Healthcare leaders know investing in digital technology is no longer a “nice-to-have.” But with only 6% of health system executives reporting they have a fully developed digital health plan, most providers are still searching for the right healthtech to button up their digital blueprints.
If you’re thinking about taking the leap and investing valuable resources into a new digital healthcare platform, it’s important to understand where things are headed in the next year and what to look out for when deciding which platform to choose.
1. Does this healthtech offer value across my organization?
As costs rise, health systems everywhere are confronting how to do more with less. From staffing to service lines, leaders have had to carefully discern how to allocate resources to provide quality care without exceeding spending limits.
Vineeta Agarwala, MD, PhD, Physician at Stanford University School of Medicine and General Partner with a16z, suggests organizations also have to have a good look at their digital health technology to ensure it comprehensively adds value for multiple stakeholders — patients, clinicians, and the system at large. And only some innovations — like intelligent care enablement platforms — are built to do so.
Dr. Agarwala says, “Within the healthtech realm, what I find particularly exciting are companies that find ways to align patient quality and economic incentives … Can you enable a provider, payor, or some other incumbent in the health system to act in such a way that both improves patient outcomes and makes economic sense? That’s really hard to do.”
Tools that work independently from existing infrastructure and only address one challenge — like some point solutions — will no longer be financially viable as budgets get slashed. Any digital health innovation your organization adopts and implements will need to enable clinicians to do their jobs, improve the patient experience, and help maximize resources.
2. How do we prevent data overload as we adopt new digital healthcare platforms?
Though healthcare still has some catching up to do compared to other industries, digital health technology has advanced rapidly over the past several years. But with this acceleration in innovation has emerged an unprecedented demand for data — one that can overwhelm providers and contribute to workforce burnout.
Tony Ambrozie, MBA, SVP and Chief Digital and Information Officer at Baptist Health South Florida, proposes digital healthcare platforms that leverage AI and natural language processing (NLP) could help care teams manage the information firehose.
Ambrozie explains, “AI and machine learning can help with making that data stream more intelligible and picking up the message from the noise … We’re increasingly getting data all the time. The only way to make any use of it is through data insights and machine learning.”
Get ahead of snowballing data needs by implementing intelligent digital health technology that uses AI and NLP to automatically interpret and organize information before it hits clinicians’ dashboards. The less your care teams have to manually keep track of records, the more time they’ll have to perform at the top of their license.
3. Do we have a plan in place to address implicit bias so that everyone can benefit from our new digital health technology?
Over the past several years and through a norm-shattering epidemic, one tough truth stood out: care hasn’t been and still isn’t always delivered equitably. Addressing systemic challenges, social determinants of health, and other high-level barriers are critical for expanding healthcare access.
But Vice President of Community Health Centers for Ochsner Health, Kevin Green, MPA, indicates unintentional implicit bias is another aspect of health equity that systems must address to ensure everyone — not just some groups — can benefit from high-tech and high-touch care experiences.
Green remarks, “There might be an impression that an individual may not be willing to use technology … so certain opportunities aren’t presented to them.”
Even though providers might not purposefully block at-risk patients from using digital health technology, they could unconsciously do so — possibly affecting the patient experience and even health outcomes. Educating staff, working with an effective implementation team, and prioritizing health equity when selecting a healthtech tool for your clinicians are all important steps in supporting high-quality care for all.
4. Do our healthtech tools help patients before, after, and between visits?
With the widespread adoption of the EHR, most healthcare professionals interact with digital health tools in the inpatient setting. But a lot of what goes into successful care delivery happens away from hospitals.
That’s why Tony Das, MD, FACC, System Medical Director for the Baylor Heart Hospital Enterprise and founder and CEO of Connected Cardiovascular Care Associates in Dallas, proposes that forward-thinking digital healthcare platforms must address gaps in care before appointments, after discharge, and even between visits.
Dr. Das explains, “One of the things I’m interested in is starting to parse disparate pieces of healthcare information to more unified applications. Backend APIs that let us take information from remote imaging systems, remote digital health, remote monitoring … Remote sensor monitoring technology is just the beginning of untethering patients from their episodic care.”
Enabling your clinicians to provide quality care isn’t just about what happens at the bedside. Scope digital healthcare platforms that extend your care teams by intelligently automating follow-up, proactively engaging patients with clinically-backed prompts, and giving providers comprehensive and easily accessible patient information.
5. How does intelligent care enablement fit into our strategy as EHRs place more administrative burden on care teams?
There’s no question that EHRs have changed healthcare over the past decade. They’ve enabled health systems to securely and accurately collect and catalog vital patient information. But as this technology made the pen and paper somewhat obsolete, it also increased administrative demands on care teams.
Jake Lancaster, MD, MHA, Chief Medical Information Officer and Chief Medical Officer for Baptist Memorial Healthcare, suggests that balancing EHR tasks with patient needs has only fueled care team burnout — but improvements can be implemented to make things easier.
Dr. Lancaster says, “One of the core things that we do today … is focusing on physician burnout, and especially how we can reduce the burden of the EHR to make physicians’ lives easier. I focus on how to optimize the EHR to be more efficient so that physicians can get back to treating patients.”
That’s where intelligent care enablement can play a crucial role. Leveraging AI and NLP to simplify complex care management while automatically completing routine to-dos for clinicians, this novel technology could significantly reduce the burden on clinicians, making complex care delivery more proactive and high-touch for patients at the same time.
A digital-first strategy is essential for meeting modern healthcare challenges. And choosing the right digital health solution for your team can seem complicated. But considering how new technology might affect multiple aspects of your organization is the key for adopting an effective innovation that will improve care delivery for multiple stakeholders. Listening to and learning from experienced voices from across the industry is a great first step for jumpstarting your exploration process.