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Why you shouldn't build a 'digital health strategy' (and what you should do instead)

By Vidal Seegobin

September 5, 2019

    Editor's note: This blog was updated on February 4, 2021.

    "Strategy is one of those words that if you removed it from the sentence, the sentence would not lose its meaning" is possibly one of my favorite statements of all time.

    Checklist: Get started with digital innovation at your organization

    While I do think strategy is a real thing (I would be in trouble professionally if it wasn't), I believe it's overloaded with definitions and qualifications and can often be a misnomer—with one of the most common being the use of strategy to mean "dedicated work on X."

    To be clear, I think using the term "strategy" to elevate and prioritize an area of work can be helpful—but I draw a line of caution when we use "strategy" to quarantine that work. Based on our research on digital health, the silo-ing of digital health into its own "separate and unique strategy" is where we see health system leaders commonly tripping up.

    Don't build a 'digital strategy'—use digital health strategically

    We know health care is behind on digital investment. But if you want to take durable steps in that direction, don't "build a digital strategy." Instead, think about key outcomes and objectives first, and then ask if digital investment is one of the potential tools or approaches needed to achieve them.

    To put a finer point on it, what you might call your "digital strategy" is in fact a care variation reduction strategy. Or it's a patient experience strategy. Or even a population health strategy. These are the objectives and ambitions that we're most often chasing in health care. And it's essential that digital innovations help us deliver on those solutions—not be a solution unto itself.

    In practice, that looks like an executive team investing in digital ideas and solutions to address key problems. It's a chief executive who advocates for the power and importance of digital solutions to solve organizational problems. And it's opening closed-door meetings to partners with digital expertise to guide the conversation. We might be doing some of that work. But very few are doing all of it.

    We're going to show our members what that looks like in our upcoming virtual session on February 16, 2021. Be sure to save the date on your calendar and register to join us here.

    Vehemently disagree? Let me know at I'd love to hear from you.

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