Debunking Myths In Developing Digital Health Services

For the past eight years, Reaktor has been partnering with leading companies within healthcare to build digital health services for primary and specialized care, in both, the private and public sectors. During these years of work, we’ve witnessed some recurring challenges that have stood as blockers for these organizations to succeed in digital development, or even prevented the ability to get things started. In our experience, many of these challenges stem from faulty, collective beliefs within organizations that end up blocking successful digital development.
We collected those myths together and debunked them for you to take preventive measures, and see what kind of organizational adjustments could be made to clear any potential bottlenecks.

 

Myth 1: Users know what they need from digital solutions

Users rarely see the full picture when it comes to understanding what is needed from a digital health service. Because of this, it’s important for designers to take into account all user types and stakeholders to get a comprehensive overview of the whole system at once. Doing this from the get-go allows design to solve for system-level problems, instead of attempting to catch individual issues and grouping them together piece by piece. 

After creating the first iteration of the solution, it’s usually best to release it out into the hands of the users to get real data on impact. You can only know so much about what the needed solution is, and how exactly users will engage, before validating with real use cases. Doing so swiftly allows you to speed up the process and make leaps for next iterations to get to a point where the service is providing the desired level of value to users.

 

Myth 2: IT departments should have the ownership over digital solutions

For best results, ownership of developing digital solutions should be shared on three organizational levels.

The management team should have ownership of the big picture, particularly the Chief Digital Officer. Management determines the goals an organization strives towards, and therefore the shape and direction of an org’s digital efforts should come with full support from C-level. Ensuring that the pain-points digital solutions are targeting align wholly with the business  objectives is crucial for success.

Secondly, the business team should have ownership of digital services to make sure the end-user is ultimately happy. Looping in the people whose job it is to ensure client satisfaction is the only way to develop services that are a part of the core business operations. 

Finally, the healthcare professionals themselves make up an integral part of a team creating digital health services. They are the ones who understand the daily life of the organization, their needs and pain-points, and will be the ones adapting most to changes. Developing solutions for healthcare professionals without their close involvement tends to, more often than not, miss the mark. 

From our experience, digitization always means transformation. Organizational change is inevitable when implementing new digital solutions. It changes the way people work on a daily basis, which is why it is so imperative to work cross-functionally across design, technology, healthcare, and management. The organization at large (or a cross-functional swat team within it) should have ownership of the digital solutions they are developing, and work together to ensure what they are building matches the org’s goals and needs.

 

Myth 3: Success is measured by ticking boxes

At Reaktor, we have noticed that success is often measured by output, rather than outcome. This can be a deadly mistake to make, as it’s difficult to get around the fact that you get what you measure.

For example, if you measure how many times a given action is performed, people will optimize for the quantity of actions, and ignore all other factors. Or if you measure for faultless execution, people tend to either hide the faults, or work very carefully and too slowly to make sure no mistakes are made. Defining good key performance indicators is difficult, and very important for getting the outcome you’re after.

When it comes to digital service development specifically, measuring success by defining a long list of features that need to be completed, you’ll most likely end up wasting a lot of time and resources. This moves focus away from what the digital service is supposed to achieve, and puts the attention on getting those features done. In some cases, you learn in the process, and realize you actually need something entirely different. 

Focusing on the outcome – meaning the change you are hoping to create with the digital service – gives you the freedom to focus on figuring out the features that make the most impact. This approach also brings more flexibility to learn as you go, and adapt with new findings. 

 

Myth 4: Healthcare is too complex for agile development

When an environment or a challenge is complex, it means you cannot know everything from the start. From our experience over the years, we’ve repeatedly seen situations where what was thought to be unimportant from the beginning, ended up being crucial in the end (and vice versa). It’s near impossible to have the answers, if you don’t even know what the question is. 

Agile methods help cope with complexity, and something we’ve maintained as a core component in our approach to development. Instead of wasting all your energy on never-ending planning, picking the most important challenge and building it piece by piece, allows you to keep the number of unknowns limited. This can help immensely with focus, and has been the key to success with our projects.

 

Myth 5: Agile methods are only for the tech folks

It’s a common misconception that agile methods (e.g. frameworks such as Scrum), are only for IT. The notion that implementing solutions with sprints and big-bang releases makes you automatically ‘agile’ is not the point. This type of ‘faux-agile’ limits an org’s possibilities, and closes the method off from being more widely adopted as a foundation for how the team at large works together.

More than anything, we see agile being a mindset change. It means giving up on the idea that everything can be solved beforehand, and instead opt to be resilient in the face of change. We’ve helped make this transformation with our clients countless times, and it has never been painless. It takes years of commitment to achieve the organizational and cultural change that allows companies to be truly agile.

At its core, agile is about delivering value. A change has no impact if it’s only planned, not executed on. You have to get it out there, and only then can you see the real-world impact. By making incremental changes and learning from the process, you can make well-informed decisions on where to go next. 

To be agile, you need these capabilities throughout the entire organization, not just the tech team. From leadership to business, customer support, and core operations – an organization needs to make the transformation to agile together in order to have impact and deliver value, with whatever it is you are creating. 

To read more about our work in digitalising healthcare, visit health.reaktor.com.

Sign up for our newsletter

Get the latest from us in tech, business, design – and why not life.