The development of the modern medical industry and science-driven healthcare represent some of the greatest accomplishments in recent human history. In the past half-century alone, technological advancements in imaging, medicine, and patient care have increased the average lifespan worldwide by more than 15 years.
During this same 50-year period, the global healthcare industry has grown by leaps and bounds to meet the rising demand for healthcare. Current estimates put the size of the global healthcare market at $11.0 trillion in 2022, with an average compound annual growth rate of 8.9%. This makes healthcare the fastest growing industry in developed countries like the United States–where it accounts for 19.7% of the national economy and is currently ranked as the third-largest industry in the country.
As a result of this tremendous market growth and the growing aging population in the developed world, healthcare executives are already preparing for the onslaught of sick people with chronic conditions. Despite the recognized need, these same leaders are still struggling to keep up in this dynamic marketplace.
The Big Four consulting firm KPMG asked healthcare CEOs to complete a survey for their most recent Healthcare CEO Future Pulse. When asked to assess how their patients would rank their success on “digital enabled services,” only 14% of healthcare CEOs gave their own organization a rating of excellent. This is especially concerning since a full 72% of healthcare CEOs named digital healthcare services as a top three priority in 2022 and the best way to improve the patient experience.
Executive teams need this crucial knowledge and experience to head their organizations as they embrace digital transformation and patient-focused technology. This article will guide C-Suite executives through the digital transformation process and demonstrate exactly how to improve their hospital’s IT efforts through systems integration and custom digital healthcare solutions.
What is Digital Transformation?
Digital transformation is an oft-misunderstood term with huge consequences for healthcare executives. The term is derived from digitization, which describes transferring information from analog sources like punch cards or paper files to digital records stored on a computer. The movement towards digitization began in the late 1990s and early 2000s when businesses began the transition from paper record-keeping to digital files.
This is evident in the transition from paper medical files to electronic health records. Before the turn of the century, patients had to collect their medical records from each provider and hold onto those physical records throughout their lifetime. Today, those files are stored in the cloud. A patient’s new doctor can simply request records from their old provider over a secure network–and receive these records in the blink of an eye. This simple change had profound effects and would ultimately spark a revolution in healthcare technology.
By the 2010s, medical IT departments began embracing the concept of digital transformation en masse. This concept means converting not just files and data to computers–but also moving to digitalized processes for every aspect of the business. As a result of digital transformation in healthcare, nearly every process completed in a hospital today is done on a computer.
This includes varied tasks like appointment setting, medication filling, surgery scheduling, maintaining electronic health records (EHRs), and data privacy compliance.
Introduction to Healthcare IT
Healthcare IT covers a huge swath of territory. Many small offices work with consultants to maintain their technological infrastructure, while larger organizations like hospitals and laboratories maintain a permanent IT team to improve functionality and respond to emergencies.
In addition to day-to-day IT responsibilities, many internal IT teams are supplemented with external partners who can lead major development projects and patient-centric initiatives like the creation of custom patient engagement platforms, systems integration, cloud computing migration, and advanced cybersecurity protections.
Let’s explore some of the most common types of healthcare IT services and investigate how they can benefit healthcare CEOs.
Internal IT Department
While many healthcare organizations opt to work with consultants for major development projects, internal IT departments remain crucial for day-to-day operations.
A medical practice’s internal IT team is responsible for maintaining and troubleshooting clinical software, such as medical practice maintenance systems, EHRs, patient engagement platforms, and infrastructure like servers. This role is essential for the smooth functioning of the hospital system–since a single server outage can bring patient care to a standstill.
This help desk role often takes up the majority of the team’s day. As the organizational help desk, they are responsible for fixing broken computers and hardware, updating and troubleshooting software, and responding to Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) concerns when dealing with regulated patient data.
Furthermore, the in-house IT department will be the main point of contact for external consultants like digital transformation partners, software developers, regulators, and more. C-suite executives must maintain open communication with their IT assets and partner with them when evaluating new digitalization initiatives.
Medical Practice Maintenance System
A medical practice maintenance system (MPMS) is a type of software designed to assist front office staff in tracking patient appointments, reminders, and billing. This system is unique because it doesn’t store sensitive medical data that is subject to HIPAA regulations and other data privacy requirements.
The most important element of an MPMS is the scheduling function. Receptionists and other front-office staff use this type of software to schedule provider appointments. In addition, this software keeps track of patient insurance information–making copays and other elements of medical billing a seamless process.
Originally created as office software, many MPMS systems now use cutting-edge systems integration to seamlessly share information with the patient engagement platform. This allows patients to schedule their own appointments and reduces the volume of calls and work burden faced by front-office staff members.
