Guest post by Jean Van Vuuren, regional vice president, Alfresco.
Hospitals, clinics and other healthcare organizations are constantly evolving due to the proliferation of technology, the increasingly digital workforce and advancing patient expectations. In addition to evaluating the constant flow of new technologies in the healthcare market, they must be nimble to meet the technological needs of healthcare workers and patients. In addition, the increasingly multigenerational workforce has varying requirements when it comes to technology, organizational culture and career progression. Finally, it is becoming more important for healthcare organizations to deliver a consistent patient experience. Today’s patient is better informed, more in sync with their health and expects a superior healthcare experience. To address these somewhat competing forces, healthcare organizations will focus on consolidation, integration and digitization in 2016.
Shared services is a growing model across industries, and healthcare organizations will follow this trend in 2016. This model allows organizations to consolidate tools and processes to meet a number of needs across their organizations. Hospitals, clinics and other healthcare facilities will look to take existing services and the tools that support them, and coalesce them into a more agile and flexible platform for IT solutions that support their entire organizations. For example, hospitals that have a system to manage EHRs and a different system to manage employee records may be able to use one, the other or an entirely new system to address both needs (and, potentially, others across the organization). The latter would obviously involve the decommissioning of legacy applications in favor of more robust tools that are open, have flexible deployment options and support mobility.
Similarly, healthcare facilities will only be able to meet the technological, organizational and clinical needs required today by employing tools that integrate not only with the systems they already have in place, but also with the tools that employees and patients use both personally and professional. And, in 2016, they will focus on integration, bringing in technology that can work with many other tools now and into the future. Using the example above, if a healthcare organization has an EHR system that they plan to keep, but they also want to get another system to manage employee records, they will seek to purchase a tool that integrates with their current EHR system. And for good reason.
An integrated healthcare organization creates a better, more productive and more successful healthcare environment by recognizing and accepting the differences in individual patients, employees and technologies used throughout healthcare organizations. It will help them spend less time on technology-related activities, giving them more time to spend on successful healthcare outcomes. It also bridges the flow of information between internal and external audiences creating a more streamlined patient experience.
Digitization has also been all about creating a more streamlined patient experience, particularly when talking about EHR. While EHR isn’t necessarily new, it will remain a priority in 2016. What is new is expanding this digitization to more clinical tasks and administrative functions, essentially making all content digital, not just patient records, but also reference manuals, employee records and more.
From a clinical perspective, healthcare organizations will look to digital assets to help with real-time remote and crowd-sourced diagnoses, virtual training of healthcare workers and the use of big-data analytics to understand healthcare trends. Digitization will also allow healthcare practitioners to start trying out the latest and greatest devices. For example, doctors could use Google Glass to keep their hands free while accessing electronic records or reference manuals, dictating findings and much more. They will also look to the cloud for their digital repositories so they can maintain version control, reducing clinical errors, and ensure availability when, where and how healthcare workers need it.
In 2016, health IT will move beyond EHRs and other mandates to truly leveraging technology to improve healthcare outcomes by better meeting both organizational and clinical needs. Not all of this will be visible to the patient, but it will all be aimed at making hospitals, clinics and other healthcare organizations more agile and responsive to patient needs through consolidation, integration and digitization.