To plan for the impact of technology on healthcare, we must first understand the massive change it creates in our behavior and how we work. The significant changes in our world are often unconcerned with our priorities and budgets. The boundaries of healthcare often clash with change, and our strategic plans switch from a place of comfort and direction to complete chaos.
200 years ago electricity made its way into our lives, forever changing the way we live as a result. The internet followed at the turn of the millennium and today, the idea that’s reshaping our planet is a more person-centered approach to technology. Rather than an invention, it is a new philosophy, a way of looking at the world. Individuality is the highest prized attribute of the modern times. All people expect things to be catered to them and they are rapidly discovering how to define the concept of “self” into ways unheard of and unexplored before. The mainstream focuses on individual experience, and this will have a unique impact on how consumers of healthcare will behave in the following years.
We have to look for ways to adapt or risk paying the price demanded from those left behind: becoming irrelevant.
Any forward thinking strategy created to show the positive impact of technology in healthcare has to have a person-centered approach at its core. Before addressing that though, let’s discuss the other two vital points your plan should consider:
Most IT structures in healthcare today offer some combination of inadequate technology and cumbersome workflow. Electronic Health Records (EHR) brought on by Meaningful Use were introduced in massive numbers over the past decade, but were often implemented poorly and on top of weak IT infrastructure. For many healthcare organizations, this was the first large-scale technology implementation in their history, leaving a negative feeling for many staff who experienced slow systems and interrupted care for those they serve. As we see in both the devices and services provided around us, the global trend is to simplify through the use of technology. Most consumers and providers of healthcare have yet to experience that feeling of simplicity. While we’ve made significant progress on the collection of information and availability of technology the focus must now shift to providing access to that data as quickly and naturally as possible.
Providers in any field of healthcare would benefit tremendously from increased mobility of their access to lab results, medication history, and real-time access to treatment plans. Being bound to a single access point is limiting their ability to help their populations; especially when that single access point is slow to load and difficult to use. It cuts the time they have access to relevant information and delays solutions to those in need. If providers can go about their business and seamlessly access all the information they require, at any time, then one can count this as a significant achievement for both the health of the workflow and the resulting care for the consumer. Removing a provider’s dependence on a physical location and breaking them free from time constraints should be the most critical element of a modern Healthcare IT strategy.
Easy access comes with many challenges, and one of those problems is assuring the security of Patient Health Information (PHI). In today’s world, nobody can afford to ignore Government regulations such as HIPAA, and the attention consumers are now giving to the security of their personal information. The subject is, and will likely remain, in the public’s eye so a breach of information could prove catastrophic. Data security has always been important, and it always had a reserved spot in any IT strategy, but for the foreseeable future, it should be at the heart of every IT initiative. Huge scandals have shifted customer sympathies lately, and the privacy of something as personal as a medical record is not to be compromised under any circumstances.
To address a primary focus of any Health IT Strategy, we have to shift our perspective and see through the eyes of our providers and those they serve. What more and more market surveys are unraveling is the increased desire of individuals to be actively involved in their healthcare, even if it’s about routine activities like monitoring one’s prescriptions or measuring blood pressure. Coupled with this pending request from our population, it’s common knowledge that a person’s motivations and actions directly influence their treatment’s outcome. As more confidence and normalcy in technology’s role is adopted through information accessibility, the results are bound to become more positive.
Providers and consumers must be able to access their files remotely and then get access to relevant information regarding their exact condition. If we are to take one step further, the IT structure should allow for individuals to group the information they find relevant and save it in personal files so that they may access it immediately anytime they wanted. Such a platform will both help clients tremendously by keeping them in the loop with regards to their plan and create trust and loyalty to your organization since all their critical information links back to your services.
We’re living in times where IT needs to tend towards a more human feel. We’re learning how to shape technology to answer our complex needs, and the crude information is just not enough anymore. Staff experience is a prime concern and a prime differentiator. How providers interact with their tools and information directly impacts the quality of care that your organization can provide. If you are in a position to influence IT infrastructure, you can touch the lives of your organization’s population directly, going as far as improving their chances for excellent health and enhancing patient safety. You also can influence the number of services offered, increase consumer loyalty, thus directly impacting the financial health of your organization. IT has never been more relevant, has never aimed for a more integrated outcome of its attributes and we have never relied more on IT than we stand to in the years to come.
All of these guiding principles make your role and the strategy you put together pivotal for success. Whether you are a CIO or provider, engage your team in discussing how you will approach these realities going forward.
Following the three clear principles described in this article should provoke excellent discussion and, ultimately guide your organization to excellent results.