How to cross the digital divide in healthcare

We have reached a point where almost every doctor, nurse and patient has a smartphone, yet the healthcare industry lags in the adoption of mobile solutions in spite of obvious benefits. Clearly there is a digital divide in healthcare meaning there is a significant gap between the potential offered by the latest mobile technology and the day-to-day operational reality which still involves a lot of paper, pagers and faxes.  In fact, we believe this gap is greater in healthcare than any other industry we work in.

digital divide in healthcare

Over the past 13 years, we have had the privilege of working with a diverse group of healthcare providers who have successfully crossed the digital divide in healthcare and are now well advanced with their mobility strategy.

We have observed, that to cross the digital divide in healthcare, every healthcare provider needs to go through several steps to be successful with mobile technology.  They may not need to be done in this sequence, but they will need to be done and those steps are listed below.

10 Steps to Cross the Digital Divide in Healthcare


Create and socialise a vision for the use of mobile technology to improve clinical workflow, in-patient experience and out-patient engagement.  Once the stakeholders buy into the vision it will much easier to secure resources and funding for the program of work ahead.


Identify the highest value use-cases for mobility and quantify the benefit in financial terms. Some public healthcare providers and non-profit providers may be reluctant to put a value on the savings but without specifying the financial outcome it will be hard to secure the required investment.


Embrace a bi-modal approach whereby one team remains focused on maintaining the day-to-day infrastructure while another team is designing the future mobile-first operating model. Agile works best for mobile development whereas infrastructure upgrades and change management processes must follow a classic waterfall project methodology.


Start the technical design process with the architecture required to expose the relevant APIs to build the apps and web-apps for the use-cases identified above. Then select the development framework, code libraries and the testing / deployment model that will work on a wide range of mobile devices.  The last decision should be to select the mobile devices for the users.  Too many projects start with a decision on a specific device and work backwards to build and deploy an app securely to that specific device.


Make security an inherent part of the fabric rather than an after-thought or a band-aid. Healthcare is under attack and many layers of security are required to protect the mobile device, the app, the connection to back-end resources, the identity of the user and of course the patient data.  As we enter 2018, it is amazing how many healthcare providers have still not insisted that their clinicians’ devices are secured.


Build integrated teams with clinicians, developers and project managers working side-by-side.  The most successful projects have the most diverse teams.  Projects that fail are often the result of an “us and them” culture.


Embrace a product management mindset for each app and service by building a MVP (minimum viable products) to get feedback and ideas from the target users.  Brutal feedback after Sprint 1 is 10x better than polite feedback after Sprint 4.  Create a backlog of features and functions based on feedback from the users, not what the developers want.


Invest early in WiFi infrastructure.  Every Gigabyte of data transported over WiFi is about 10% of the cost of a Gigabyte carried over a 4G commercial mobile network.  It is the easiest business case you will ever write.  WiFi latency and speed are often the factors that determine the success of a mobile project as the user may perceive your app to be slow or glitchy if the WiFi network does not perform when apps are deployed at industrial scale.


Plan and test the end-to-end process for app deployment, user authentication, training and technical support. A user in a remote office will not appreciate all the work you have done if their initial experience with the app is poor.  The set-up and support process need to be intuitive to win the hearts and minds of the users.


Assemble the team that will oversee mobility through a light-weight governance process. The emphasis is on ‘light-weight’ to ensure that momentum is not compromised.  Another approach is to form a “mobility center of excellence” that prioritises investments and projects to meet the needs of the business.

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2018-02-05T21:50:46+00:00 January 23rd, 2018|

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