Jim Deren, Director of IT planning, CareTech Solutions
The looming transformation from a volume based to a value-based payment model that emphasizes preventive care is forcing healthcare organizations to rethink the way they do business. To successfully address the increasing requirements placed upon them, leadership teams of care organizations of all sizes will have to realize that information technology (IT) is more than a department. IT is a critical, strategic component that can help meet business goals, improve care delivery and increase care team and patient engagement with the proper investment and effective use of technology.
Industry Changes Increase Demand for Meaningful IT
Since the introduction of the Affordable Care Act, the focus of improved care delivery has extended toward all providers along the continuum of care, not just those in a hospital. This shift in focus has placed greater importance on collaboration, transitions of care and interoperability from an IT perspective, enabling the adoption of electronic health records (EHRs). The philosophy of care has also changed as diagnosis and treatment are now seen as first steps to be further supplemented by education, follow up and engagement through health IT initiatives.
Patients are driving changes within the industry by approaching healthcare with consumeristic expectations derived from other service industries. The combination of assuming a larger portion of the financial burden for their health and greater accessibility to technology has today’s healthcare customer placing a greater emphasis on convenience and cost than allegiance to any particular provider. This has led to competition among healthcare organizations, particularly retail clinics that offer greater flexibility and transparency of prices.
"Patients are driving changes within the industry by approaching healthcare with consumeristic expectations derived from other service industries"
As the list of competing demands continues to grow, it is increasingly important for healthcare executives to identify the key drivers in change as well as the technological advancements that best address them.
The advancing role of technology in care
It would be difficult for many of today’s healthcare providers to imagine doing their jobs without the help of email or personal computers. The convenience provided by the advancements in technology in recent years has increase defficiency and provided quality improvements that only a few decades ago were unimaginable. Those improvements, however, pale in comparison to the continuous innovation we are seeing now and the technologies emerging in the near future. These innovations, paired with the critical need for patient engagement, enable care providers with more options to meet the goal of the Triple Aim: improve the patient experience of care, improve the health of populations, and reduce the per capita cost of healthcare.
Success has been seen in remote patient monitoring, and it will continue to grow in prominence and importance for meeting patient care needs. Wearable monitoring devices and mobile apps provide real-time monitoring of each patient’s vitals with the ability to transmit directly to the EHR and deliver instantaneous alerts for critical conditions. Healthcare analytics, driven in part by these wearable devices, offer the data to predict outcomes and support proactive planning to achieve better population health.
Developments continue in other areas to support healthcare information technology advancement. Robotic surgery allows physicians to work in much smaller areas with greater precision, increasing the quality of care while reducing infections. 3D printing not only has the potential to improve diagnostic capabilities, resulting in quicker treatment and better care, but also offers the capacity to aid in the creation of artificial limbs, complex human tissue and organ replacements.
Successful IT strategies
Many healthcare implementations are doomed before they start because of alack of effective communication and alignment with business strategies at the project’s beginning. This misalignment leads to challenges in tracking performance or gauging are turn on investment (ROI). Further, often little consideration is given to the end users who must adapt new workflows due to new devices, software or applications, which may result in their inability to leverage this technology effectively.
Successful technological investments start with communication and training throughout the organization along with proper project management to address the foundation of the infrastructure to support such initiatives. To maximize these efforts, adoption should be tied to workflow with reporting tools capable of measuring performance to gauge ROI as well as meet future regulatory requirements. Security of the IT environment is critical as the digitization and consolidation of health records has increased their value on the black market and made them the target of a growing number of increasingly sophisticated cyberattacks.
Engaging your patients, providers and staff
Effective engagement with your patients, providers and staff requires carefully considering the specific needs of the multiple generations in each segment. While all generations are value conscious, millennials and Generation X can be more techsavvy, placing greater emphasis on quickness and choice. Baby boomers and the traditionalists show greater allegiance to their providers, but are increasingly adopting technology into their care strategy.
Engagement is now becoming part of the regulatory framework. More than a “nice-to-have,” giving patients more access to their doctors and health records via patient portals is now a requirement. With the average age of physicians increasing and a projected physician shortage, it’s becoming more important to tie technology to their workflows and adopt innovative care delivery that helps reduce industry burdens while maximizing resources and time. With the right foundation of IT, executive leaders can maximize investments into their staff, the healthcare organization and its patients, engaging the community with higher impact.