The healthcare industry has experienced a rollercoaster of ups and downs over the past year, with hospitals coping with declining margins, high patient volumes and low operating revenues. But one of the most drastic challenges currently facing the healthcare industry is burnout. Clinician burnout, which has only been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, continues to be a major concern fueled by ongoing staffing shortages. There is an estimated global shortage of 4.3 million physicians, nurses, and other health professionals. And the burden on providers just continues to grow. A recent study by the University of Chicago found that to deliver all the recommended care for preventive, chronic disease, and acute illness, a primary care provider would need 26.7 hours/day. With too few providers and not enough time in the day, it’s increasingly difficult to deliver the best health outcomes. The key to balancing out this equation is mature, data-backed solutions.
The healthcare industry is at a pivotal moment as organizations contemplate a “digital first” approach to healthcare. Throughout the pandemic, providers shifted care models to prioritize virtual care. This was effective in delivering more accessible and convenient care, but it is not the end-all be-all solution. The digital-first model, defined by Gartner, goes beyond simple virtual visits to flip an in-person, patient-centric model of healthcare delivery to “one that prioritizes digital engagement and the use of digital products and service throughout the entirety of an individual’s health journey.”
One key to a successful digital-first model is data sharing. For example, interoperability-based solutions leveraging the HL7 FHIR standard can make providers more efficient by streamlining and even automating business processes such as prior authorizations for care – a requirement in most healthcare systems around the globe – that can impede the continuity of care for patients and are a burden to providers. Leveraging FHIR-based applications to digitize and automate other traditionally manual healthcare record-keeping tasks like vaccination records in the U.S. or English “red book” pediatric records reduces provider burden and makes information more accessible to all.
In addition to solutions backed by interoperability, AI and other technologies can extend caregiver capabilities. While there is widespread adoption of capabilities like teleradiology, remote ICU monitoring, AI for pathology and imaging interpretation and similar initiatives, many organizations are still slow to fully adopt AI applications. One reason is that they need to be embedded in clinician workflows seamlessly – an already burnt-out caregiver doesn’t need more clicks or steps to follow. But another reason is that for AI to truly replace a human being within a care process, the standard for evaluating the model and the data quality that went into developing it, is also incredibly high.
So, for interoperability and AI adoption to occur and be effective, we need really clean, healthy data. Yet one study found that only 20% of healthcare provider executives fully trust their data. Additionally, 53% of healthcare organizations say poor data quality reduces their ability to make decisions and impacts their ability to identify gaps in care. This has become a concern for many providers; if we don’t have trusted data, then it is difficult to ease the burden of physician burnout through interoperability and data-backed solutions.
One approach to addressing burnout and reinstating trust in data is a smart data fabric. Data fabrics enable organizations to unify distributed data from across the organization, as well as deliver real-time insights and provide analytic capabilities including business intelligence, natural language processing, and machine learning. This makes it more convenient and efficient for healthcare organizations to process and share more accurate data. The implementation of a smart data fabric across a health enterprise could save HCOs upwards of $42.1 million over the course of three years.
For healthcare organizations that want to adopt a digital-first healthcare approach, it is crucial they take the proper steps to set them up for success. With a framework that supports digitized data-backed solutions, it’s possible to help ease burnout across healthcare organizations’ staff and focus more time and energy on positive patient outcomes.
Kathleen Aller is Head of Global Healthcare Market Strategy for InterSystems.