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In most industries, when one competing organization falters, it is often viewed positively by its competitors. For better or worse, this is generally not the case in the healthcare provider space.
Each day we learn of hospitals across the country shutting their doors, which leaves those communities abandoned for the local healthcare services that they sorely need. This trend is prevalent in both rural and urban regions – with the result of increased pressure on those remaining facilities and centers that are already overextended.
Patients experience the effects of this impact through a reduction in available services, an increase in appointment wait times, and lengthy visits at the emergency department.
The pandemic has certainly accelerated the demise of some healthcare provider institutions as weary clinicians departed in droves for a variety of reasons; most notably burnout and a safer working environment.
Those caregivers that remained earned well-deserved increases in compensation, while high-priced travel support was required to fill in the patient care scheduling gaps. The shock to the system of rapidly increasing costs, combined with reduced patient volumes and an inability to rapidly generate new sources of revenue, has wreaked havoc across the healthcare provider industry.
Experts indicate that it will take quite some time for the industry to rebound and regain its solid footing. While in this transition phase, many organizations are looking to information technology to advance their operational efficiency and further evolve patient care.
As most healthcare provider organizations are now operating with a foundational electronic health record platform, digitization efforts to drive aspirational benefits from the EHR are more achievable. These digitization efforts span the full spectrum of clinical and administrative operations.
With an industry shift from implementation to driving value out of the foundational platforms comes the risk of vendors over-hyping their capabilities – so buyer beware. Below are several initiatives that organizations have indicated they are embarking upon in order to enable improved operational efficiency and patient care:
- Patient access. Extend telemedicine services that were rapidly introduced throughout the pandemic. For those requiring in-person visits, reduce the burden of visit check-ins and consents through patient-centric electronic capabilities.
- Mobility. Leverage SMS text based reminder/nudge messages, data exchange with regional partners and enhanced use of patient portals
- Financial efficiency. Centralize corporate services where possible, renegotiate vendor and lease arrangements, and align activities across the entire enterprise
- Virtual care centers. Leverage a centralized nursing model that will provide virtual coverage for multiple patients
- AI technology. Reduce physician email clutter and simplify cumbersome physician documentation through ambient listening functionality
- Home care monitoring. Provide enhanced patient care in the setting that patients prefer most – their home. Introduce advanced medical equipment to enable monitoring and alerting services
- Robotic process automation. Leverage technology to significantly reduce manual and repetitive tasks
Individually, each effort can bring anticipated benefits. Should these efforts be packaged in a balanced and organized manner, an organization may experience a "sum of the parts greater than the whole" benefit-recognition.
The tightening employee market will continue to place additional burdens on all industries; including the healthcare provider space.
A balanced approach to deploying new information technology that reduces the burden on employees and provides patients with enhanced services is the key to stabilizing and advancing our industry’s operations.
Mike Restuccia is the chief information officer of Penn Medicine.