Think back just a couple of years ago. Consider how you would meet with your doctor. You likely would drive to a healthcare provider. Then sit in a waiting room for some uncomfortable length of time. Once with the physician, you probably had a palpable sense of being rushed back out the door.
We can probably agree that healthcare has never excelled at creating good “customer experiences.” It might have been easier buying a television at a big box store than getting time with your provider.
Then came the pandemic.
Today, you’re likely to meet with the same doctor on a video call. No driving and no waiting room. You’re in front of a screen at the scheduled time, and then the physician appears. You probably don’t feel as rushed during your appointment, either.
Remote appointments were possible two years ago, of course. But the healthcare industry was still on the fence about embracing the available technology that enabled many forms of care – including virtual visits. That was primarily because of unresolved issues around reimbursement and if investments could produce the intended benefits in the long term.
But out of sheer necessity, healthcare delivery changed overnight due to the COVID-19 crisis. The emergency use of technology, which started as a forced strategy, suddenly became commonplace.
And we’re not going back to the way things were.
The pandemic inflicted a terrible global toll. But as it (hopefully) devolves into an endemic – something manageable that we can live with – healthcare needs to harness the collective lessons learned. The essential role of technology in beneficially transforming the patient experience in a post-pandemic world is now undeniable.
That was reflected in the theme of this year’s annual Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) conference — “Reimagine Health.” The influential event focused on emerging issues like data and interoperability as the engine of digital transformation, telehealth, and the new economics of healthcare.
It’s also why I’ve authored a new eBook called “Five Technology Trends Shaping Healthcare Today.” I’ve identified five strategic areas ripe for positive change in providing better care. The pandemic served as a catalyst for all of these trends. And the common thread is they all require a new way of thinking about digital connectivity and automation.
- Frictionless Experience for Patients, Staff, and Partners. People want healthcare to meet them where they are. When they do visit a healthcare facility, they want one-stop shopping. Seeing a physician. Getting tests performed. Receiving prescriptions. All at once. It’s not just patient expectations that have grown, either. Physicians, staff, locums, caregivers – everyone – expect this kind of service. Everyone’s time is valuable and costly. Eliminating manual, time-consuming tasks enables them to focus more on patient care.
- Deciding on a Multicloud Strategy That Impacts the Bottom Line. The pandemic exposed gaping cracks in infrastructure as C-suite leaders said “remote this” and “virtual that.” That gave IT teams burdened with brittle, outdated systems the authority to evaluate new technologies. Cloud migration reduced costs by removing the burden of managing legacy infrastructure while improving organizational agility. That trend will accelerate because connecting the growing number of cloud-based applications enables data blending to extract insights that save money and create better patient experiences.
- Transforming from Order-Takers to Value-Makers. The crisis demonstrated a new approach to problem-solving and how IT can help the broader business survive and even thrive in a crisis. Instead of just “order-takers” who carry out instructions, technical teams are more involved in the up-front decision-making. They’re “value-makers.” Traditionally, IT has been considered a cost center. Now we see it can be a profit center as technologists serve as trusted partners ensuring faster implementation of strategic decisions and that new care pathways are delivered efficiently.
- Harnessing Corporate Insights for Market Advantage. We’re witnessing an explosion in data from new sources such as best-in-breed applications, connected devices like home-monitoring sensors, wearables, and more. Internal and external information (such as patient-supplied data) needs to be easily accessible so that it’s useful. That only happens by connecting all of those sources. But Forrester estimates more than 60% of data within any organization goes unused for analytics. That’s a lost opportunity for improving care and gaining a market advantage.
- Creating a Value-Based Healthcare Model. With U.S. spending on healthcare growing to an estimated 19% of GDP, it’s clear the coin-operated model of transactional-based medicine is unsustainable. That’s why healthcare is moving away from fee-for-service to a more holistic, value-based care model that rewards providers for reducing the incidence of chronic diseases. That requires a nimble delivery of care that IT can help provide by connecting all systems to provide a complete view of a patient’s overall health rather than treating issues on a one-off basis.
Every healthcare organization is pushing processes to the cloud to take advantage of the speed, agility, interoperability, and information-sharing they previously lacked in closed, on-premises technology architectures. Over the last two years, they’ve seen the potential for better care and cost savings become a proven reality.
The pandemic reshaped healthcare in unexpected ways and forced an overdue jumpstart of healthcare digitization. Yet as we move beyond this crisis, it would be an incredible shame if the broader industry didn’t put into practice what we’ve learned.
After all, do any of us want to wait in a doctor’s office if we can avoid it?