Five Deadly Sins to Avoid in Any Healthcare Digital Project

Healthcare digital projects are not standalone entities. They connect with other parts of the organization on technical, procedural, and communication levels. It’s easy to overlook these interdependencies when planning a digital initiative. But do so and you put your project at risk of stalling out, going over budget, missing deadlines, or just failing to hit the mark.

To make matters worse, these issues tend to surface late in the game, making it very difficult to correct course.

Such problems are usually the effect of one or more of the five deadly sins that can bring any digital project to its knees. By learning to identify these deadly sins, you can steer your digital projects clear of production hell.

What Are the 5 Deadly Sins Threatening My Digital Healthcare Project?

#1. Going too Fast

Once a project is moving, it’s hard to stop momentum from building. That can spell trouble when your team moves forward on a product idea or vision before necessary foundational work is performed. You may be moving at a pace that makes it difficult to recognize issues as they arise. Always begin your project by defining the problem, aligning on the product vision, crafting the UX strategy, prioritizing the features and functionality, planning the development, and then building the product. Put that foundation in place before paths diverge and problems develop.

Usually, the urge to rush a project toward the end is the result of poor planning in the beginning. Trouble tends to surface closer to the project’s deadline than its kick-off — regardless of when they actually began. That makes it tempting to speed up the project’s execution in order to put everything back on track.

What you really need to do is slow down, though. If you hit the gas as you go into a curve, you’re only going to send your digital healthcare project further off track. Rushing to solve a problem without pumping the brakes and finding the most appropriate solution compounds the mistakes further. When that happens, there is the potential for your project to lose its traction in the marketplace.

When aggressive deadlines are set as a motivator, teams become hesitant to alter course at the risk of missing those deadlines. Should you encounter a bump in the road, slow down and give your team the space they need to solve the problem before ramping back up. And remember, the more planning you do upfront, the fewer issues you’re likely to encounter along the way.

#2. Failing to Account for the Organization-Wide Impact of Your Digital Project

Project teams tend to think in silos. They get hyper-focused on their vision for a project and lose sight of the broader implications. That makes it difficult to plan for wider-reaching ripples throughout the organization. If the team gets to work with only their own use-case in mind, expectations at the organizational level cannot be met.
Avoid such problems by identifying every stakeholder and team affected by the project and shopping the prototype around. Include their use-cases and plan ahead for training and feedback loops throughout the project’s development. The last thing you want is to discover during a stakeholder’s review that what’s been designed and what’s being built don’t meet their expectations.

To avoid such issues, start your project by:

  • Thinking about constraints internally and communicating them to the project team. All stakeholders must understand their responsibilities and what potential trade-offs might include.
  • Planning for changes in internal processes. If anything in the project will alter any team’s internal process, will they have that process change ready to go?
  • Looking for areas where you might have gaps in understanding or where the largest barriers between departments exist.
  • Performing research and tests, including user interviews, contextual inquiry, journey mapping, prototyping, and usability testing.
  • Identifying the solutions that will have the largest impact, resonate with users, and map back to your organization’s long-term goals.

When you involve all your key stakeholders in crucial steps throughout this process, they’re much more likely to understand the choices you make and invest in executing your overarching strategy down the road.

#3. Underestimating the Complexity of Serving a Wide Array of Users

Understanding the complexity of serving your full population of users is especially challenging for organizations with many customer profiles and multiple journeys. You need to find the right level of granularity so you can identify business opportunities while also keeping the scope narrow enough so it doesn’t become overwhelming. Again, this can only be accomplished through careful planning in the earliest stages of any project.

Begin by identifying key segments of your customer base and dig into customer journey maps to find common pain points, areas of friction, and opportunities for innovation. This will help you prioritize initiatives with the largest impact. Once you have a solid research foundation in place, you can start to include additional customer segments to cover more of your user base over time.

As you build out your journey maps and develop a long-term research strategy, evaluate the journey maps to determine what data to collect and behaviors to measure. Developing and watching a diverse data set — such as customer perception (Net Promoter Score or Customer Effort Score), business metrics (sales or loyalty), and how many clicks certain features get — will help you forecast trends and make critical correlations. Doing so will also help you hone in on areas of friction. Then you can make improvements and continue to watch how these metrics change.

It’s worth noting that journey mapping in healthcare is especially complex, as the patient or healthcare customer journey is not as linear as many other industries. Healthcare in general is also behind the curve when it comes to digital experiences. Harnessing tools like journey mapping will help close that gap.

#4. Putting the Wrong People in the Wrong Roles at the Wrong Time

Don’t start thinking about how to activate a strategy before you’ve figured out who needs to be involved and at what point. Including the main players who will be implementing the project in the development process is key to its success. If these team members are not involved at the right time, they may misunderstand the value of the new initiative or feel unheard.

Communicate frequently and allow your team to ask questions. Help them take ownership of the project instead of just viewing their involvement as doing what they’re told. And remember that an empowered Project Manager is important, but your digital project isn’t a round of golf — it’s a team sport.

An important function of competent leadership in a digital project is empowering your entire team to not only spot developing problems, but to bring them to the surface regardless of when they come up. There is a critical path to any digital project, and changes may be necessary along the way. You can’t rely on your Project Manager or executive leadership alone to identify and surface these needs.

Start with an honest assessment of your organization’s capabilities and the talent on your roster. Think about where you need to be when the project begins. You may need to bring in new talent, build or buy new capabilities, or change your organizational structure to get where you need to go with your project. Planning for such needs in the beginning helps prevent the surprise discovery of major talent gaps mid-project.

#5. Putting Security Considerations at the End of the Project

Information security is a primary focus in the healthcare digital experience. Personally Identifiable Information (PII) and Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) requirements are paramount. You don’t want to deprioritize security to maintain forward momentum in other areas of your project. However, you also don’t want your project stalling while your internal security team works to satisfy their own specifications. These may not align with the InfoSec group’s constraints that come in toward the end.

A public-facing digital initiative’s security is inevitably much more closely scrutinized than what you’ll be looking at in your own internal environment. You may have one or two very skilled individuals in charge of security on your team, but they’re up against hackers figuring out new ways of breaking into programs 24/7. It’s an uphill battle that you may not have the in-house expertise to win.

Bring your InfoSec group in at the outset to determine exactly what you need for regulatory compliance, and be honest about your limitations. Give your team room to innovate and fail, but also give them the roadmap and expectations necessary to ensure they arrive at the desired endpoint.

Security cannot be thought of as an add-on product. It must be a part of the development plan from the start, and your infrastructure architecture needs to include premeditated security measures. Otherwise, your security fails will far outweigh your gains in efficiency and functionality during production.

Resist the Urge to Sin Against Your Digital Project

If there’s a single thread tying all of this together, it’s that you need to gather together all the right people with the right expertise, right from the start. The moment a project kicks off without that foundation in place is the moment things begin to unravel. Problems tend to start with people and processes, and they inevitably trickle down into systems.

Gather your team and take an honest look at your organization and the level of expertise you have internally. Don’t hesitate to bring in outside expertise or a fresh set of eyes as needed. The more work you put in at the beginning, the smoother every following step in your project’s development and launch will be.

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