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4 Digital Transformation Trends Reshaping Healthcare

The healthcare industry has historically been slow to undergo digital transformation efforts. In 2015, the McKinsey Industry Digital Index listed the healthcare industry among the two industries slowest to digitally transform.

But times are changing.

Healthcare organizations have recently adopted digital technologies at an unprecedented rate to accommodate the consumer demand for simple, seamless service. In fact, 81% of healthcare executives surveyed by Accenture in 2021 reported digital transformation efforts in their organization are ramping up.

In this blog, we’ll take a look at four digital transformation trends reshaping the healthcare industry.

Consumer-Focused Digital Health

Perhaps any monumental shift in any industry begins with the consumer. The drive to digital can largely be attributed to the patients’ growing need for convenient, on-demand access and care. Today’s digital healthcare tools can help reduce friction, create better outcomes, and increase patient access and ownership. These positive transformations lend to greater patient satisfaction overall.

Creating a Frictionless Customer Experience

For one, digital patient engagement tools aim to revamp the customer experience. These tools enable patients to schedule appointments, access healthcare information, and complete surveys more easily. The ideal patient engagement tools eliminate friction by allowing patients to do everything from their devices. For healthcare professionals, these tools can minimize no-shows, encourage greater compliance, and help bring in new patients and revenue streams. One study found that text message appointment reminders reduced appointment no-shows by 38%.

Keeping Tabs on Patients from Afar

Remote patient monitoring (RPM) technology is also improving the patient experience. RPM includes wearable devices like blood pressure monitors, blood glucose monitors, and weight scales. Patients can use or wear RPM devices regularly and providers can monitor their vital signs 24/7. Patients enjoy greater ownership over their health and reduced in-person visits with RPM. Providers can monitor for changes, optimize treatment plans, and step in in the case of an emergency. RPM, so far, has generated positive health outcomes for patients with acute and chronic conditions. One study from the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center found that RPM reduced patients’ risk of hospital readmissions by 76%.

Consumers are always looking for faster and more convenient service. Digital technologies like patient engagement tools and RPM devices ensure around-the-clock access and service for a greater customer experience.

Big Data-Driven Decisions

Healthcare systems host a wealth of valuable and sensitive data. Digital tools allow organizations to use health data to glean valuable insights, leading to better patient outcomes and larger-scale improvements. However, today, this data is not being used to its full potential.

Big Data Means Big Obstacles…

The reason for this can be traced back to a few key obstacles. For one, security and patient privacy is of the utmost importance in healthcare. While healthcare data must be accessible by both patients and providers to be effective, it must also be secure.

A second obstacle is the lack of data standardization in healthcare. Healthcare professionals enter data in their systems in different formats, making it difficult for systems to properly exchange this critical information. Sometimes they don’t enter data at all. In fact, less than half of hospitals integrate patient data into their records.

…And Even Bigger Opportunities

Luckily, there’s been a growing push for data interoperability in the healthcare industry. This refers to the seamless exchange of data and information between two or more systems. The Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources (FHIR) specification, for instance, provides a framework for inputting and organizing healthcare information. In order to increase interoperability in healthcare data systems, standardization needs to happen across the board.

Once data is properly organized and standardized, organizations can analyze the data and use AI to make informed predictions and decisions. Predictive analytics, for one, analyzes data and past patient outcomes to improve future outcomes. Often, this form of analysis using machine learning algorithms and artificial intelligence can assist clinicians in determining what kinds of treatments work best for patients. These tools take time off of providers’ plates by automatically identifying warning signs in patients before their conditions worsen.

And this isn’t a futuristic vision – these technologies are already being put to the test. Machine learning algorithms have helped scientists determine which conditions indicate a patient is more likely to survive or die from COVID-19. And these technologies will only continue to improve and provide even greater outcomes. Experts predict that the artificial intelligence market in healthcare will grow tenfold between 2021 and 2027 – from a 6.9 billion dollar market to a 67.4 billion dollar market.

Transforming Staff Effectiveness

Healthcare is traditionally thought of as a hands-on profession that requires practitioners to be in person. However, certain functions of healthcare have shifted to remote settings in the wake of the pandemic.

Improving Outcomes with Virtual Visits

Telehealth technologies make it possible for patients to visit the doctor without leaving home. Between January and July of 2020 alone, telehealth adoption rates rose by 25%. Functions like monitoring, diagnosis, and therapy can all be done without the patient or provider being physically present. Remote appointments can also decrease no-shows since patients do not need to commute for their appointment.

The Value of Hands-Off Learning

Many healthcare organizations are learning that training, too, can happen in virtual settings. Virtual reality (VR) allows healthcare professionals to take part in training from a distance. Situational awareness training is one compelling VR use case in healthcare. This allows trainees to react to rare emergency situations like disease outbreaks or mass casualty accidents in a virtual setting. Doing so helps them to gain an automatic response if and when these emergencies occur. Some hospitals are even using VR to simulate surgery, training future surgeons in a risk-free setting.  Other important parts of the training process like onboarding and equipment training can easily be completed online.

Creating a More Efficient Business

Digital transformation efforts can also help healthcare organizations operate more efficiently and effectively from a business perspective. Online, integrated tools help streamline and improve scheduling, billing, and supply chain management to enable greater collaboration.

Streamlining Scheduling

In healthcare, accurate scheduling is essential. However, antiquated and siloed systems often lend to mix-ups, missed appointments, frustration, and lost revenue. Adopting an efficient scheduling system must be a key component of digital transformation for healthcare institutions. Enabling self-scheduling for patients through online sites and portals makes the process smoother for patients. It also saves time for front desk employees and reduces the possibility of human error. These tools can also provide things like automatic confirmations and reminders so patients remember to attend their appointments.

Bringing Billing into the Digital Age

Digital billing, too, should be top-of-mind for healthcare organizations. When surveyed in 2018, over half of patients preferred electronic medical billing over paper billing. On the flip side, nearly all organizations surveyed still used paper billing statements. Most customers are now used to receiving digital invoices for most purchases and prefer the convenience of paying online. What’s more, digital invoicing tools can automatically notify and remind patients that an invoice is ready to be paid. A survey from US Bank found that 44% of healthcare consumers pay medical bills faster when they receive digital notifications about billing. Insurance billing, too, can be optimized through digital technology.

Mitigating Supply Chain Headaches

Finally, digital transformation efforts can help organizations meet ongoing demands and increase agility and resiliency in emergencies. The pandemic revealed major flaws in the healthcare industry supply chain. A lack of coordination between different parties lent to an inability to meet surging demands.

By optimizing the supply chain with technology, organizations gain greater transparency. This allows them to more effectively improve inventory management, track key metrics in real-time, and streamline workflows. Today, organizations use RFID tags to monitor products and manage inventory to prevent shortages. IoT devices and equipment allow organizations to capture and transmit data about equipment performance and supply chain processes. These are just two of the many examples of digital tools healthcare organizations are using to streamline the supply chain.

All of these efforts require cooperation and collaboration from organizations across the industry. All healthcare organizations must work together to ensure better supply chain management, streamlined processes, and greater patient outcomes.

Explore our key takeaways from HIMSS 2022!

Our team recently attended HIMSS 2022 to dive deeper into the trends reshaping the industry. Explore our key takeaways from the event.