Whether or not you’re a fan of big tech and its impact on care delivery, all of us in healthcare must be mindful that technological advancements will only become larger and come at us faster. As such, we must be equipped to implement them into our clinical and operational workflows successfully.
As chief transformation officer for Vituity, a multispecialty physician-led solutions provider, it’s my job to build a future-focused organization that will thrive in 2035 and beyond. Here’s my best advice to healthcare leaders who are investing today to shape the high-tech hospitals of tomorrow.
Designing a digital strategy
The largest impediment to implementing a sustainable digital strategy is short-termism. Throughout the healthcare industry, there is often a pervasive short-term focus rather than a focus on a longer-term vision of what healthcare could be. This results in an endless number of competing priorities that seem to win out over forward-looking technology solutions.
Technology alone won’t be successful if it doesn’t fit into the process or if you don’t have the people necessary to make it successful such as those physicians needed to deliver the care.
Implementing the world’s greatest tech solution without patient, staff, or physician adoption produces no value. It even creates a negative value because of all the time, money, and effort that went into it.
Digital health is riddled with examples of this. Engaging with the key stakeholders early on is imperative to ensure the people, process, and technology are all aligned before going forward.
Integrating consumer tech
Whether you love or hate big tech, all of us in healthcare must take lessons from our consumers. There’s no reason why health tech can’t be engaging and enjoyable — just like the apps and devices we use in other areas of our lives.
Some of these consumer-facing apps and solutions are indeed a threat to hospitals and health systems. Yes, they may reduce lower acuity volume and contribute to care fragmentation.
Consumer apps can also complement hospital care. Examples include solutions that:
- Improve patient/family engagement.
- Facilitate data sharing and care coordination.
- Remote patient monitoring technologies.
- Platforms for telehealth within a system.
A recent example of hospital and consumer tech integration is the partnership between Atrium Health (North Carolina) and Best Buy. When a patient is admitted to Atrium’s hospital-at-home, Best Buy’s Geek Squad goes to the home to set up the virtual care equipment. This ensures that patients get great service while freeing up clinicians to focus on patient care.
Where to invest
When building your digital strategy, I suggest healthcare organizations focus on three areas:
1. Artificial Intelligence
People ask me all the time if AI will replace physicians. The short answer is no. AI will not replace physicians. However, I believe physicians who use AI will replace physicians who do not use AI.
AI applications for healthcare come in endless flavors. Likely the most challenging, exciting, and controversial are solutions that aim to enhance physician accuracy, efficiency, and productivity. Inflect Health (Vituity’s innovation hub) partners with large and small tech companies to design these kinds of applications.
2. Extended reality
The incredibly rich XR field includes virtual, augmented, and mixed reality. Such technologies can provide immersive and realistic medical training experiences, enhance telemedicine by facilitating virtual examinations, and create 3D models of anatomical structures to guide complex medical procedures.
These models ultimately empower care providers to make faster and more accurate clinical decisions that result in better treatment outcomes and improved patient satisfaction.
3. Remote patient monitoring
These digital devices extend clinicians’ reach beyond the walls of their hospitals and offices. Examples include remote monitoring, wearables, and technology-enabled care coordination and navigation post-hospital discharge (either from the emergency department or inpatient setting).
Patient care navigation has significantly reduced unnecessary emergency department utilization, hospital readmissions, and costs, all while improving patient experience.
A thoughtful and strategic digital transformation takes time and effort. However, hospitals that roll up their sleeves can realize huge ROI regarding efficiency, cost, quality, and access. By investing now in digital technologies, hospitals can remain agile and better equipped to successfully navigate future challenges in healthcare.
About the author
Rick Newell, MD, MPH, is the Chief Transformation Officer for Vituity and CEO of Inflect Health, Vituity’s innovation hub. In these roles, he is responsible for the development, implementation, and execution of strategies, programs, and technologies that enhance and transform enterprise-wide healthcare delivery. He oversees innovation initiatives, acute psychiatry, acute neurology, telehealth, and complex care management.