By Tara Mahoney, head of healthcare practice, Avaya.
COVID-19 has forever changed the U.S. healthcare system with the acceleration of digital transformation and remote collaboration. As 2020 past us now, we’re getting a clearer picture of what post-pandemic healthcare in the U.S. will look like (or rather, require). Based on my industry background at Avaya, here are four predictions as we continue into 2021:
Prediction #1: Telehealth is here to stay and it’s forcing us to reimagine current care models. It must and will evolve.
The pandemic thrusted organizations into the inevitable telehealth revolution, but it’s not likely COVID-19 will push the timetable forward as much as some claim. Telehealth is about much more than “just” video-based physician visits. It will evolve to cover many workflows where patients and care teams cannot be together, including virtual rounding, remote patient monitoring, bedside consultation. It’s about being able to seamlessly coordinate across the entire health organization in a way that positively impacts key measures of clinical quality – all while addressing information security concerns and abiding by HIPAA regulations.
It’s about the use of the Internet of Medical Things (IoMT) for collecting important healthcare data in real-time to enable proactive, remote care delivery. It’s about Artificial Intelligence (AI) and data analytics to make critical predictions about patient diagnoses, treatment side effects, staffing, and expenses. It’s a complex journey, only made more complex by historically slow-to-change industry policies.
Health systems pulled together in 2020, but that’s not enough for sustainable digital transformation. Organizations will take their time navigating the complexities of digitization and remote collaboration as they embrace a new future of operations and patient care. We will see current care models change, albeit incrementally.
By Steve Forcum, cloud solutions engineering leader, Avaya.
A recent report on hybrid cloud in the healthcare industry predicts that hybrid cloud is set to jump from 19% penetration to 37% by 2021. In an industry historically slow to adapt in the world of IT, why is hybrid cloud becoming healthcare’s primary choice?
To be fair, there was hesitancy in most major markets when it came to cloud services, many questioning the security of it all and even how it functions on a basic level. Cloud-based data centers that can either be run by third parties (public) or built and maintained internally (private).
And now that the mystery of the cloud has been de-stigmatized in the workplace, more and more organizations are turning to the cloud as its primary servers, but don’t want to give up control completely. This is where hybrid cloud comes into play.
A hybrid cloud serves as the best of both worlds. With a hybrid model, there is a channel that links an established, private computing system with a public cloud, providing access to unlimited processing power.
Both the private cloud and public cloud work in tandem to run applications, depending on decreased and increased workloads. Here’s why this is important for healthcare professionals:
The Data Storing Problem
The healthcare industry more than most, has immense amounts of data stored on its legacy servers filled with Electronic Health Records (EHRs). Although a private cloud helps keep this information safe with a firewall, the flooding of medical records may cause other applications to slow or even crash, forcing providers to buy and install more servers just to keep the system running.
This costs money and time — both crucial and limited in a healthcare environment. The hybrid cloud serves to remedy this problem as it allows applications to run from both the largely scalable public and secure private cloud, depending on demand.
The hybrid cloud model is set to save the cumbersome task of troubleshooting. Often, hospitals and clinics have to undergo a long approval process that is HIPAA compliant before they are granted the permission and resources to update and install its outdated or outgrown software. Because the public part of the hybrid cloud is maintained by a third-party, it is constantly being updated, relieving the healthcare employees of software upkeep and maintenance.
No Compromise on Security
When it comes to a hybrid cloud, there is no need to compromise on customization. Healthcare IT professionals have full control over what assets are kept on the private data center and what gets moved to the public cloud. Privacy is not jeopardized when sensitive information can still remain behind the internal firewall. For example, while less sensitive data such as appointment requests can run on the public cloud, EHRs can stay protected by the private system’s firewall.
As we look towards 2020, it’s the perfect time to migrate your health IT infrastructure to the hybrid cloud.
In the face of this growing healthcare demand, the supply of medical generalists has been consistently trailing the supply of specialists. By 2030, a study from the Association of American Medical Colleges estimates a shortfall of between 14,800 and 49,300 primary care physicians, as well as a shortage in non-primary care specialties of between 33,800 and 72,700 physicians.
