The Forum

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

by Vidal Seegobin

"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 prioritise 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 this year, 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 organisational 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 chief executives session in London on 16 Oct. with our half day session called "From Data to Decisions."

I’d also like to invite you to the session on 15 Oct., where we'll take a look at the state of the health care industry and the ways health care organisations are shifting incrementally to more value-based, connected care delivery models.

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


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Checklist: Get started with digital innovation at your organization


Success with digital innovation will require discipline, a results orientation and a willingness to fail. Organizations must take a deliberate approach using at least these critical steps.

This checklist will help you guide your organization's discussion on how to get started or advance your organization's digital innovation strategy.

Download the Checklist