Healthcare organizations have been transitioning to value-based care arrangements, and 2020 was to be a year for information technology to support that shift.
Then, COVID-19 turned everything upside down. But responding to the crisis has taught healthcare organizations valuable lessons in how better to use IT to make changes on the fly.
In fact, the pandemic is accelerating necessary changes for healthcare organizations, and providers are looking to emerge from the COVID-19 crisis more ready to meet the quadruple aim of value-based care: better outcomes, lower costs, improved patient experience and improved clinician experience.
“The pandemic has upended healthcare, and one of the things we’ve focused on is to come out of it as a materially different organization,” said Jim Brady, PhD, VP of Information Security and CISO for Fairview Health Services. “There’s been a lot of discussion about how do we shift and pivot to meet needs, how do we provide the highest quality care at the lowest possible cost? There’s been a lot of process improvement. We need to do something transformative, and technology has the potential to do that.”
Brady participated in a recent webinar on Leveraging Data Center Infrastructure to Meet the Quadruple Aim, along with Chuck Christian, VP of Technology and CTO for Franciscan Health, and Aivars Apsite, healthcare practice manager for Hewlett Packard Enterprise. They agreed that data center initiatives planned for this year have been disrupted and refocused due to of the information needs that have emerged because of the pandemic.
“We can’t let a good crisis go to waste,” Christian said. “There are many things (from adjusting to the pandemic) that we’re going to carry forward.” Organizations such as Franciscan Health are moving into more at-risk contracts for patient populations, and IT must enable the process. “I want the healthcare system to provide that excellent healthcare at a price point that we can tolerate, and use technology to get us there.”
The rapid shift to remote work put significant pressure on IT to support both support administrative and clinical staff, as well as virtual care, Christian said. “We learned some valuable lessons when we dropped into the crisis,” he added. “We all went remote. We moved our billing offices and coders home without a great deal of issue.”
IT’s ability to manage the rapid changes has provided impetus to support the adjustments required by value-based care, particularly making care provision easier, Christian said. “We need to remove some of the burden that we’ve added to the clinical staff, and we need to leverage the technology and tools to improve our organizations.”
Brady said the ability of IT to rapidly shift to supporting remote care has raised awareness of the technology needed to support future approaches to care. “We went rapidly to a remote workforce, so we saw that not all (staff) are needed in the clinical workplace,” he said. “It changed the perception of IT, and it kind of changes the expectations for reporting and having metrics; we have to make sure we have the right systems in place.”
Supporting clinicians is important, whether facing COVID-19 pressures or the transition to value-based care, Apsite contended. Provider organizations now need to ensure that digital systems really benefit clinicians in their efforts to provide patient care. Recent studies have highlighted the impact that EHR systems have in adding to physician burnout. “We’re hyper-focused on more efficient workflows; all of these things add up to improved patient experience and financial performance.”
Healthcare organizations are in the midst of changes in information technology that will make them better able to improve care delivery in a value-based care environment.
“In organizations our size, infrastructure is very complex. I just finished redesigning our network to create resiliency,” Christian said. “We’re working our way out of the data center business to use software as a service and cloud-based services.”
In the rush to implement digital technology over the last 10 years, healthcare organizations have automated paper processes, and that won’t help them achieve any of the quadruple aim. “We need to leverage the technology and the tools to improve our organizations,” he said.
Improved use of healthcare information will be crucial in achieving the quadruple aim, including collecting better metrics to know if performance is actually getting better. Clinicians and administrators need better metrics to gauge their progress. “That’s one of the challenges we’re looking at right now. There are a bucket load of things we could monitor, but why should we? If they’re not around areas that you can improve upon, then you’re just measuring data,” Christian said.
Improving clinician efficiency is essential in a value-based care environment, and enabling easier use of technology is a key, all the webinar participants said.
“Providers want to be able to focus on care, not technology,” Brady said. “We want to get them untethered from the keyboard and shift them toward voice. We’re working with vendors on intelligent voice and giving them data to make evidence-based decisions.”
To view the archive of this webinar – “Leveraging Data Center Infrastructure to Meet the Quadruple Aim” (Sponsored by HPE) – please click here.