Digital is no longer a buzzword. It’s no longer a future trend. It’s now.
In this “new era,” according to Aaron Miri, “Everything is digital, and everyone is looking at digital to accelerate top line and become more efficient and effective.”
And healthcare is no exception; in fact, digital transformation plays a critical role in supporting growth and successfully acquiring and retaining patients at organization like Baptist Health, where Miri serves as Chief Digital and Information Officer.
“Our board is telling us, ‘We need an experience like the Apple or Starbucks experience.’ They want people to have the same consistent experience when they interact with our health system that they get with a preeminent hotel,” he said during a recent webinar, which also included Maia Hightower, MD, Chief Digital & Technology Officer at University of Chicago Medicine, and Verato CEO Clay Ritchey. “The systems that figure that out are going to be in the top quartile.”
Ritchey agreed, noting that acquiring and keeping patients is a “constant battle,” and that by embracing digital transformation and making it a core part of the strategy, organizations can gain a competitive advantage. “It’s not just an opportunity for embracing consumerism; it’s about long-term viability and nimbleness,” he said. “If folks can do that well, it can create a very wide moat.”
Doing so, he believes, requires three critical pieces: a digital-centric strategy, a solid architecture, and strong leadership.
“This is an increasingly digital consumer world we’re living in,” he said. Whereas a few years ago, only about one-fifth of people interacted digitally with health systems while the vast majority still picked up the phone to make appointments, now the percentage has doubled. According to Ritchey, around 40 percent will opt for a “complete digital experience” that enables them to search for physicians, schedule appointments, and utilize telehealth capabilities. “These are fundamental changes that are happening in the post-Covid world,” he noted. “It’s going to become one of the leading competitive edges for health systems.”
Meeting digital demands
Creating the right infrastructure to facilitate that experience, however, is no small feat. At University of Chicago Medicine, Hightower’s team is committed to improving population health and addressing inequities around artificial intelligence. And although they’ve “cobbled together a sophisticated data lake that will service our immediate needs for AI,” it’s not as scalable as they would like. “We need to make sure we’re building the infrastructure and capabilities to scale, whether it’s through cloud or data orchestration,” she said. “We want to identify where we have a marketplace advantage, and at the same time, balance that with the infrastructure alignment around delivering the digital experiences that our operational leaders demand.”
As is the case with many organizations, the capabilities required to deliver a digital experience are somewhat underdeveloped at UCM, which isn’t surprising. “We do platforms really well; what we don’t do well is experience,” Hightower noted. The ability to take data from other applications “is going to be key” in providing experiences tailored to the needs of patients.
It’s just one aspect of digital transformation that can prove challenging as leaders craft strategies to more effectively understand customers’ needs and coordinate care across touch points. “In this increasingly complex world, there’s a lot of complexity with how you actually stitch together all of the data and understand who it belongs to so that we can localize it and treat the whole patient,” said Ritchey. “This is hard.”
Verato, he noted, can help address those challenges by providing a single management platform that gathers data from disparate sources to create a clearer picture. As health systems become more sophisticated in how they acquire new patients, it becomes increasingly important to be able to validate whether the person who just engaged with a provider online is the same person they’ve treated in the past. “We’re investing a lot of our energy around consumers, patients, and providers to make sure we have a data model and framework to help stitch together identities across those three domains so that we can enable a holistic experience.”
At Baptist, Miri views digital as a three-legged stool, with the dimensions being effectiveness, efficiency, and consumerization.
- Effectiveness. Providers must be able to deliver the right care, at the right place, in an effective manner, meaning that patients are supported throughout the care continuum. “We’ve mapped out those touchpoints in detail, from registration all the way through discharge, to show that we’re delivering care via technologies in a smooth way,” he said.
- Efficiency. This needs to “hyper-accelerated” to support a digital environment, whether it’s measuring start times and no-show rates in real-time or enabling patients to schedule their own appointments, added Miri. “In this day and age, where labor costs and inflation are through the roof, we need to make sure we’re doing everything as efficiently as possible without sacrificing high quality patient care.”
- Consumerization. If organizations aren’t embracing modalities through which consumers want to engage — such as turning on Apple Pay — they’re losing out, he said. And while every request can’t be granted, “there are certainly opportunities there from a consumer technology adoption platform that you’re able to really intertwine with the health system.”
The underpinning of this three-legged stool is data analytics, which provides the ability to “see the entire care continuum and build the right digital lenses to measure effectiveness, efficiency, and consumerization,” Miri added.
One factor that can’t be underestimated, of course, is patient identification, according to Ritchey. “We’ve invested so many resources to try to understand how to stratify the risk factors in our patient population so we can proactively deliver better care,” he said. “Where we haven’t done a great job is figuring out how to activate populations to change their behaviors. We’re seeing that in order to have that level of engagement, you have to be able to understand who is who at each touchpoint, so that you can have a complete, longitudinal view.”
Leading a “very different landscape”
The final (and arguably most important) component is leadership, according to Ritchey. “If you’re going to embrace the digital journey, you need a governance model that gives the right remit and focus to make sure we have a strategy and vision we’re executing against.”
Also needed? Leaders who are willing to “think beyond the transactional nature” that has defined healthcare and ask a critical question: how do we make it better? “That takes a generational shift,” said Miri, who believes the recent trend in digital officer appointments is a step in the right direction. Whereas 10 years ago it was all about keeping the lights on and the mainframes running, now, “the expectation is to be a digital nativist and to understand how to drive new business through every door — not just the front door.”
Hightower concurred, adding that understanding the consumer has become more critical than ever. “Before, we just threw open our doors and expected people to come,” she said. “The competitive landscape is very different today. This isn’t just about scheduling appointments; it’s closing the gap and being able to provide more.”
To view the archive of this webinar — Building the Data-Driven Foundation for Your Digital Transformation (Sponsored by Verato) — please click here.