The hospital landscape remains a competitive one, with health systems constantly experimenting with new technology to help them achieve commercial success. Many of the digital tools that hospitals are adopting focus on streamlining workflows for their employees or enhancing the patient experience.
During a recent virtual panel held by Reuters Events, three health system executives shared some of the most important lessons they’ve learned from the digital initiatives they’ve worked on in the past couple years. Below are three key lessons the panelists discussed.
Start with a problem, not a solution.
Jared Antczak, chief digital officer at Sanford Health, said that his health system always tries to begin its digital initiatives by defining a problem that needs to be fixed.
“Too often, organizations start with the solution. They get dazzled with all of the bells and whistles of a demo or a conversation with a vendor, and then they try to work backwards to figure out a problem that it can solve. That backwards process often leads to failure, negative returns on investment or just a poor experience overall,” he explained.
For example, when Sanford launched its digital registration tool, it was doing so to address a pain point it knew patients found frustrating and employees found difficult to manage, Antczak explained.
He noted that nobody enjoys arriving early to an appointment so they can be handed a clipboard and asked to fill in pages of the same information they gave the last time they came in. Additionally, providers are undergoing workforce pressures and don’t always have enough staff to sit at front desks and check people in.
“Once we identified that problem, we were able to design and deploy the right solution. We launched a new digital registration tool just this last year that has been incredibly successful — really simple and intuitive for our patients, really frictionless. And it’s resulted in major time savings for our workforce,” Antczak declared.
Financial ROI is important, but it’s not everything.
Healthcare providers shouldn’t use financial ROI as their only motivator when pursuing digital initiatives, argued Brian Hoberman, CIO and national technology leader at the Permanente Federation.
“The financial return, obviously, is something you think about, but the motivator isn’t, ‘Hey, let’s go find something that’s going to have the biggest financial return.’ The motivator is much more oriented towards what the impact is going to be on the patient and the workforce,” he remarked.
Hoberman highlighted his organization’s recent deployment of ambient listening technology as a successful project. He thinks the initiative is a hit because it not only alleviates burnout among its workforce, but also increases patient satisfaction.
By using technology that automatically drafts clinical notes, doctors can spend less time on documentation and more time interacting with their patients face-to-face, he explained. And when doctors don’t have their head buried in the EHR, patients feel like they’re being heard.
Invest in your digital doors.
Hospital leaders must not underestimate the power of digital marketing, said Shweta Ponnappa, chief digital experience officer at Providence.
“Two key initiatives that have driven sustainable growth for us are machine learning-based digital marketing and our investments in our digital doors. I don’t call them digital front doors because patients don’t always use the front door. They might use a side door, garage door, back door or window to come in if that’s what’s closest to them. And we’re okay with that,” she declared.
Patients may become aware of Providence’s providers through an array of channels, such as the health system’s website, their health plan, MyChart or Zocdoc, Ponnappa explained.
“It’s really up to the patient. Our job is to make sure that we’re showing up in a meaningful way with all the information they need to make their decision,” she stated. “We’ve got to make it easy for the patient.”
Photo: exdez, Getty Images