

 

Execution timelines and legacy migration

Digital transformation often hits delays and compatibility issues, especially when integrating new technologies with existing legacy systems. 

These challenges can prolong execution timelines. Careful contingency planning for common pitfalls, resource allocation and regular reviews are musts for a seamless transition that minimises disruption to services.

 

Sustainability, affordability and inclusivity

Ensuring digital innovations are sustainable, affordable and inclusive remains a significant hurdle. 

Solutions must be designed to be environmentally sustainable, economically viable and accessible to all segments of the population, including those with limited access to technology.

All of these are necessary for the widespread adoption and the long-term success of digital innovations in healthcare, community and inclusion. 

 

How to execute a digital transformation strategy

Successful digital evolution demands a mix of appropriate prioritisation and road-mapping along with ongoing ideation and delivery 

For a full overview of this process, learn about Waymark’s XITE Framework™ for accelerating digital innovation. 

Here is a concise overview of practical steps for creating and implementing a digital transformation strategy: 

 

Assess needs and infrastructure

Conduct a comprehensive assessment of your current infrastructure to understand its strengths, weaknesses and areas for improvement.

Not all needs are equal and priorities will begin to emerge at this stage. Similarly, not all infrastructure will require immediate updates or restructuring. 

 

Prioritise Empathy 

An Empathic Shift™ occurs when you embrace empathy as a guiding principle at all stages of the process.

In this way, organisations and individuals create systems that are more responsive, supportive and respectful of human needs.

 

Set objectives 

Set specific, measurable objectives for the new digital system focusing on enhancing public service, operational efficiency and user satisfaction. 

 

Clarify priorities

Prioritise user engagement and regulatory compliance, involving public service professionals and end-users in the development process and ensuring the system adheres to UK public sector regulations.

 

Develop, implement and monitor

Implement a phased rollout of the new system, emphasising regular testing, comprehensive training, ongoing monitoring and iterative improvements based on user feedback and evolving needs.

Keep track of your ROI and ROX (Return on Experience) during and after the rollout and adopt a tailored Agile approach that fits the needs of your organisation.

 

Checklist: Tips for successful execution 

Once you have laid a solid foundation and planned a step-by-step approach, you can begin to refine your strategy. 

Successful execution involves five key tasks: 

  1. Customise solutions: Adapt digital healthcare to specific, data-based needs, avoiding generic applications.
  2. Contextual innovation: Avoid simply replicating strategies from other sectors, even if they have been successful.
  3. Human resource allocation: Adequately invest in human resources, recognising that digital transformation requires significant investment in training and ongoing support.
  4. Stakeholder engagement: Actively involve all key stakeholders, including healthcare professionals, patients and community members
  5. Emphasis training: Offer comprehensive training and robust support systems for new digital tools to facilitate smooth adoption and maximise their benefits (the real key to long-term acceptance). 

 

 

Resources and further reading

  1. Learn more about Waymark's XITE Framework™ for driving last digital transformation
  2. Guide: Digital transformation in community-building
  3. Guide: Crafting a dynamic digital strategy in social care

Conclusion

The future of digital transformation in healthcare, community and inclusion holds many challenges. But there are also strong reasons for positivity. 

Innovations are already changing lives. They are creating better health outcomes, greater inclusivity and widespread equality. 

And if leaders in the government and private secretary continue to drive this shift, looking towards long-term investment rather than short-term gains, there is no reason why this trend can’t continue. 

From VR training for first responders to smart waste management in cities, the range of potential changes and their ability to impact ordinary lives, is truly staggering.

 

Execute a successful digital transformation strategy with Waymark

Are you ready to create and implement a digital strategy designed to drive lasting evolution in your healthcare or community organisation?

Book a free Xploration to learn how Waymark can help you take advantage of the many opportunities open to you.