Four Budget-friendly Tech Upgrades Every Hospital Executive Should Know About
August 16, 2022
By targeting select areas of their enterprise IT, hospitals and other medical providers can improve productivity and attract tomorrow’s workforce.
It’s no secret that hospitals have been overloaded and inundated these past few years. The source points directly to complications from COVID-19, but many providers were under pressure long before the pandemic to find ways to improve working conditions, mitigate staff burnout, and implement novel modes of operating on the fly.
All those efforts have strained hospital budgets in ways that are coming more into focus as the pandemic wanes. Strategies that normally would have been rolled out across two to three budget cycles were compressed for immediacy, leaving many providers feeling like they may have painted themselves into a corner. Some are discovering incompatibility issues in areas of their operations with potential loss of long-term productivity.
Consider the rush to telehealth, which consists primarily of virtual doctor appointments. A growing field prior to the pandemic, telehealth visits boomed by 154% in the last week of March 2020 compared to the same period the year before. 1 This surge is not so surprising given the stay-at-home mandates instituted at the time, but a hybrid model of virtual and in-person visits remains popular. More than 60% of consumers in a post-pandemic survey said they plan to continue both telehealth and in-person visits. 2 However, in the haste to meet the demands of a remote patient base, some providers bought off-the-shelf technologies that they find are not fully compatible with their existing systems.
Taking the opportunity now to assess digital standing and apply a more holistic strategy is wise, but the rationale goes beyond budget considerations. The business world is well into an era of digital transformation. Today’s workforce, and tomorrow’s, has new expectations about their employers’ capabilities, and healthcare workers are no different. As providers compete for a limited talent pool, they must address their tech stance to attract digital natives.
The good news is that improving technology does not have to be done all at once, nor does it require an overhaul of your entire system. Here are four areas to consider for incremental change that can improve efficiency.
Making large investments in infrastructure with its associated costs is rapidly becoming an antiquated method for keeping up to speed with managing data. As an alternative, cloud computing holds many advantages. For one, it allows access to patient records from all areas of the organization. For another, it is scalable and flexible, meaning IT departments consume only the computing power they need. Cloud based-data centers also provide better system redundancy, system security and tools to manage the environment.
Reluctance to transition to cloud computing typically stems from the fear of cyber attacks and the upfront price tag. Some healthcare IT professionals also feel more comfortable about the flow of data when it is housed within their own data centers and under their own roof. However, those concerns are ebbing as IT executives gain confidence that vendors will safeguard their data and properly integrate with disparate back office and clinical systems.
Remote Patient Monitoring
In the business world, customer data is like gold. A similar ideology is true in healthcare, where greater access to patient data offers numerous cost-saving, and at times, life-saving efficiencies.
That is one reason for the growing investment in remote patient monitoring (“RPM”), which doubled in 2020. 3 Most familiar to the public as wearable devices, RPM is the practice of monitoring and collecting data remotely from outpatients. In addition to wearables, passive RPM devices can actively transmit real-time patient data through the Internet of Things (“IoT”) to providers, enabling to access critical biometric readings such as blood pressure, heart rate, and blood glucose levels and intervene when complications arise.
The benefits are many: prescribing wearable and passive RPM devices on discharge and in the ambulatory care setting promotes access, decreases readmission rates, and enhances patient compliance. Knowing a patient is being monitored eases the burden on follow-up scheduling for many diagnostic tests and provides the patient with a certain level of peace of mind.
However, along with this deluge of data comes the need for new protocols to share, store, safeguard, analyze and act on it. Many health systems currently are not well positioned to deal with the influx of RPM data that their own prescribed devices are capturing and reporting. Moreover, the ultimate goal is to decipher the clinically relevant data in real-time to provide value to the patient and not overburden the medical team. These issues and others related to the explosion of patient data and the ability to warehouse it and scale up are on the minds of providers and vendors alike.
Several automated scheduling platforms on the market can help hospitals manage both staff and patient schedules. Because the software is automated, it can simplify the tedious process of tracking compliance, monitoring overtime and more. From an operational workflow perspective, automated scheduling tools enable hospitals to have better oversight when it comes to staffing levels, mitigate any scheduling conflicts, and ideally reduce labor costs.
Scheduling platforms can improve operating room (“OR”) patient throughput, load balancing of OR time, procedure time monitoring and other performance statistics. Artificial intelligence (“AI”) and machine learning (“ML”) tools can provide suggested diagnostic follow-up scheduling, as well as diagnostic reports from a patient’s electronic health record. These tools facilitate more efficient discharge processes and ensure appropriate patient follow-up thereby reducing readmission rates as well as medical complications.
Foundation and Infrastructure
Many healthcare organizations are well aware of the need to evolve their legacy technologies and systems. However, they also know that doing so requires a significant investment from both a time and money perspective. In some instances, organizations may find more success by digitally transforming their organization piecemeal. For example, one starting point might be within their human resources or finance department, and then slowly making their way from the back-office towards patient-facing functions. This approach also provides hospitals with the ability to test and ensure that any new software or process can be properly integrated within their existing systems and workflows.
Technology decision makers should embark on a digital transformation journey that prioritizes key strategic initiatives in alignment with their corporate strategy in order to expand their digital capabilities. Specifically, Chief Medical Information Officers (“CMIOs”) should work with physicians and stakeholders to uncover innovative ways to digitally transform their organizations with regards to clinical tools and patient facing systems.
By taking incremental steps to modernize their architecture and improve infrastructure, a health system can be better positioned to layer on cutting edge applications. The result? Better data insights when it comes to billing, claims, and quality reporting, and ultimately, a greater patient experience and outcome.
1: “Trend in the Use of Telehealth During the Emergence of the COVID-19 Pandemic — United States, January – March 2020.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Oct. 30, 2020. https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/69/wr/mm6943a3.htm
2: “The State of Telehealth: Providers and Patients Weigh In.” Fiercehealth.com. Nov. 15, 2021. https://www.fiercehealthcare.com/sponsored/state-telehealth-providers-and-patients-weigh
3: “NRC Health 2021 Healthcare Consumer Trends Report.” NRC Health. Jan. 13, 2021. https://go.nrchealth.com/l/279972/2021-01-06/kz1c5
© Copyright 2022. The views expressed herein are those of the author(s) and not necessarily the views of FTI Consulting, Inc., its management, its subsidiaries, its affiliates, or its other professionals.
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August 16, 2022