Change Management

Navigating COVID-19 Crisis and Beyond in the Digital Era: Agile Healthcare Paradigm

On January 30, 2020, the World Health Organization (WHO) announced the emergence of COVID-19 as a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC) (Eurosurveillance Editorial Team, 2020). The pandemic status of COVID-19 forced healthcare systems throughout the world to adapt quickly to mitigate the related burden and safeguard the healthcare capacity. To achieve this prompt response, healthcare organizations need timely collaboration and decision-making, efficient engagement with the associated stakeholders, including patients and healthcare providers (HCPs), technology integration, knowledge sharing, and effective communication. This dynamic approach is related to what is known as the agile management framework (Alotaibi & Almudhi, 2023). Agile project management is designed to overcome the challenges of traditional projects by emphasizing adaptation to evolving needs and challenges rather than dealing with them as barriers to timely and customized deliverables. Consequently, practicing agility at personal and organizational levels is paramount when working with uncertainty, as in the case of the COVID-19 pandemic crisis, which was a challenge filled with unknowns. However, the functionality of agile management exceeds its importance beyond navigating crisis cases, especially with the ever-changing existence of healthcare in the digital era. Digital health is a challenging arena due to its rapid growth and the scarce evidence of the applicability of each new tool in clinical practice settings. 

The application of agile methodologies demonstrates its functionality in navigating PHEIC during COVID-19 regarding preparedness, response, and recovery efforts. Let us explore the impact of adopting agile practices on health outcomes and performance at the working group and organizational levels. Then, determine what is needed to navigate similar challenges in the next norm using agility.

How does practicing agility affect health outcomes?

With the COVID-19 lockdown policies, digital technologies-related tools have made healthcare accessible through telemedicine, telemonitoring devices, and digital health applications, including mHealth phone applications. Developing digital tools is a complex process that needs time, intensive planning and designing, code building, and usability assessment. The urgent need for digital tools, which is applicable from the early stages of development, brings the agile framework to take its place in affording timely, patient-centric tools (Kokol et al., 2022).

The application of agile software development (ASD) of digital health tools shows its significant functionality, ensuring the continuity of care and simultaneous mitigation of infection (Kokol, 2022).

ASD is based on four focal fundamental values:

  • Individuals and interactions over processes and tools
  • Working software over comprehensive documentation
  • Customer collaboration over contract negotiation
  • Responding to change by following a plan

Thus, applying ASD assures efficient interaction and communication between the patient and HCPs. In addition to its emphasis on continuous engagement and feedback of stakeholders of patients and HCPs throughout the development process, it promotes producing deliverables tailored to healthcare needs, ending with enhancing patient outcomes and overall satisfaction of the end-users, patients, and HCPs.

This is the case with the timely mHealth applications that were developed with the agile framework during COVID-19. These applications demonstrated successful integration. For instance, during the lockdown, mHealth is utilized in undertaking symptomatic evaluation, promoting health education, and supporting national prevention efforts. In addition, to its capacity to provide timely access to healthcare for displaced populations (Narla et al., 2020).

What is the value of practicing agility on an organizational level?

McKinsey & Company Senior Partner Aaron De Smet defines organizational agility as “The ability of an organization to renew itself, adapt, change quickly, and succeed in a rapidly changing, ambiguous, turbulent environment. Agility is not incompatible with stability—quite the contrary. Agility requires stability for most companies,” (Smet, 2015).

Organizations that integrate agility in their culture, strategy, and leadership demonstrate a direct impact on the work team's performance (Marjerison et al., 2022). Healthcare organizations' organizational agility significantly impacted healthcare practitioners' readiness to change (Zeid et al., 2024). During the COVID-19 crisis, organizational agility played a critical and positive effect on the performance of healthcare organizations, leading us to learn how to be prepared for the next norm and uncertainty (Akkaya & Mert, 2022).

Considering both health-related crises and the rapid emerging naive information technologies tools in the digital era, this positions healthcare with a state filled with uncertainties, making maintaining an excellent healthcare model complex to manage. Healthcare should be agile on an organizational level, ensuring the healthcare system is adaptable and resilient to challenges.

Managers should know the agility application approach to guarantee survival and excellence in the ever-changing healthcare system delivery. Healthcare organizations should invest in information technologies, including artificial intelligence and business intelligence, to explore current states and future patterns, digest the opportunities and threats, and follow the best prescriptive approach to navigate the next period, establishing timely and functional decision-making-based system.

In addition, organizations should invest in building the capacity of employees by providing the needed training and enabling resources for internal and external stakeholders to enhance collaboration and continuous growth, such as knowledge management and communication tools (Shakhour et al., 2021; Zeid et al., 2024).


Akkaya, B., & Mert, G. (2022). Organizational Agility, Competitive Capabilities, and the Performance of Health Care Organizations during the Covid-19 Pandemic. Central European Management Journal, 30(1), 2–25.

Alotaibi, F., & Almudhi, R. (2023). Application of Agile Methodology in Managing the Healthcare Sector. IRASD Journal of Management, 5(3), 147–160.

Eurosurveillance Editorial Team. (2020). Note from the editors: World Health Organization declares novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) sixth public health emergency of international concern. Euro Surveillance : Bulletin Europeen Sur Les Maladies Transmissibles = European Communicable Disease Bulletin, 25(5), 2019–2020.

Kokol, P. (2022). Agile Software Development in Healthcare: A Synthetic Scoping Review. Applied Sciences, 12(19), 9462.

Kokol, P., Blažun Vošner, H., Kokol, M., & Završnik, J. (2022). Role of agile in digital public health transformation. Frontiers in Public Health, 10, 899874.

Marjerison, R. K., Andrews, M., & Kuan, G. (2022). Creating sustainable organizations through knowledge sharing and organizational agility: empirical evidence from China. Sustainability, 14(8), 4531.

Narla, N. P., Surmeli, A., & Kivlehan, S. M. (2020). Agile application of digital health interventions during the COVID-19 refugee response. Annals of Global Health, 86(1).

Shakhour, N. H. T., Obeidat, B. Y., Jaradat, M. O., & Alshurideh, M. (2021). Agile-minded organizational excellence: Empirical investigation. Academy of Strategic Management Journal, 20, 1–25.

Smet, A. De. (2015). The keys to organizational agility. December.

Zeid, M. A. G. A., Mostafa, B., Zoromba, M. A., Abdelnaby, R., Elsayed, M., & El‐Gazar, H. E. (2024). Effects of organizational agility on readiness for change in nurses: A cross‐sectional study. International Nursing Review, 71(1), 140–147.