Dave Bennett, CEO pCare
Healthcare organizations across the country are looking to move forward with their digital transformation programs and building the hospital of the future in the face of challenging economic times. Kaufman Hall’s latest flash report shows hospitals in aggregate operating at negative margins year-to-date. Nonetheless, it is important to not to lose sight of the long-term benefits digital transformation can bring in establishing new ways of value delivery that can improve outcomes and experience for patients and families while increasing efficiency and lowering costs for providers. Use the tips below to ensure you are wisely moving in the right direction:
I. Understand Your Customers – This sounds obvious but focus on your customers which can include patients, families, and often clinicians depending on the use case. Have a solid understanding of their demographics, psychographics where possible, the problems they are trying to address, along with their comfort level with different technologies. Do you have a firm grasp of the customer journey and an understanding of what would best fit in or enhance the experience? For a healthcare organization, we recommend surveying patients or reaching out to a Patient and Family Advisory Council to get their input on what your patient community may be seeking. The information you collect can prioritize the evolution of the customer experience as part of a broader digital transformation initiative.
II. Evaluate the Total Cost of Ownership – Overlook this critical piece of due diligence at your own risk. When looking at digital transformation, in a nutshell, you must look at software, hardware, and underlying infrastructure. For example, if you consider patient engagement/experience platforms at the point of care you need to ensure you have the requisite telecommunications infrastructure – network, cabling, switches, endpoints, peripherals – to run the latest software. The software itself needs to be built to integrate (open APIs) but you must be sure to factor in the costs – internal and external – to set-up the system. Finally, don’t forget the human element. There will be some level of training, perhaps reallocation of resources as some tasks are automated, and ongoing support. It’s important to be as thorough on the front end to avoid unpleasant surprises and unplanned costs down the line.
III. Selective Use Cases to Start – Change is difficult especially in healthcare where staffing shortages make it extremely difficult to find the time to train on new technology. And the reality is that people are by nature resistant to change. But change is foundational to digital transformation which is not about automating current processes but finding new ways to deliver value. The best way to counter the forces of change resistance and time pressure is by rolling out with use cases that quickly deliver incremental value. Be it time savings for nurses, uptick in satisfaction scores in one HCAHPS domain, greater use of the discharge pharmacy, it’s important to get buy-in early because digital transformation is a marathon not a sprint. Where possible look for ways you can optimize your current financial models and consider the strongest need is first.
IV. Get the Right Team in Place – Collaboration drives the optimal experience for all stakeholders. Your success will be that much more certain when you bring together the right team. For healthcare facilities, that can be clinicians, patient engagement and experience specialists, data analysts, various department heads, and technical developers to share their input on what they need for success. Furthermore, a strong project manager to drive the initiative forward can ensure all parties continue to work toward the shared goal of improved customer/patient journey and engagement.
V. Choose a Technology Partner that Adapts to Your Needs – Being trapped in a one-size-fits-all solution will only frustrate your IT and clinical staff and hurt engagement. Don’t waste time trying to adjust your workflows to technology—choose a technical solution that adjusts with you. Look for a strategic partner that can support multiple modalities so you can engage stakeholders – patients, family care partners, staff clinicians – where they are and how they want to be involved. You want to be sure the technology is flexible and can adapt as your model flexes and scales from simple to complex and across various touch points. For example, the same data may need to be presented very differently on a clinician facing UI versus a patient facing device. A good rule of thumb is to ask about their open APIs to ensure you will be able to embed care and support across all touch points. However, be cognizant of the competitive landscape and the need to ensure the best experience for patients in terms of making data available for care with any provider while working to keep care within your network.
VI. Plan to Measure the Results – Nothing is static. Technology is constantly advancing. Consumer preferences change and evolve in a nonlinear manner. Launch with KPIs (which should be periodically updated) and measure the results of your digital solution to determine where you can adjust to better meet the needs of your staff and customers/patients. As it pertains to patient experience technology, in addition to patient driven metrics also in include a defined set of provider utilization metrics to evaluate how the technology is improving provider efficiency, job satisfaction along with other outcomes metrics such as readmission rates, length of stay, quality/safety measure compliance etc.
As noted above, digital transformation is a long process. And, because technology is constantly changing along with societal norms, the fact is transformation should be constant. Follow the six steps above to set yourself up for long term success.