Digital transformation—and, more specifically, the technologies that drive it—is changing the way organizations in every industry deliver products and services. Because of security and compliance concerns, healthcare organizations were a bit slower to transform than their non-medical counterparts.
But key innovations in secure, cloud-based technology have quelled those initial fears of going digital, and have changed the healthcare landscape for good. For modern healthcare organizations who implement the available tools and technologies, the results are clear: increased efficiency, improved client and employee experience, and deeper business insights.
What is Digital Transformation in Healthcare?
As healthcare organizations evaluate their ever-changing needs, goals, and resources, they must determine if their current tools and processes are adequate. Digital transformation in healthcare refers to the process of identifying a healthcare organization’s current and future needs, then implementing the proper technology solutions to meet those needs.
While the overarching goal remains the same across the board, each healthcare organization is different, which means the application of ‘digital transformation’ varies from business to business. For example, digital transformation for a private healthcare organization may mean switching from paper records to electronic health records (EHR). For a home healthcare company with a deskless workforce, it may mean implementing the necessary tools to achieve mobile maturity.
Regional factors in the healthcare industry also affect the speed and trajectory of digital transformation. When healthcare reform in Australia introduced a fee-for-service model for the first time, it spurred a huge investment in technology that can securely collect invoicing details, services performed, and job data for healthcare organizations. Across the world, when the U.S. changed how Medicare would reimburse certified home health agencies, healthcare organizations felt the pressure to speed up intake, referrals, and billing to meet the new deadlines, which required better technology solutions for managing mobile health workers.
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The Technologies That are Transforming Healthcare
At the heart of digital transformation in healthcare are the technologies that drive new, better ways of providing service to clients. While these tools are constantly changing to keep up with the growing demand for excellent customer service and the shift to deskless work, there are certainly some game-changing technologies that are here to stay.
Mobile & on-demand technologies
As the consumerization of healthcare changes the industry’s landscape, organizations are increasingly aware of not only what they need to offer their clients, but also how it must be offered. Expectations for easy scheduling, personalized interactions, and seamless access to key information are growing, and thus, so are the technologies that enable them.
Mobile tools that allow clients to instantly schedule appointments, communicate with providers, and access essential health data have become a necessity for healthcare organizations with a mobile workforce. Modern providers know they must treat clients as active consumers of their products and services, and therefore focus on providing mobile tools that make the client experience (and mobile healthcare worker experience) better than competitors.
Another factor driving instant technologies is the increase in demand for home healthcare and the need for in-home care providers (and, of course, the tools that empower them). Healthcare organizations who offer these types of home-based services are realizing the benefits of implementing technology to automate mobile workers’ schedules, match the right provider with the right patient, optimize routes, and enable better communication in the field.
Offering proactive healthcare to patients is key to exceptional service going forward. In the past, this proved difficult, as clients had to visit a clinic, office, or other healthcare location to receive care, a mostly reactive process.
As providers emphasize preventative care and earlier treatment interventions, healthcare technology has grown and evolved to support better early-stage diagnosis and treatment. Better tools for proactive care, plus a greater emphasis on preventative care from providers, result in better patient outcomes.
Today, competitive healthcare organizations are investing in wearable technologies that allow them to monitor and collect patient data and provide proper care accordingly. Some popular wearable devices include:
- Electrocardiogram (ECG) Monitors
- Blood Pressure Monitors
- Fitness Trackers
By implementing these types of remote patient monitoring (RPM) tools, companies can provide better, more personalized care and eliminate unnecessary visits. Providers can streamline and optimize services, as their valuable visit time won’t be spent collecting vitals or other basic information already tracked on the device. The result is a better patient-provider relationship, as clients don’t spend money on avoidable visits and can gain more value from the visits they do need.
Take into account, for example, a client who wears an ECG monitor daily. Instead of needing regular visits to the doctor to ensure healthy heart activity, the device can monitor and record vitals automatically. If there are any abnormalities, the device can alert the client’s home healthcare provider, who can then offer care in the comfort of the client’s own home.
Software to collect and analyze data
When digital transformation initiatives first took hold of the healthcare industry, the primary concern was—you guessed it—digital compliance. But as technology has improved, so have the ways in which companies are able to leverage software to continuously secure data.
