How technology can be a catalyst for providing the highest quality care 

Updated on March 19, 2024
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Technology has become fundamental to how we care for ourselves and others. When physicians access detailed medical histories with one click, when a patient miles away from a clinic logs on to a telehealth appointment, when we follow digital updates from the bedside of a parent, spouse, or child — all these developments are made possible by innovations that are transforming how healthcare is delivered around the world. 

Behind these seamless healthcare experiences are complex technology systems that work together like the brain, nerves and muscles of the body. Yet technology’s application in healthcare settings can fall short of its promise. Just ask the clinicians tasked with filing hours of notes in multiple records systems after a long day. Or the caretakers who struggle to access vital health information in a time crunch. 

Today, health organizations face significant challenges — from rising operational costs to staffing shortages — that can require them to address short-term needs and forego developing a long-term technology strategy. But when we lose sight of the impact that technology decisions have on patients and caregivers, we forgo the chance to improve the healthcare experience for millions of people.  

As the US leader of a technology services company responsible for running the mission-critical systems the world depends on, I’ve seen how healthcare leaders and technology partners can collaborate to solve the real problems that patients and clinicians confront every day. We have an opportunity — and a responsibility — to turn technology into a catalyst for providing the highest quality care. 

For healthcare systems searching for where to begin, moving to simplify and reduce technical debt is an essential starting point. Following decades of mergers and acquisitions, and the rapid digitization during the pandemic, many systems are saddled with inefficient and costly IT environments that make modernization feel overwhelming. Simplification is not a quick or easy fix, but technology partners can help healthcare systems develop a path to modernization — no matter where they are in their journeys.  

Take, for example, the choice to consolidate digital records systems. Today, more than two-thirds of office-based physicians and nearly all non-federal hospitals have adopted electronic health records (EHRs) — more than double the EHR adoption seen a decade ago. Cloud-based EHRs have improved care by making patient information easier to access, faster to manage and more secure. But studies also show that the use of more than one system can negatively impact patient care — and associated costs can quickly add up.  

Care New England, a nonprofit healthcare system in Rhode Island, avoided these pitfalls by advancing an EHR strategy that will boost productivity and create the consistent and reliable care experiences that patients want. The system chose to simplify multiple EHR systems into one streamlined end-to-end system and migrate critical workloads to the cloud, laying a foundation to tap into the multiple benefits of cloud technology. 

This includes the ability to strengthen cybersecurity posture at a time when healthcare facilities are increasingly targeted by cyber criminals. Annual ransomware attacks on healthcare organizations more than doubled from 2016 to 2021, and the number of people impacted by breaches is on track to double last year’s total. Cloud platforms can help organizations protect their most sensitive data and prepare them to rapidly bounce back when access to information can be a matter of life and death. 

Advancing digital transformation can also provide an opportunity for healthcare organizations to unlock new value by leveraging technologies such as automation and AI. We know it’s better to get ahead of a health problem before it worsens, and a proactive approach to IT can similarly stop technology issues before they start. What this means for clinicians and patients is that they can focus on health outcomes instead of why a device isn’t working, or why they can’t access a medical portal, or any number of digital roadblocks that stand in the way of providing better care. 

MedStar Health, for example, enlisted help in developing an IT command center to advance its hybrid cloud transformation as it provides care to residents across Maryland, Virginia, and Washington, D.C. The command center leverages artificial intelligence for IT operations (AIOps) capabilities to monitor IT health across the enterprise so that their doctors and nurses can focus on patient health.

Children’s National Hospital, one of the top five ranked children’s hospitals in the nation by U.S. News & World Report, is similarly leveraging AIOps and automation capabilities to prevent issues with its mission-critical systems. This effort to reduce friction across all digital touchpoints has the potential to impact 240,000 patients a year.  

The work ahead is significant — and it’s just beginning. We know these transformation efforts can be replicated and scaled across the industry to fuel long-term growth and improve care for countless patients. In the coming year, healthcare leaders and technology partners have an opportunity to accelerate modernization efforts and ultimately help bring a sector in crisis to recovery.  

Amy Salcido
Amy Salcido
President at Kyndryl US

Amy Salcido is the President of Kyndryl US.