Cloud computing is one of the fastest-growing areas of healthcare IT–and it is revolutionizing healthcare technology and data storage. Experts predict that the global healthcare cloud computing market will double from 2021 to 2027, with an average annual growth rate of 14.12%. This trend emerged in the late 2010s–and has accelerated rapidly as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and the related transition to telehealth and healthcare digitalization.
Importantly, this trend is not exclusive to the healthcare industry. Nearly 70% of businesses are already using cloud technology for data storage, while another 18% of businesses say that they plan to implement cloud-based data storage and software in the near future.
C-suite executives in the healthcare industry must embrace cloud computing to stay competitive with their peers and ensure that their patient experience remains exceptional. By transitioning to cloud data storage, executives can reduce IT costs, improve staff satisfaction, and increase growth and profits.
Embracing the cloud will also improve data privacy and governmental compliance. That’s because 94% of businesses reported an improvement in cybersecurity after transitioning to the cloud, while 91% of companies said cloud technology made governmental compliance easier.
Electronic Health Records
Before the early 2000s, patient medical records were kept on paper in a filing cabinet. This clunky system required huge amounts of room for paper file storage and was difficult to navigate–which led to bloated front office staff managing the mountain of paperwork.
This system was equally frustrating for patients. If a patient moved to another location, changed general practitioners, or needed to see a specialist, they were required to travel to their primary care office to request files.
The front office staff had to physically copy the entire patient health record–wasting valuable time. Once this was complete, the patient had to retain the record at all costs. That’s because a lost record could require a trip across the country or hours of phone calls to retrieve copies of the original.
Today, all patient health records are stored digitally. If a patient moves or transfers to another practice, they can request a copy of their lifetime medical records in seconds. This data can be transferred to their new doctor’s office and stored on their home computer.
The transition from paper records to EHRs was revolutionary. For the first time in history, patient medical records can be accessed from anywhere in the world at a moment’s notice. This improves care and reduces unnecessary paperwork and hassle. The next revolution in EHRs happened when healthcare IT companies began integrating medical record keeping into their patient engagement platforms.
Patient Engagement Platform
A patient engagement platform is a type of systems integrated software that combines patient scheduling, billing, EHRs, lab results, medication filling, and more into a single web application.
By combining all of these disparate tasks into a single, easy-to-use platform, healthcare IT companies are helping hospitals streamline their processes. This also results in an improved patient experience, reduced costs, and increased profits.
Custom patient engagement platforms, like those built by I-ology, are indispensable assets for healthcare organizations seeking to grow their business through digital transformation.
Previously, the various hospital departments acted independently–each using their own digital healthcare platforms for their particular needs. By combining all of these departments and processes into a single piece of software, C-suite executives ensure that they have a complete, 360-view of their hospital team and patient care.
This patient engagement platform also allows front office staff to schedule appointments, order lab tests, or fill prescriptions seamlessly using the same system. This prevents transcription errors in medication requests and surgery orders that could have profound negative impacts on patient health.
The introduction of patient engagement platforms has been met with widespread approval in the industry. C-suite executives love the cost savings and profit increases. That’s because research shows that for every dollar they invest in this type of digital healthcare solution, hospitals will “get back $8.71” in cost savings and increased revenue.
In addition, physicians, nurses, and front office staff have raved about the benefits of patient engagement platforms. They cite time savings, reduced error frequency, and less complexity as the main staff benefits associated with this type of platform.
Digital Transformation is Key
Digital transformation is the most important instrument in the modern healthcare executive’s toolbox. That’s because this process bridges the gap between internally-facing technology and the patient–providing the patient with frictionless access to internal data crucial for meeting their health goals.
This type of transformation is most effective when it keeps technology from getting in the way of the patient experience–rather than trying to reinvent the wheel. By clearly presenting information with actionable steps forward, hospitals can accelerate their healthcare digitalization efforts and improve patient satisfaction.
The future is clear: C-suite executives expect digital healthcare solutions to be one of the most important factors in the future success and growth of their company. That’s because key elements of digital transformation, such as the patient engagement platform, help hospitals become more efficient in patient care, data tracking, and medical record keeping.
In addition, custom patient engagement platforms empower healthcare organizations to improve communication between departments by placing all processes and tasks in a single, integrated digital channel using bespoke systems integration. This allows for seamless patient care and reduces transcription errors associated with migrating data between different software.
Finally, patients are the number one beneficiaries of a patient engagement platform. For the first time in history, they can take control of their own health by messaging their practitioners directly, requesting their own prescriptions and tests, and having their medical history available at the touch of a button.
C-suite executives who embrace healthcare digitalization will place their organizations at a tremendous advantage during this crucial growth period for the healthcare industry. By putting healthcare IT at the forefront of their organization’s priorities, they’ll ensure a great patient experience, positive staff morale, improved efficiency, reduced costs, and better compliance with data privacy standards–all of which empowers their team to succeed and improves the bottom line.
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