Why Digital Transformation is Accelerating in Hospitals Now

Digital Hospital

Dave Bennett, Chief Executive Officer

Digital transformation is much more than implementing new technology or automating existing tasks. At its core, digital transformation is about new ways of delivering value. This article does a good job outlining what is not digital transformation. While near universal adoption of electronic health records has been achieved, most would agree that this does not constitute digital transformation. Expectations are high that Amazon’s purchase of One Medical could help accelerate digital transformation in the way primary care is delivered.  Time will tell.

I would argue that circumstances exist today to drive true digital transformation across hospitals that were not present when HITECH and Meaningful Use launched in the late 2000s.  When HITECH was passed as part of the ARRA in 2009, the iPhone had just celebrated its second birthday. The technology that we now take for granted was not nearly as powerful then as it is today. Its flexibility and adaptability cannot compete with today’s mobile-first, api-driven solutions.

Hindsight is 20:20 and while the intention to replace paper charts was solid, the execution of the Meaningful Use program was flawed on many levels. The first set of standards barely considered the patient. Provider usability never really seemed to be of much concern. Billing systems were asked to do lots of things in a fee-for-service world that was funded by legislation that, in part, was actively looking to replace fee-for-service with a value-based care model.  And 15 years later interoperability is still illusive. For example, see this recent story about the dissolution of a partnership between two West Virginia hospitals due to disparate EHRs.

Yet, 2022 is much different than 2009. The world-wide pandemic that upended the way we conducted our lives for an extended period of time has proven much more disruptive than the financial crash of 2008. Yes, there is much uncertainty on the economic front with high-inflation and the threat of recession. But from a technological perspective, we are much better positioned to seize the opportunity and advance true digital transformation.

Consider the evolving healthcare landscape in the intervening years:

     • Consumerism: From MU version 1 with requirements to simply offer (somehow) patient education to a set of HCAPHS measure impacting reimbursement.

      • Interoperability: From HL7 1.0 and CCDs to SMART on FHIR and TEFCA.

      •Payment Reform: From almost all Fee-for-Service to ACOs, MA, Medicaid Managed Care and multiple CMMI pilot programs.

And then consider during this same time frame how technology advanced which changed the manner and expectations all people (patients, providers, care partners, consumers, etc) have for accessing and interacting with content.  Instant Access. Brevity. Multi-media. When the pandemic hit in the spring of 2020, a perfect storm was created for the emergence of telemedicine. Circumstances necessitated quick adoption of existing technology that was largely dormant. Providers far and wide answered the call and lit up virtual care solution in a matter of weeks. In the words of Bart Demaerschalk, medical director for Mayo’s Center for Connected Care, the COVID-19 pandemic has essentially accelerated U.S. digital health by about 10 years. But the public health emergency will not last forever.  Payment policies need to  be established as provider organizations seek to transform multiple, disparate, telemedicine solutions into one new, cohesive hybrid care paradigm.  It is these efforts that give me hope that true digital transformation is happening.

Delivering value to patients and providers has been driving pCare’s business for a long time.  Our Interactive Patient Care System (IPS) creates value from the television infrastructure. While this may not be the sexiest or most advanced technology people touch, it is leveraged to deliver value to patients who can:

     • Order a meal, control the temperature, or make a service request on their schedule

     • Have medications delivered to the bed or home upon discharge

     • Use their own devices to control the system if that is their preference

While delivering value to clinicians who:

     • Offload non-clinical tasks to willing partners

     • Are assisted with documentation

     • Receive guidance with quality standard compliance

Increasingly, we are working with our clients looking to improve value delivery via technology to help with their transformation initiatives. These include:

     • VideoConnect for unassisted family check-ins of non-responsive patients

     • Repurposing a Digital Door Sign as a Bed Side Child Fun Facts screen for pediatric providers

     • Point of Care IPS Configurations for Exam Rooms, Infusion Centers, EDs, and more

In each of the examples above, the use case is defining the application of technology not the other way around. As a long-standing, full-service provider with strong relationships across the supply chain, we have the luxury of being able to tap into a deep network of hardware and software partners to help create a solution to best meet a client’s needs that will integrate in some form or fashion with their existing technology footprint. The refreshing news is that more often than not, we are seeing our health system clients looking at new ways to deliver value in our quickly evolving ecosystem; we are seeing advancing digital transformation. This positive trend will improve care for patients and the long-term health and viability of the provider organizations.

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