By Thomas Schwieterman, MD, MBA
The biggest change in healthcare is the pace of change itself. In prior years, change occurred at a manageable pace that enabled organizations to adapt over time. Today, change has accelerated to a point where rapid innovation is not just a business advantage, but a business imperative. Each month brings a new development, and adapting to each change can be resource intensive.
There is extreme pressure on healthcare organizations to be at the forefront of this change. Nowhere is this more evident than with the race to provide greater connectivity in ambulatory care. Much of this has been driven by the consumerization of healthcare. Patients are demanding to be connected with their healthcare in the same way they are connected within other aspects of their lives.
Look no further than fitness tracking devices or apps that help patients manage their diabetes or connect directly with caregivers. However, as with any new technology or trend, there is a lot of attention and unrealistic expectations surrounding greater connectivity at the point of care. It is not the perfect fix for every challenge and inefficiency in healthcare.
Given all the industry and media focus on connectivity and Internet of Things (IoT), there is a real possibility that many healthcare organizations and caregivers will fall victim to the hype. We see this already happening throughout the healthcare industry. There is a lot of confusion, frustration and false starts as pilot projects don’t deliver on exaggerated claims. Often there exist unrealistic expectations that require more resources, time and dollars than initially suggested. We can learn from the experience from medical records, where demands on the clinician were originally underestimated in time and scope.
While there is a lot of discussion surrounding greater connectivity and the digitization of the point of care ecosystem, it does offer tangible benefits. When done correctly, digital technologies, including connectivity can change how care is delivered.
The challenge is to see through the hype and identify which connected technology makes sense for patients and care teams. We can then determine the best way to strategically and seamlessly integrate technology into the healthcare environment workflows.
Connectivity for connectivity sake is not a strategy. And just because something can be connected, doesn’t mean it should be. We see this all the time in our daily lives. A connected toothbrush that provides data on how you brush or a Bluetooth® toaster that notifies you when toast is done might sound cool, but do you really need it? Will you really use it?
Within ambulatory care, there is a great need for connected technology and devices, but it is digitization, not connectivity, that serves a purpose and has the opportunity to transform the delivery of care. Does it make it easier to monitor and analyze existing data or gather previously untapped data? Does it enhance and strengthen the interaction between the patient and caregiver? Will it extend the point of care beyond the clinic or exam room to enable patients and caregivers to better manage chronic conditions?
These are just a few of the questions to be asked. It is important that providers of connected healthcare devices and technology work closely with healthcare organizations and caregivers to move beyond making big decisions on hype. Only an informed, strategic approach that is both methodical, deliberate and based on proven technology is likely to result in operational and clinical outcome success.
Healthcare companies such as Midmark are actively designing and introducing equipment, devices and technology that offers greater connectivity. As part of this effort, it is important to understand the vital role we can play. By getting involved in projects early, we can guide healthcare organizations in determining how best to introduce connected technology and equipment into the facility. We can also help establish clear goals prior to the project or implementation and identify any potential issues that need to be addressed or processes and workflows that need to be changed or modified.
When done correctly, a fully connected point of care ecosystem in ambulatory environments brings together every aspect of care to eliminate barriers and inefficiencies by integrating processes, equipment and people. It helps ensure a more satisfying and seamless experience for patients and caregivers by providing a platform where organizations can leverage new technologies, incorporate best practices and employ greater standardization. Together, we can drive toward the goal of improving the quality of care delivered and outcomes achieved.
Thomas Schwieterman, MD, MBA is Chief Medical Officer of Midmark Corporation.