Compacting this issue, the U.S. population is estimated to grow nearly 11 percent by 2030, with those age 65 and older increasing by 50 percent. As physicians begin to retire too, this problem will be exacerbated.
While digital technology has been positively impacting access to healthcare services for quite some time, efficiencies, such as virtual care, need to be implemented widely in order to address the impending physician shortage, and maximize the delivery of quality care.
This implementation will be somewhat natural as patient access and services continue to evolve from live voice interactions to leveraging digital solutions. Several healthcare providers have made this step toward virtual care already, and are showing strong results for patient satisfaction.
A virtual visit pilot program conducted by Brigham and Women’s Hospital found a 97 percent satisfaction rate among patients with access to these new communications and care options, with 74 percent stating “that the interaction actually improved their relationship with their provider.” They also found that 87 percent of patients said they would have needed to come into the office to see a provider face to face if it weren’t for their virtual visit.
Kaiser Permanente Northern California (KPNC) have a similar offering, providing a suite of apps enabling members to exchange secure messages with their clinicians, create appointments, refill prescriptions, and view their lab results and medical records. As a result, the number of virtual visits has tripled to 10.5 million over last six years.
At Valley Health, a tele-ICU has provided a viable solution to reduce mortality rates. During the first year of its implementation, the technology helped save 125 lives, reduce ICU length of stay by 34 percent, and also reduce the sepsis mortality rate.
These examples show how virtual care can aid patients for when they first need help, but the care journey does not stop there. It continues with prescriptions, labs, imaging, and referrals to other care providers. In these instances, virtual care can be used as a follow-up and check-in tool so that patients no longer need to visit their physician in-person, they can quickly interact with them from the comfort of home.
By Jean Turgeon, vice president and chief technologist, Avaya.
By 2020, healthcare spending around the globe is expected to reach $8.7 trillion, and as part of this spend, healthcare providers are looking to digitally transform by innovating legacy processes and driving better patient experiences. With recent advances in customer-relationship management (CRM), and electronic health record (EHR) technology, providers have an opportunity to significantly update communication channels for patients to reach them.
For patients, the first point of contact with a hospital is essential, whether they’re seeking assistance for a serious health risk or checking in with a doctor. Communications infrastructure plays an integral role in the delivery of this care. By utilizing popular technologies already in patients’ hands, such as smartphones, social media and instant messaging, providers can easily contact patients and offer support above and beyond the traditional telephony services offered. Beyond this, providers can implement AI to connect these channels and create a holistic profile for patients – seeing where and when they reach out for support, and mapping resources to fulfill these needs.
This connected health approach, creates efficiencies by pooling and analyzing data that is beneficial to both healthcare providers and patients. For instance, AI can be used to quickly match appointments for patients with specialists or doctors who have office hours that best align with their schedule. The benefits of this are two-fold, first in time-savings, second in literal savings, as every missed appointment or open time slot averages $200 lost for the healthcare provider.
In addition, third-party applications can be integrated and used to create a custom service that aggregates data and populates a profile for the patient, including financial information, insurance details, demographics, and medical history into the EHR system. By connecting data-sets, and taking the administrative tasks away from hospital staff, AI elevates burdens and streamlines the appointment and admission process. This intuitive profile building, and patient-physician matching can extend to critical situations, such as an ER visit.
Using connected communication solutions, an ER physician can automatically trigger messages to key personnel when admitting a patient, just by placing an order in the EHR system. For instance, a bed placement specialist will be alerted of the patient-need, and can determine if a bed is available. Or, a message can be sent to the transport team to collect and guide the patient.
Moving beyond the check-in and doctor assignment process, patient alarms and bedside requests can be advanced beyond the simple “click-and-wait” approach of many healthcare providers. Automated workflows combined with AI-enable technology, such as speech enabled self-services, can be used bedside to ensure patient requests are routed efficiently to the appropriate hospital staff. In practice this will mean fewer delayed treatments, and greater patient safety and satisfaction. Rather than the on-call medical staff being alerted to the bedside for a pillow request, a smart workflow could alert hospitality staff to deliver a pillow to the room and eliminate the need to go back and forth. Not only would this stop physicians having to relay messages to other team members, slowing the speed of assistance, it will ensure that appropriate staff are tapped for appropriate patient-needs – streamlining workflows and efficiency.