It’s no secret that digital technologies are shaping the future of the healthcare space. It’s happening now. But what does that mean? It means we should all embrace it and educate ourselves.
We need to learn what these mystical technologies can do so we can begin to evolve. Then maybe, just maybe — we can be ahead of the curve. We can stay one step in front of our competitors. We can pivot quickly to compliance changes. We could even bring down costs proactively. Let’s be early adopters!
The Deloitte Center for Health Solutions conducted a survey of healthcare executives, physician and nurse leaders, public policy leaders, technologists and futurists around the globe to better understand what the health system will look like in 10 years.
According to that study titled, “The hospital of the future | How digital technologies can change hospitals globally”, a comprehensive, enterprise-wide digital strategy can be essential for creating the hospital of the future (Gordon, Perlman, & Shukla). We know there are challenges to going digital, but consider the alternative. Waiting too long poses additional challenges such as issues with interoperability, lack of staff knowledge, higher implementation costs, etc. Where do we begin? Start small.
Step 1: One department and a mobile app.
Set-up one team with a few tablets, identify a pain point and find an app that will solve for it. Just make sure it can expand system-wide. For example, if a Quality and Safety group is struggling with conducting timely audits using paper, find an app that will allow the group to create, publish and administer their own audits via a tablet. We’ve just eliminated paper, set reminders for staff to conduct the audit and captured all the data digitally!
Step 2: Digitize the patient experience.
There is so much research proving how a focus on patient experience increases our bottom line. We should look at our patient surveys and identify the biggest pain points. We can then identify a technology that will solve for all of them. This technology would ideally be the same technology we implement for Step 1 and Step 3.
For example, if patients regularly complain that their nurses are not communicating well, we can implement a rounding solution that promotes communication. The tool could prompt nurses on what topics to discuss and even provide scripting if they need help.
Step 3: Automate one process.
Workflow automation is just now infiltrating the healthcare industry. Finance and manufacturing have been streamlining and saving for decades through automation so why can’t we benefit? Identify a process that has multiple manual hand-offs and then use technology to automate those steps. For example, if care providers have to fill out a form to ask facilities management to fix the A/C, that form could fall through cracks and may or may not make it to the right person.
A workflow automation platform would empower the nurse to submit the request in one click. The request would be routed to a queue with an escalation to be worked immediately. The results are trackable and reportable.
Tips for Success:
- Implement a business oriented technology strategy. Look for a technology partner that will grow with you and support a system-wide technology strategy. Using multiple, disparate systems from different providers could prove to be more difficult down the road.
- Consider web-based technologies. This will ensure little to no hardware investment and that the technology can talk to others and be mobile.
- Document the implementation process. With each step, document lessons learned and share across the organization to make each future implementation easier.
- Plan for change. The world and our technologies will continue to evolve so be sure to choose solutions that are easy to modify and scale.
And that’s it! With these steps we are now digital in three different functional areas (ideally) using one technology provider. Proving the benefits of technology and showing ROI will be easier now that we have three case studies. We will have proven results to demonstrate lift and justify the expansion of our technology strategy.
The Deloitte study supports digital transformation and cites that “as digital technologies improve care delivery, create operational efficiencies, and enhance patient and staff experience—the returns can result in higher quality care, improved operational efficiencies and increased patient satisfaction.”
Moral of the story is we can’t wait too long to join the movement. Start small, invest in incremental change and then reap the benefits in the near future. While others scramble to implement, we will be basking in the comfort of innovation.
Gordon, Randolph; Perlman, Marc; Shukla, Maulesh, “The hospital of the future | How digital technologies can change hospitals globally.” Deloitte Center for Health Solutions, 2017, https://www2.deloitte.com/content/dam/Deloitte/global/Documents/Life-Sciences-Health-Care/us-lshc-hospital-of-the-future.pdf.
Lauren Walling is a graduate of Emory University with a degree in Industrial Psychology, as well as an MBA from the John Sykes School of Business from The University of Tampa. She currently sits on the Board of Fellows at the University of Tampa, and is a member of the Healthcare Business Women's Association, National Association of Professional Women, and the Morton Plant Skip Cline Society. Lauren works with large Healthcare Systems implementing Patient Experience Solutions that streamline processes, increase patient experience and improve quality and safety.