It’s Time to Think Healthcare Transformation, Not Just Process Improvement
“Come gather ’round people
Wherever you roam
And admit that the waters
Around you have grown
And accept it that soon
You’ll be drenched to the bone.
If your time to you
Is worth savin’
Then you better start swimmin’
Or you’ll sink like a stone
For the times they are a-changing’.”-
These epic lyrics by Bob Dylan are a reminder of the signs of profound change all around us. The healthcare sector is no different. With technology improvements and the consumerization of healthcare, this sector is witnessing a paradigm shift. The conversation now has shifted to healthcare 2.0 – a better, more connected healthcare system that where technology is the great enabler of efficiencies. As we talk about the healthcare of the future, we invariably talk about process improvements. What are the quantified steps that can be taken to increase the productivity and efficiency of the entire hospital ecosystem? How can we eliminate wasteful processes? What technology choices do we make to make existing processes better?
While talking about process improvement is important in the changing healthcare landscape, what we must focus on is healthcare transformation. And healthcare transformation cannot be achieved if we only speak about the processes in this ecosystem. Given the multiple interlinked processes that connect the entire healthcare ecosystem, in order to deal with the challenges of healthcare that exist today, we need to look beyond cost optimizations and build a resilient and sustainable network. It should take into consideration all the stakeholders of healthcare – the patient, the doctors and caregivers, the hospitals and the general population. And that is why we need to look at healthcare transformation
The patients of today are the consumers of healthcare. Economic, social and technological changes have given them a wealth of knowledge to know what they should be expecting from healthcare providers. They want more control not only for their health but also for healthcare-related decisions. They do not want to be held hostage to their health records and want better access to all healthcare related information. They want better care and more information to make more informed decisions regarding their health. They want to be more enabled and not remain passive receivers of healthcare. Healthcare transformation for them would mean the use of EHR systems, mobility, wearables, and data to make their healthcare journey more seamless, ensure better pre and post-operative care, enable better chronic disease management and help them become more invested in their healthcare choices.
Doctors and care stakeholders
Disparate systems, time-consuming processes and the lack of a cohesive technology strategy have impeded doctors and caregivers from adopting technology thus far. EHR systems that are complex, not mobile ready, and demand greater time and effort to update hamper efficiencies. What we need are healthcare systems that are not only easy to use but ones that reduce the cognitive load on these stakeholders to make their life easier. Doctors need systems that make it easy for them to record and disseminate information, whether it is to the patient, the hospital or to other doctors for consultation. As time is a premium, hospitals have to enable them with complete and updated information at all times that is delivered in a device agnostic manner. Technology for them has to allow for better patient management, help them in improving the quality of care and ensure that doctor-patient interactions are more positive and productive.
Healthcare transformation in the hospital scenario means creating an environment of efficiency that focuses on quality outcomes and greater accountability towards patients. Interconnected hospital management systems are just the tip of the iceberg for hospitals. These management systems need the technology upgrade that will create a connected ecosystem to improve patient outcomes, iron out productivity impediments, and reduce healthcare costs. Along with this are the uses of technologies that make the hospital environment safer. Use of technologies such as RFID sensors that enable patient tracking are becoming popular to further this effort. We are witnessing the rise of virtual assistants to improve the patient experience. AI-powered digital processes can make the hospitals more patient-friendly. The power of Big Data analytics can be harnessed to enable predictive medicine and improve patient outcomes by giving hospitals and practitioners deep insights into at-risk patients.
Healthcare transformation also means enabling the doctors with the right set of tools to improve their decision-making capabilities. For this, the hospitals need to enable data interoperability by implementing systems that allow this. Hospitals also need to reassess the ways to communicate with patients and adopt healthcare methodologies that improve delivery mechanisms across the entire hospital ecosystem.
Along with this, hospitals also need to harness the power of data generated from multiple sources to not only reduce costs but also to eliminate unnecessary procedures and treatments.
The conversation about healthcare transformation is incomplete unless we talk about population health. Our healthcare ecosystem has to achieve a level of competency that can enable health equity. Health equity can only be achieved when each and every individual can attain their complete health potential irrespective of their social positions and socially defined circumstances. Healthcare organizations have to take into account health disparities and ensure that proper health care reaches the underserved populations. Mobility and telemedicine play an important role here to ensure that good healthcare reaches this segment. Along with this is predictive analytics to battle the rise of pandemics and epidemics to proactively manage these occurrences.
Healthcare has been proactive in adopting technology to improve processes so far. However, in order to really change the way the healthcare system operates as of today, we need to look at a complete healthcare transformation where process improvements will be dictated by this shift in outlook.