Digital code blue: Three tips for healthcare providers to embrace the digital future

Originally published in Becker’s Hospital Review, April 10, 2018

The world of healthcare is changing dramatically and rapidly. And while emergency rooms and operating rooms are certainly seeing their fair share of change, it’s increasingly becoming the computers, tablets and phones patients and healthcare providers use to record and analyze healthcare data that’s undergoing the most drastic transformation.

Patients are increasingly anticipating their healthcare providers to deliver an easy, technology-empowered experience. Those healthcare providers that don’t embrace all aspects of digital transformation, from device integration to on-demand patient information accessibility, will leave patients no choice but to look elsewhere for their healthcare needs.

According to a new report from the American Hospital Association, more than 93 percent of hospitals and health systems allow patient access to electronic health records (EHRs). Just six years ago, that number was only 16 percent.1 Today, offering patients a digital experience is no longer a nice-to-have service but a requirement that healthcare providers must deliver. It’s about connecting people, processes, and information and enabling providers to make smarter decisions through that collaboration. Healthcare is officially becoming a consumer product.

Patient-customer experiences should be implementing technologies such as the Internet of Things, wearables, and enhanced interoperability of data and information. Technology now allows patients to record their own health information at home and then seamlessly report it to their healthcare providers, which can improve accuracies and make the entire healthcare experience more manageable. Additionally, enhanced tools can deliver new forms of information-sharing and coordination that enable healthcare providers themselves to save time and use their time more effectively. The good news is that 89 percent of healthcare organizations expect to adapt and compete on customer experience in the near future.2 But still, that’s just the beginning.

For the healthcare industry to fully embrace digital transformation and maximize the value derived from these technologies, providers must offer doctors, nurses and administration a combination of ongoing learning, self-help tools and on-demand support so they are equipped and capable of driving better healthcare outcomes.

Here are three tips for healthcare providers to better embrace digital transformation.

1. Identify where you are on the digital transformation timeline
Some practices, hospitals, and health systems are further along than others on the digital transformation timeline—and that’s OK. While nearly all healthcare organizations can advance their digital offering in some way, it’s important to first discover where your organization is on its digital transformation journey and identify where incremental, but impactful, improvements can be made. At this point, it’s important to understand your organization’s barriers to success, learning styles and personas that could drive which technologies you decide to implement now and in the future. If, for example, your healthcare practice is still using primarily compact disc-based health records and your teams would be hesitant to adopt any move to a cloud- and tablet-based system, that will dictate how much adoption support you’ll need.

2. Invest in user-friendly technologies that offer interoperability
In early March, the White House launched a new effort to overcome years of problems with electronic medical records and make them easier for patients to use.3 Those in the healthcare industry likely know this, but the main issues continue to be that different systems don’t communicate well, patient portals are not very user friendly, and many hospitals are using technologies that are incompatible with newer systems. Interoperability is the key to providing a transformative patient experience. When choosing new technologies for your health organization, it’s not only critical that they’re user-friendly for your patients and staff, but that they can be easily integrated within other systems and programs as well.

3. Communicate value and provide support to your organization/staff 
Introducing new technologies that transform the way employees do their jobs can always be a bit jarring for any workforce. And for stretched healthcare teams with numerous other (sometimes life-or-death) responsibilities, that problem is amplified. While there can be negativity that comes with introducing new tech, it’s critical to show employees the value that new technologies can bring to not only help them do their jobs better but deliver better patient experiences. The best way to ease the transition to eHealth technologies like Health360, KenSci and others, is to support employees with ongoing learning resources, self-help tools and on-demand support suited to the complexities of modern healthcare IT. This helps your teams adopt the technologies faster, creating smarter learners and allowing the technology to deliver results as it was meant to do.

Today, patients are welcoming and experiencing healthcare technology integration thought to only exist in movies. While healthcare providers can benefit from more accurate, timely and cost-effective information produced by these technologies, they will never unlock digital transformation’s full potential without a trained, agile workforce to manage these technologies. Knowledgeable healthcare professionals will be the key to seamless patient experiences and cost-saving business successes.

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