IT Enablement—Not Disruption—Drives Change in Patient Access & Services
At the heart of patient services lies a growing tension among three key stakeholders:
- Executives tasked with delivering a profit amid consolidation, government mandates, and the shift to value-based models.
- Clinicians who must spend two hours on desk work for every hour of clinical face time with patients.
- Patients who are shouldering a greater share of the cost burden even though they’re often not in a position to direct their own interests.
That tension is created by the financial realities of healthcare as a business. Everyone is well meaning, but often the road to resolution is paved with strategic aims that fall short of overarching desired outcomes: better quality, lower cost, and better care. As a result, healthcare organizations today are seeking opportunities to leverage technology to enable a multi-disciplinary patient care team model.
Rethinking the Role of Information Technology
In an age when IT is automating how people engage, consume and communicate, the question for many healthcare organizations is how to use technology to improve operational efficiency and drive a holistic approach to care coordination. For many, that leads to another question and the silent struggle that accompanies it: does IT need to be disruptive to bring meaningful improvement to the healthcare industry?
Since the middle of the last century, public health experts have recognized that people will take a health-related action when they believe it will positively impact their health condition. Such actions can include medical services such as immunization and screening for disease. Modern healthcare organizations are challenged to balance the learnings of the last century while remaining relevant and forward thinking.
That is a difficult proposition at a time when patients’ expectations for an inclusive, coordinated healthcare experience are directly tied to cost shifting—i.e., they’re paying more—and the patient-provider paradigm is consistently morphing. Too often, those patient expectations don’t align with reality, resulting in predictable effects on health-related behaviors. Disheartened patients skip follow-up appointments, negatively affecting their health outcomes and increasing the likelihood of costly interventions such as ER visits.
Healthcare is steeped in research and best practices, and the theoretical model of patient engagement is achievable in the abstract, but the details can be mired in complexity. The execution is often suboptimal, to the detriment of caregivers, clinicians, and patients. In cases like these, healthcare information technology can bring significant, positive change via enablement—without resorting to disruption.
Taking Tension out of Healthcare
So what does enabling healthcare IT look like in action? In our patient services scenario, it can do two things at once. On the administrative side, it can help to create frictionless engagement with patients. On the clinical side, it can improve workflows so practitioners have more time to focus on the holistic needs of the patient.
For example, a patient services solution can create a personalized experience based on the patient’s voiceprint, contact information, and appointment history. It knows who the patient’s doctor is, and it lets patients have more autonomy. Patient preferences are recalled. Reminders and pharmacy refills are part of the schedule.
This integrated engagement extends to a care setting. One example is accelerated hospital admissions through automated check-in, surgery time notifications, and family member updates. Another example: hospital bed management via intelligent, multi-channel communication among the care team and environmental and operational services.
In short, an effective patient services solution smooths the rough edges of the healthcare journey. That’s no small thing in an environment where patients feel emboldened, yet really only have the choice to take their business elsewhere. At the same time, it creates an overarching protocol for patients to adhere to their care regimens—letting them know that they’re strategic partners in their care.
In a vibrant economy, enabling healthcare information technology solutions can dissolve many of the tensions related to quality, value, and costs. That’s the sort of fine-tuning that can make a time-tested care delivery model relevant in the modern age.