Increased security and confidence in digital compliance has birthed a new healthcare data trend: improving overall client and business outcomes through accurate, actionable insights. Leading healthcare organizations recognize the importance of capturing key data over time and analyzing that data against both client and business KPIs.
Traditionally, collecting essential healthcare data has been a challenging feat. But the right tools offer the interoperability, transparency, and security required to ensure the best client care possible (while also keeping your bottom line in mind). These tools enable deskless workers to capture patient information, contactless signatures, and other key details in the field and store them in one centralized, secure location. That means other caregivers have seamless access to data and can ensure clients receive the care they need.
The overall business benefits, too. Using secure software to collect and analyze your organization’s data allows you to connect disparate data points, generate actionable reports, and use that information to make good decisions. For example, if your data is reflecting a negative trend in your mobile workers’ schedule adherence, it means your providers aren’t consistently serving their patients within the set tolerance period. This inability to meet customer expectations can be identified and corrected with accurate, data-driven appointment or arrival times to boost customer satisfaction.
Artificial intelligence (AI)
Some of the more recent innovations impacting digital transformation in healthcare are AI-powered technologies. Healthcare organizations are already investing in these types technologies for a variety of purposes, including:
- Chatbots to instantly answer medical questions, book appointments, and even provide therapy programs
- Risk calculators that identify potential health risks, such as heart disease or diabetes, in individuals
- Administrative software to take on time-consuming, mundane tasks like scheduling recurring appointments, so healthcare providers can focus on patient care
- Diagnostic tools that can ‘listen’ to clients and diagnose health issues, such as asthma
- Advanced programs, which can inspect large amounts of data and identify trends or patterns in illness and disease
As technology improves and becomes more readily available, artificial intelligence will likely become even more pervasive in healthcare. Organizations will continue to benefit from the increased operational efficiency, data-driven insights, and streamlined care that AI-powered tools offer.
The Current and Lasting Effects of COVID-19
The need for strong tools that offer streamlined communication, remote patient monitoring, and better access to care has been made even clearer throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.
Healthcare organizations that were still utilizing manual processes prior to the pandemic have been forced to undergo digital transformation not only to remain competitive long-term, but also to adequately serve their clients short-term. They must adapt to provide care for those with barriers to access, such as those who live remotely, have lack of transport, or are living with illnesses that put them at an increased risk of infection through physical contact.
Healthcare providers also need to adapt to their employees’ unique needs during this time. For example, if home healthcare workers are no longer able to gather together in the office for a morning meeting or go back periodically to record notes and check patient information, they need digital tools to stay connected to their coworkers and securely access client data in the field. If a healthcare provider is concerned about COVID exposure in a certain location, they need a quick way to do an on-the-spot risk assessment or report an incident.
As the Coronavirus continues to affect daily operations, healthcare providers (particularly those with a mobile or frontline workforce) must examine current processes to prepare for current and future client interactions. The ability to provide in-home care, telemedicine visits, and contactless care has evolved from a luxury to a necessity.
At the crux of these services will be strong software solutions that empower healthcare providers through:
- Streamlined communication and collaboration
- Sound security and compliance
- Intelligent client-to-provider matching (based on skills, certifications, locations, and more)
- Real-time scheduling
- Seamless access to key information (e.g. appointment details, client preferences, and resources)
- Data collection and analysis
- Integration with existing systems
Regulatory flexibility has emerged, thus opening the door for the data sharing and interoperability that wasn’t previously possible. Essential to this is software that offers centralized management for better visibility and evaluation of healthcare operations. This is especially critical for healthcare providers who implemented technology in an effort to speed up transformation, as those technologies can create data silos and workflow bottlenecks if they don’t work together.
An organization, for example, that captures field data (like time to schedule, customer satisfaction, or number of jobs completed) from disparate sources and doesn’t have the proper tools to connect that data is at risk for missing key business trends and, ultimately, delivering a negative patient experience.
Software to Transform the Way Healthcare is Delivered
Digital transformation in the healthcare industry is not just a trend, but rather the future of how organizations will adapt to deliver the best care possible. Its staying power is evident, and healthcare organizations looking to remain competitive and provide an exceptional customer experience must implement key technologies to survive.
Skedulo’s Healthcare and Home Health Scheduling platform offers tools for increased communication, intelligent patient-to-provider matching, real-time scheduling, and more—all designed to help you tackle the digital transformation process.