The healthcare industry has been talking about “digital transformation” for years, but it remains an elusive goal for many providers. Many of these organizations say it’s because they don’t have the infrastructure in place to support it. Others maintain that the technology has yet to improve healthcare delivery for the provider.
That’s not necessarily true. While challenges exist, many technologies have emerged in recent years, and many healthcare systems are using them to improve delivery of patient care. These savvy organizations, moreover, also realize that simply adding new technology solutions to their infrastructure is not enough. They must also improve their data management and patient-centric processes to fully achieve the promise of digital transformation. After all, knowing who is who is the absolute foundation of care. Without it, nothing else works.
A recent report found that 99% of health system leaders say it’s important to invest in digital health, but 60% reported being “stuck in the planning and pre-implementation phases” because they do not have the structure in place to support true digital transformation. “Looking at these findings, it is clear that current technology has not improved healthcare for the provider,” concluded the surveyors.
While providers are experiencing challenges, technology is dramatically improving their ability to deliver high-quality patient care; these include improved electronic health care records systems (EHRs); digital wearables that track patient vitals and other health indicators; and online portals that enable patients to visit virtually with their clinicians.
Four Steps to Digital Transformation
Those healthcare systems that are making headway toward the goal of realizing true digital transformation appear to be focusing their efforts in three major areas.
First, they are shifting their organizational mindset from one based on what’s good for their providers to one based on what’s also good for patients. Thanks in part to the COVID-19 pandemic and in part to changing demographics, traditional healthcare models are giving way to online portals, digital front doors and other virtual care options.
A growing percentage of healthcare consumers, especially millennials and younger, are relying less on their personal care providers to help them navigate their healthcare journey. Instead, they are first consulting “Doctor Google” and expecting opportunities to schedule their appointments online, have a telehealth visit, and see specialists in person only when necessary. Before COVID, only a half-percent of all outpatient and physician visits were telehealth visits. Now they comprise 20% of all visits.
As one healthcare leader put it during a recent webinar hosted by Becker’s Hospital Review,“Historically, schedules have been constructed for the advantage … of the clinician. We need to change that framework … to one that focuses on the benefit of the patient. [The provider] is here for the patient, or the consumer who might become [their] patient. That’s a cultural shift that has to occur.”
Removing Data Silos
Second, progressive systems are tearing down the silos that confine disparate patient and care data to specific areas of the enterprise and hinder seamless delivery of care. Instead, clinicians and staff throughout an organization are being provided with access to the entire continuum of patient care in order to reduce friction.
“Our patients should not have to figure out how to get anywhere,” said one healthcare leader in the webinar. “Every person who connects with that patient should know how to get them to the correct place if they call the incorrect place. If they’re online, if they’re chatting, whatever connection that that patient chooses, it needs to be absolutely seamless, or you need to have the skills and tools to get them to the correct spot the first time.”
Leveraging New ID Matching Technologies
Third, to achieve these goals—and the Holy Grail of digital transformation—leading providers areinvesting in advanced identity resolution technologies. According to a recent survey by Verato and Sage Growth Partners, almost 90% of responding healthcare leaders consider patient identity important to improving the patient experience; 75% consider it important to improving care management, and 73% call it “critical” to enabling the digital front door.
And yet, according to the same survey, fewer than 15% of respondents reported high satisfaction with their current identity resolution tools. In fact, almost three-quarters (72%) reported being concerned or “extremely concerned” that siloed, inaccurate patient data negatively impacts care quality and the bottom line. This shouldn’t be surprising. Historically, 10% of medical records are duplicates because of poor patient identity management, and 30% of denied claims are caused by identity issues.
Today’s more advanced identity resolution tools promise to overcome these issues. Instead of relying on just two or three data points like first-generation ID matching tools, these solutions, based on referential matching technology, leverage multiple data points from numerous public sources to ensure that the patient standing in front of the receptionist or knocking on the provider’s digital front door is the person they say they are.
This gives patients easier access to online portals and other tools that enable them to schedule their own appointments, review test results, request medication refills and complete other related tasks. It also offers stronger patient privacy protection and helps organizations comply with 21st Century Cures Act mandates for anywhere, anytime access to health records for patients and their providers.
Understanding, Meeting Patient Expectations
Finally, and perhaps most important, referential matching helps providers take the patient’s entire care journey—even before they enter their doors—to a higher level. Make no mistake: the importance of knowing and understanding individuals as patients and consumers cannot be overstated on today’s healthcare landscape.
People of every generation alive—the Greatest through Z—have become accustomed to having their wants and needs recognized, understood and met by vendors across the economic spectrum. Likewise, only by truly knowing their current and prospective patients more holistically (their social determinants of health, interests and hobbies, family relationships, and even their marketing preferences) can providers attract, care for and retain customers across their entire healthcare journey.
Technology Isn’t Enough
Health care is in transition. The tools being used to deliver care in 2022 are different from those being used as recently as 2020. To achieve true digital transformation, however, healthcare institutions are coming to realize that advanced technology is simply not enough. They must also understand the wants and needs of the individuals they serve as fully as they possibly can.
That can only come by truly knowing who they are.
Joaquim Neto is Chief Product Officer for Verato.