By Rajat Mishra
The health industry in the United States is renowned for being complicated and inefficient. Over recent decades, many think-pieces and critiques have emerged citing a range of unnecessary and inefficient factors that have given the industry this somewhat negative reputation. Although there are a number of factors — accessibility, cost and complicated billing procedures — that can only be rectified by sweeping changes and perhaps even a bit of new legislation, there are wSays health systems can shift their internal procedures to improve upon their reputation and bring the focus back to delivering quality care to patients.
It starts with addressing one of the most essential foundations of any organization: communication. According to a report from the National Institute of Health, inefficient and poor communication practices cost health systems across the United States as much $12 billion annually. In addition to this, a report from JAMA also found that between 20% and 25% of spending within healthcare is wasteful, with the bulk of that — $266 billion — wasted on administrative procedures that overwhelmingly revolve around communication.
For clarity, communication in this context refers to time spent on administration, preparing and distributing documentation, preparing presentations and the methods through which hospital personnel, at all levels, receive information and interact with one another.
While each of these are essential to the overall operation of a hospital or health system and, therefore, can’t be removed entirely, these processes can be re-imagined and their infrastructure updated to increase efficiency. This is where technology comes in.
Over the past two decades, digital transformation has incorporated efficiency into the way we do nearly anything, from the way we communicate to how we order dinner. For businesses, it’s the same: Zoom enabled face-to-face meetings from anywhere especially at the start of the pandemic. Relationship management platforms took the work out of tracking customer outreach. Technology can change the way hospitals operate for the better, so what might this technology look like?
A number of platforms have emerged in recent years with capabilities that can overhaul many aspects of healthcare communication. Within these platforms, those with integrated AI capabilities have the potential to simplify the entire process, including the distribution of essential information, the creation of presentations, and how health data flows throughout the hospital. Better still, the AI capabilities within these platforms also allow for hyper-personalization in communication, which means the audience receiving information, business briefings, leadership meetings, care analysis and even sitting for staff presentations lead to a higher level of engagement because the content is delivered and tailored specifically to each audience — which a vital problem to overcome throughout such high-touch, important settings.
These are important challenges to solve. During the onset of the pandemic, for example, many healthcare settings distributed near-daily updates to all physicians and staff as information developed, including best practices for personal safety, hygiene, symptoms, modes of transmission, and more. Because of a lack of digital infrastructure, communicating these updates required a high amount of communication between personnel, which is not only time-consuming, but labor intensive. Looking forward, if healthcare institutions update their communication practices and platforms with AI-enabled infrastructure, there is potential to reduce the amount of labor and time required to communicate updates through the creation and automatic distribution of easy-to-digest information in otherwise chaotic times. This enables both healthcare providers and administrators to allocate less focus on keeping up with communications, and more focus on providing quality care.
Outside of COVID-19, this kind of technology has the potential to overhaul other aspects of daily hospital communication. For providers, an estimated 8.6 hours per week is spent on administrative duties, which not only takes time away from patients, but another study by NIH found poop communication lowers overall job satisfaction.
One solution may be that instead of spending hours manually creating collateral — sourcing images, crafting the words, or tweaking to make the collateral both attractive and engaging — to accompany their presentations, they simply need to insert their information, add a few clarifying points on the audience, and the AI can generate a tailored presentation or document that’s ready to present.
Technology that can automate and simplify the most costly and inconvenient aspects of healthcare can address the pain-points that make healthcare inefficient and inconvenient. Through doing so, health systems can save money, doctors and other healthcare professionals can reap the benefits of reduced time spent on communication, and patients can experience the benefits of a system that is more focused on positive outcomes than administrative duties.