Digital innovation is quickly taking hold at healthcare organizations across the country as a way to offer better patient care and reduce clinician workload. But there are vast differences between the rates of digital transformation in healthcare systems.
The Cleveland Clinic in Ohio, for instance, leads the pack in many ways as it forms partnerships and adopts new tech to stay on the bleeding edge of health IT. Meanwhile, places such as Delaware Guidance Services, a nonprofit provider of comprehensive psychiatric services for children, are adopting new digital services to simply stay afloat with limited resources. With widespread digital adoption rates, it can be difficult to sift out exactly how digital innovation is progressing.
So where does digital transformation in healthcare stand and what are IT leaders targeting as we move into the new year? The American Hospital Association and AVIA surveyed 317 hospital executives in order to figure this out, and found that digital transformation is top of mind for the majority of health IT executives.
According to the survey, 75 percent of hospital executives reported that digital innovation is a priority at their organization as well as a necessity to remain competitive in the healthcare market.
“It’s clear that hospitals recognize and embrace the importance of digital innovation,” Maryjane Wurth, the AHA’s executive vice president and chief operating officer, said in a statement. “Our hope is that by collecting and sharing this data about their aspirations, priorities and challenges we can accelerate the pace of change in the field.”
The Path Forward for Digital Transformation in Healthcare
Despite the enthusiasm from executives, there are still significant barriers to digital innovation for many health systems, including resources, funding and operational capacity.
As health IT leaders move forward and push through these issues, AHA and AVIA’s Executive Report lays out five priorities for digital innovation:
Patient-generated data and customized services: New technologies, such as wearables, have entered the scene and offered healthcare providers mountains of data they haven’t had before. Once health systems understand how to securely gather and incorporate data into their operations, “these data sets can allow hospitals and health systems to provide more nimble and personalized care, track population health trends, and efficiently structure patient services,” the report says, specifically noting that the data can help providers take better care of patients with chronic conditions through constant monitoring or “proactively [managing] population health needs.”
Network utilization and management: With the move toward value-based care, health systems are looking for better ways to keep patients in their network. “Digital solutions can help to solve this problem in a variety of ways, including tracking patient utilization data to report and analyze profitability, improving demand management by confirming referral appropriateness and patient readiness, and improving service and access by simplifying scheduling,” the report states.
Referral management and in-network retention: “Matching the right patient to the right physician at the right time through more effective referral management has become a key strategic and operational imperative for hospitals and health systems,” the report states. Logic-based digital tools can offer analysis and decision support to help hospitals and organizations play matchmaker.
Social community support: Emerging digital solutions can play a big role in improving public health and supporting underserved populations effectively. These solutions offer “new opportunities to share data and connect to community partners, providing a virtual network to support the patient,” the report states, adding that with proper use they can help to improve care coordination and outcomes, reducing costs in the long run.
Convenient patient access: Just 26 percent of healthcare executives reported that they had implemented solutions, such as patient portals, to improve patient access to their own health information. But as the world becomes evermore transparent and digital, patients are demanding access. If organizations don’t provide it, patients turn to nontraditional forms of care, leaving health systems behind. “Digital solutions offer opportunities to make it easier for patients to conveniently access their healthcare services, including remote diagnostic tools like telemedicine or virtual exams,” the report states, noting that these technologies will allow organizations to remain competitive.