Now: adoption of technology to enhance the patient experience
The value of integrating the patient’s voice in health system strategic decisions and informing improvements also was discussed. Listening to patients, understanding their needs and prioritizing them over health system expediencies has proven valuable. One case study demonstrated how a health system improved the patient experience by leveraging multiple channels and engaging with the patients according to their preferences. It had become clear that most patients preferred text messages over logging into a web portal.
So, the organization set up a secure system that enabled appointment scheduling and clinician interactions via text messaging. The role of voice technology in creating smart hospitals also entered the dialogue. Akin to digital voice assistants such as Alexa or Siri, voice technologies are allowing medical professionals to enhance the way they interact with patients and technology. Participants in the roundtable learned how voice technology can improve operating room efficiency when surgeons can give voice commands instead of typing or clicking on a computer during surgery. One health system is experimenting with ambient listening technology in a clinical setting, capturing doctor-patient interactions and importing it directly into the EMR.
Next: overcoming obstacles to transform operating models in the health care system
While COVID-19 has ushered in a new era of virtual care and telehealth, several concerns arise concerning the quality and health outcomes achieved by virtual care. Participants discussed the importance of maintaining quality in digital care delivery while balancing savings and convenience.
For example, blood pressure typically cannot be measured in most telehealth visits. Failure to detect, diagnose and treat hypertension promptly is a clinical concern. Another challenge is the potential for physicians to order more tests than they otherwise might, which can increase costs and inefficiency. There’s also a significant potential for increasing health inequities, since accessing virtual care requires a smartphone or computer, internet access and digital literacy, as well as health insurance. Considering that there are several regions in the United States where broadband coverage is inadequate, digital inequities could heighten health care disparities.
An important aspect of the smart health journey is measuring the customer or patient experience. One participant shared how their health system measures the quality of care. The system has created a “compassion composite score” across service lines that combines traditional patient satisfaction values and results in an overall score for the inpatient environment, home health and the medical group. Roundtable participants also discussed challenges with data, specifically the variability of data capture, data quality within EMRs and the lack of holistic data on patients, making it difficult to deliver highly personalized care and interventions promptly.
Finally, the sentiment among participants was clear that while the examples discussed during the event are steps in the right direction, delivering an authentic smart health experience is still off in the future for many.
Beyond: sustaining the transformation in the patient experience
A patient-centered approach combined with technology advancements and data can genuinely transform the traditional health care model, resulting in improved quality of care and better patient experience while potentially reducing costs and burden on the workforce. However simple and straightforward the transition may sound, it entails changing the existing culture and traditional ways of working.
Roundtable participants agreed that while their institutions are moving forward with new technologies and services for their patients, their care models can still be rooted in the past. Modernizing care models to better align with new technologies and approaches is a significant challenge facing health organizations. Closer alignment between the digital transformation activities and workflows of caregivers and care teams also is essential to building the capability to predict the clinical and financial outcomes necessary to embrace value-based care truly.