Video Quick Take: NTT’s Lisa Esch on Enriching Digital Experiences in Health Care

Todd Pruzan, HBR

Welcome to the HBR Video Quick Take. I’m Todd Pruzan, senior editor for research and special projects at Harvard Business Review. The future of successful health care is predicated on what’s important to patients and their health and well-being journey. This requires building trust and transparency across the entire ecosystem through technology-enabled proactive collaboration.

Becoming a digital organization, health care or otherwise, is not just a technology problem. Organizations need to balance people, processes, and technology, and they need to rebalance investments across all three. Lisa Esch is senior vice president at NTT Data, a top-10 leader in IT and business services. Lisa, thank you so much for speaking with us today.

Lisa Esch, NTT DATA

Hello, Todd. It’s great to be here.

Todd Pruzan, HBR

Lisa, we all talk a lot about the rapid “transdigitization” since the pandemic began, but can you tell us what are the most pronounced ways digital has accelerated over the past two years in health care?

Lisa Esch, NTT DATA

I really think it comes down to the three ways it’s impacted us the most. And we have had a lot of time to reflect on this, about what’s working and what’s not working. And I’ll cover those three things briefly. It’s around care experience, expanded digital provider options, and digital disconnection. And when it comes to the care experience, the care setting was most immediately impacted with digital. We were able to go to people, go to the patients, and really deploy digital technology to allow people to still engage with their providers in a way that we had never done before, only in small and limited places.

It didn’t work necessarily everywhere, but it did work enough that it actually got us through that emergency situation that we have. And now we’re looking and reflecting on this in a way that allows us to move forward with a better strategy. That digital capacity also opened up people’s access to care providers they didn’t have before. So that digital provider was much more expanded for people. And they were allowed to have consultations, treatments, and still get levels of primary care that they couldn’t do without the digital technology that was engaged.

But what happened with all that digital is that we developed a very disconnected digital experience. A lot of these were point-of-care solutions and stood up on their own. They may have been outside your current health care system or provider network, and people ended up with multiple portals and didn’t have access to all their care records when they were digitally engaged. So those are some of the challenges that we’re trying to overcome now.

Todd Pruzan, HBR

So one of the things you talk about is digital not being a technology problem. Can you tell us what you mean by that?

Lisa Esch, NTT DATA

Yeah. Digital is so much more than a technology or an IT capability. It really is around people, processes, and technology and how that all comes together. And it also requires a cultural shift, not only for an organization, but also for the patient to get used to using technology in a way that they haven’t done before. And over the past decade, we’ve seen more and more services in the rest of our life go digital. And we’re pretty comfortable with those things right now. But those things aren’t as personal as health care is. Health care is very personal.

And so it takes more than just technology to have a positive and engaging, enriching digital experience that drives an outcome that’s good for everyone. And so you have to look at the process improvements that actually simplify interactions between the people providing care and the people receiving care. And I think we’re seeing a renewed focus on people, especially in the current environment where workplace burnout is so common.

And I have to say, when we talk to our customers, part of that burnout is driven by all the new technology that was just thrown at people. And they had to learn new processes, new ways, and new interactions as well. So the impact of digital wasn’t just on the patient, but it was also on providers, caregivers, physicians, nurses, and the whole ecosystem that delivers health care.

And right now there’s a concerted effort to take the robot out of the human when we try to automate things and the willingness to really now allow certain tasks to be automated, leaving the creative and more human tasks to be fulfilled by individuals. And this is a really positive aspect that we’re seeing in the digitization of health care.

As we look to the future of health care, it’s really clear that we’re creating a robust and very flexible digital health care ecosystem that goes way beyond the hospital walls and into the homes and alternative care settings, and it isn’t as simple as just setting up standard technologies and solutions in a patient’s home. Again, that has to be a much broader strategy than just deploying technology to a patient’s home or having things run on autopilot.

So just like we have a hybrid work model, we’re going to see a hybrid care model that allows for this personalization of an individual situation and their needs. And not every home or care setting is an appropriate healing environment. And that flexibility is really key to making sure that is successful.

Todd Pruzan, HBR

So how can companies get it right? Do you have any tips they should be thinking about as they approach their digital strategy?

Lisa Esch, NTT DATA

Those are really great questions. And leaders that get it right, based on what we’re seeing right now, have invested a strong digital transformation and accelerator that includes robust integration, an integration fabric, innovative technologies, and simplified business processes. And these things are infused with new insights, intelligence, and maybe a modular architecture that enables the rapid adoption of advanced plug and play. And having this fabric and this infrastructure in place that allows them to be adaptive and transformational as they go is also evident.

But it starts with a strategy. So I know we started this digital journey, oftentimes with just point-of-care solution problem solving. But now it’s time to take a step back and look at what we have. How do we get the most out of it? How do we kind of just remove what didn’t work? And it includes embracing a really thoughtful strategy that starts with advisory consulting and a roadmap that allows an organization to meet the patients where they’re at—and they’re all at different parts of the journey—and meeting the clinicians and staff where they ‘re at while advancing and taking advantage of what technology really can do.

And I think the work that we do really is being driven by this transformation blueprint and the engine behind all these health care ecosystem leaders where we’re constantly helping them innovate and design; Then we fine-tune, and we have to maybe rev up and problem solve. We might go after immediate things or long-term strategy. But this really gives health care leaders a competitive edge by enabling their engine to outperform competitors in the market when there’s a better experience, when there’s less patient attrition because technology doesn’t get in the way and creates a better experience and outcomes that people want .

And we also see a shift of health and well-being really moving beyond the four walls of a health care system. So we believe the future of health care starts with redefining the entire concept of health and well-being to be more human powered, knowledge driven, and technology enabled. Everyone’s in the health care business today. If you’re an employer, you’re responsible for safety in the workplace. You’re providing health care insurance. You’re providing those types of things. So everybody has a vested interest in health and well-being.

And health and well-being at its core is and should be human by design. And it’s a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being that really is not merely the absence of sickness or injury, but it’s also this health and well-being strategy that is going outside the four walls of the health care system.

Todd Pruzan, HBR

Well Lisa, this has been a great discussion. Thank you so much for joining us today and for all of your insights.

Lisa Esch, NTT DATA

Thank you, Todd. I really appreciate having the time today as well.

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