Predicting and Preparing for Healthcare’s Future

By Pranam Ben

Amid the considerable uncertainty in healthcare, organizations are trying to pin down the future to more effectively allocate resources and prepare for what’s to come. Unfortunately, there is no crystal ball that definitively shows what’s in store and how to lay the groundwork for success. 

That said, there are some key areas on which organizations can focus, which stand to impact every constituent in the healthcare ecosystem. By committing to innovation in these areas, organizations can make progress toward true value-based medicine. 

The macro trends at play

Achieving the right level and pace of care needed to support quality-based initiatives requires a fully interoperable health record that offers a longitudinal view of the patient. This requires data to flow smoothly and securely across the continuum regardless of information source, format or content. Although the industry has been working toward this degree of interoperability for some time, there is a lot more work to do. For example, we must establish and commit to standard data definitions for all types of data, including more traditional information like care conditions and treatment methods, as well as newer data points, such as social determinants of health. 

In addition to breaking down the barriers to data flow, it also is important to provide meaningful information at the point of care—wherever that care takes place. When providers have access to necessary clinical, demographic and utilization data from both inside and outside their organizations, it facilitates more informed interactions with patients and prevents care duplication, even when patients don’t come into the office. Since people are increasingly seeking more convenient, non-traditional care options like minute clinics and telehealth, being able to deliver essential data for decision making whenever and wherever providers interact with patients is becoming paramount.

Another goal in transforming healthcare involves making headway in personalized medicine—the idea of customizing a care plan for every patient that aligns with his or her characteristics and is based on thorough population research. Success in this area requires sophisticated technology solutions that can analyze patterns from diverse data sets to predict and identify early indicators of disease conditions, as well as pinpoint potentially effective therapies. Once healthcare organizations can reliably engage in this level of analysis and interpretation, it will usher in a new era of personalized care that can save billions of dollars in healthcare spend while improving the quality of life for millions of patients.

Key steps to facilitate forward movement

Although it’s easy to talk about robust interoperability, point-of-care information access and enabling more predictive medicine, actually reaching these goals can seem overwhelming. The key to realizing change is to embrace manageable tactics that have a long-term impact. Here are few ways to begin. 

Check that your culture is ready for change. Transforming healthcare requires buy-in from everyone in an organization from front-line staff to senior leadership. Before beginning work, entities should take the pulse of their cultures and determine their readiness for change. The outcome of this review can suggest what’s realistic when pursuing innovation and determine the appropriate cadence moving forward. 

Be passionate about smoothing data flow. While some might say that technology vendors will ultimately remove the roadblocks to easy data exchange, it will only happen when end-users demand it. Organizations that want to see progress must be willing to set expectations with vendors, explore new technology options and lead the charge to change the status quo. 

Welcome new technology. Advanced technology exists that can support all three of the abovementioned goals. Solutions like artificial intelligence and machine learning, HIPAA-compliant cloud-based solutions, intuitive human-machine interfaces (HMI), and mobile technology can provide robust data analysis and ready information access, while enabling user-friendly, approachable and portable experiences. Although these technologies stand to transform healthcare, organizations should be careful to avoid implementing them wholesale. Technology should not be a replacement for people but should support and augment the human experience to make it more efficient and reliable. 

Don’t forget about the exceptions. Over the past 10 years, organizations have encouraged the use of more standardized care protocols to ensure consistency when treating patients with certain conditions. While these are valuable for people who fall within defined parameters, the industry has been remiss in responding to those individuals who are the exceptions to the rule. By generating processes and implementing technology that identify and respond to exceptions, organizations can deliver more precise and accurate care for everyone. Outliers do not have to be limited to patients but can also be tied to operations as well. For example, by using technology to track productivity and compliance across services, organizations can gauge how their performance compares with predetermined benchmarks and intervene to address any issues that fall outside established parameters. 

The future is closer than you think

Achieving true value-based care through greater interoperability, point of care intelligence and individualized medicine will require a commitment to disruption. However, organizations that embrace out-of-the-box thinking and advanced technology solutions can more confidently face healthcare’s future, laying the foundation for truly patient-centered, quality-driven care. 

Pranam Ben is CEO and Founder of The Garage.

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