Even though healthcare organizations have rapidly adopted and incorporated digital services, it is important to understand that to truly transform, healthcare organizations need to first tackle legacy technology– to first deal with legacy thinking, culture, and processes.

When we think about healthcare and the business of healthcare, it is a system filled with legacy and it is more than just IT systems. It is a very structured industry that has traditions, systems, culture, bureaucracy, and processes. It's a "people" industry.

For example, when it comes to the way healthcare IT departments attract talent, their thinking is very old-fashioned. Most will simply post a job on their website or LinkedIn and hope candidates will apply. But in this day and age, with the competition of high-tech companies, organizations need to be more proactive and aggressive for talent recruitment whether by collaborating with different institutions (schools, colleges, etc.), using social media platforms, or creating networking events that exhibit how amazing careers in healthcare can be.

But the big question is how and why is it important to address legacy issues in healthcare? In order to get a unified digital experience– a unified patient and clinician experience– we need to modernize the legacy in healthcare which is lurking and dragging digitization down.

For this to happen, IT leaders need to start by taking inventory of their current systems and look at the corresponding process for updating/maintaining those systems. If any of those are older than five years, they should be flagged for further investigation. It may turn out that those legacy systems are still useful, and all that is required is for the maintenance program to be refreshed, or it may turn out that the system can be completely replaced by a different application. Armed with an accurate system and process inventory, IT leaders can then take a step back and make sure their future strategy is aligned with the organization’s goals.

With that, we need to consider that it is possible that the healthcare industry’s goal is not necessarily to ‘transform’ but rather ‘modernize’. Digital transformation is a buzzword– everyone is talking about it but not everybody knows what it really means or how to go about achieving it. Modernization, on the other hand, is a much broader term and more appropriate as a place to start. It is more tangible. The healthcare industry needs to first modernize the culture, processes, and infrastructure that supports it before any ‘digital transformation’ can occur.

For any healthcare organization going through or thinking about digitization, it’s important to first take a step back and look at the big picture. Create a strategy that aligns with the organization's goals and capabilities, have a framework to make decisions, and find the right partners that can put this plan into action.

Written by Lisa Esch, Chief of Strategy, Innovation and Provider Industry Solutions at NTT DATA Services, Visiting Director of NTT Innovation Laboratory Israel.