Boost — and Protect — Healthcare Innovations with AIOps

By Sean McDermott

The future of healthcare is digital, but the industry’s digital transformation has just begun. According to the Accenture Digital Health Technology Vision report, 81% of healthcare leaders say their organization’s digital transformation is accelerating. 

Until recently, the healthcare industry has generally been slow to digitally transform and adopt leading-edge technology, like artificial intelligence (AI). One indication of the slow AI adoption in healthcare lies in the number of jobs requiring AI skills. The Brookings Institution found only one in 1,250 healthcare jobs advertised required AI skills, which lags behind industries like manufacturing, education, retail and real estate. 

But it doesn’t take a healthcare expert to observe the shift to digital healthcare. The COVID-19 pandemic revealed that patients and providers could turn to telehealth as a safe and accessible alternative to in-person appointments. In addition to platforms supporting virtual visits, other consumer-facing technologies are also innovating healthcare. Online health platforms and even wearable devices increase access to information for patients and providers alike. 

Internal systems must evolve too. Modernized systems can provide more accurate and immediate access to critical information like supply inventory and patient capacity. It can also streamline communications with internal stakeholders and external partners. 

With a shift to a digital-first approach, the healthcare industry is rushing to modernize. Accenture’s research finds that 93% of organizations are innovating with urgency this year. But amidst this rush to innovate, healthcare organizations must also create long-term strategies for sustaining their innovations.

After all, the systems, applications and networks supporting digital health innovations have complex technology behind them. IT Operations teams in charge of operationalizing this technology can’t just turn on the systems and walk away. They must also maintain these complicated and interdependent architectures as unplanned outages can have dire consequences, especially in the healthcare industry. 

IT Operations teams need an artificial intelligence for IT Operations (AIOps) strategy — with its supporting tools — to provide reliable and predictable systems.

The impact of AIOps

Technology has the power to improve the lives of doctors and patients. But, in the healthcare space, maintaining uptime is critical. 

IT Operations teams must continuously monitor systems for incidents that could impact system performance and downtime. But this mandate has grown increasingly more difficult. Modern systems produce a monumental amount of data, and the human brain can’t possibly monitor all of it. In addition to the sheer amount of data to comb through, many systems are migrating to the cloud, making their underlying infrastructures more ephemeral. 

The healthcare industry’s rollout of digital innovations also complicates monitoring. As IT Operations teams implement healthcare innovations, changes in the production environment increase the probability of service disruptions. 

Healthcare organizations that want to continuously update and improve digital apps and services — and keep these innovations running smoothly — need AIOps. AIOps tools combine the power of big data, automation and machine learning to simplify the management of modern IT systems. These tools discover service-disrupting incidents, determine the problem and provide insights into the fix. Human IT Operations teams can then quickly mitigate the issue, ideally before it affects providers, patients or partners. 

Deploying AIOps into a healthcare system’s IT ecosystem is critical to performance, but there’s another benefit. By minimizing IT disruptions, engineering teams spend less time reacting to problems and more time working on high-value, revenue-generating work like developing the next digital healthcare solution. 

Replacing legacy tools with AIOps

One of my teams at Windward Consulting recently designed an AIOps strategy for a regional healthcare company with more than 350 locations, 24,000 employees and 7 million customers. The organization was under pressure to sunset its legacy tools in favor of a streamlined AIOps platform. 

Here are the five steps that worked for the healthcare company’s AIOps strategy and what can work for others looking to implement AIOps: 

Demystify success.

Stakeholders within the organization (and external consultants for some) should collaborate on a vision for leveraging AIOps. Is the goal general performance improvement, simplified processes or both? Will the technology deploy across the entire organization at once or roll out in one department? While this technology can have transformational effects, optimal results rely on a clearly articulated, clearly communicated vision.

Create a comprehensive strategy.

A vision lays the groundwork for a multitiered strategy and project timeline with straightforward directives. The strategy and accompanying timeline can help executives forecast investments, determine priorities and make necessary hires. Meanwhile, managers can use the strategy to appropriately allocate resources to the project, while IT Operations teams can focus on implementation plans and deliverable dates.

Operationalize the tool.

A comprehensive strategy and timeline give tactical IT Operations teams the resources they need to deploy the AIOps platform. All tool implementations vary, but each should include consistent stakeholder touchpoints. Providing regular status updates ensures that teams are following the strategy and timeline, and raising the project’s profile is an effective way to shore up executive buy-in. 

Hone in on adoption.

Too often, technology adoption fails because stakeholders overlook end-user adoption. IT teams regularly need implementation and configuration guidance. If employees outside of the IT department will use the technology, leaders should give extra attention to change management, encouraging long term adoption with ongoing training exercises and check-ins.

Sustain engagement and adoption.

IT teams should amplify the AIOps solution’s successes and failures through relevant metrics and observations. Revealing success can encourage long term technology engagement, adoption and expansion. And by disclosing the technology’s shortcomings, organizations can improve the decision-making and processes that avoid repeated mistakes. 

Even under a tight timeline and budget constraints, following these tried and true steps simplified the monitoring of our healthcare client’s complex architecture. The client also realized significant cost savings from replacing legacy tools with a well-planned, well-executed AIOps strategy. 

Modernizing healthcare solutions can improve people’s lives around the globe. But the potential of these apps and services is dependent on their performance. As the healthcare industry continues to innovate, successful organizations will safeguard these innovations with advanced AIOps strategies. 

About Sean McDermott

Sean McDermott is the founder and CEO of Windward Consulting. Sean previously acted as founder and CEO of RealOps Inc., the pioneer in enterprise management run book automation solutions, which was acquired by BMC. Sean’s curiosity for advancing technology began at his first job as a network engineer/architect installing and managing the first private internet for the U.S. Department of Justice. At a time when the internet was just taking off, Sean was at the forefront and has continued to be on the cutting edge of technology with the development of Windward. He is an advocate for business leadership strategies and shares how other entrepreneurs can align passion and action on his blog, Wheels up World.