By Adeel Sarwar, chief technology officer, CareCloud.
Whether you’re looking for creative ways to cut costs, boost revenue, or insulate an already stretched-too-thin workforce from burnout, one thing is for certain – healthcare leaders are suffering from data-induced decision paralysis.
In today’s data-centric care climate, where analytics is king, organizations are realizing the value of making financial, clinical, and administrative decisions backed by data. But are leaders equipped to leverage the flood of insights they now have at their fingertips? And if so, what does data-backed, intelligent action look like?
Purpose-driven business intelligence provides organizations with insights to enhance or repair a specific business area or process. For the sake of this article, we will examine how a large national healthcare organization applied purpose-driven intelligent business data to improve the health and morale of its employees.
First, They Set a Goal
By narrowing its gaze on employee health and wellness data, the large national healthcare organization used intelligent analytics to set a hyper-focused mission: boost employee participation of its onsite clinic and health benefit services.
With so much data at your fingertips, it’s easy to get overwhelmed. By honing in on one organizational element, you’ll be better positioned to drill down deep, identify trends, and establish an action plan.
Then, They Focused on Manageable Change
Once the mission was set, the organization took a deep dive into its EHR data to better understand employee utilization of its various health clinics and classes. Empowered by the numbers, the organization constructed a plan to enhance participation of benefits and services most under-utilized by its employees.
As you work on your own organizational changes, keep in mind that the data may surprise you. Trust the numbers and let them guide your decisions.
They Engaged their Staff
To drive interest and engage employees, the organization decided to launch a points-based scorecard system that awards employees for logging activity across various health clinics and services. This system encouraged employees to take advantage of onsite classes and resources and empowered leaders to identify areas of improvement within high-impact programs.
Making organizational changes can be challenging, which is why leadership and staff buy-in is critical. To do this, communicate your plan, educate and train on new processes, and then set parameters that keep everyone accountable and engaged.
Lee Horner serves as Stratus Video’s president of telemedicine, bringing more than 25 years of experience in enterprise software and healthcare IT industry. Most recently, Horner served as the president of CareCloud, a health care technology company specializing in practice management and EHR software. During that time, his core focus was setting the direction and strategy of the company while managing the top- and bottom-line revenues. He also drove both technology excellence and platform growth to meet CareCloud’s clients’ goals. Prior to CareCloud, Lee also held executive roles at Vitera Healthcare (formerly Sage Healthcare, where I worked with him; now Greenway Health) and Eliza Corporation.
You recently joined Stratus as president of telehealth – what motivated your decision and why is this such an important field nowadays?
In today’s mobile and fast-paced world, telehealth is a necessity. Telehealth is healthcare 2.0 – it can cut wait times, costs for both the provider and the patient, inefficiencies. At the same time it can elevate the kind of expertise and quality of the care patients receive, as well as give new opportunities to connect doctors to the patients who need them most. Telehealth is the future of health. It’s not only preserving that face-to-face connection between patients and providers – which is essential to great healthcare – it’s making that connection available to so many more people in so many different contexts. By enabling these essential connections, telehealth expands the probability of people getting the care they need, and is inevitably helping to save lives.
What is your background in health IT?
I have been involved in healthcare IT for the past 10 years. I have experience operating businesses in the payer, ambulatory and health system markets. It is a great field to be in. It’s very progressive and always changing.
Why is health IT where it’s at today? What do you feel has made this industry successful?
This market is expanding rapidly and technological advancement is at the forefront of that expansion. Smart people with extreme passion for improving patient quality care are really what is making this industry successful.
What are some of the things that most inspire you about the space and it’s work?
I am inspired every time I see the changes we are making improve a patient’s quality of care. It is incredible to see our work start to make a difference.
What are the most important areas in telehealth nowadays?
One important area is how telehealth is opening opportunities for more health industry professionals – and this is in turn, leading to a more robust patient experience. Predictable disruption is a huge theme in telehealth. You saw unpredictable disruption with industries like car ride service – when Uber and other apps came out, people who weren’t taxi drivers were suddenly entering that industry. In healthcare, it’s different – apps are creating opportunities for people already within the industry, allowing more providers to help the patients who need them most and more patients to connect with the providers best suited to their needs.
A couple of other important areas are readmissions and urgent care:
The Affordable Care Act penalizes hospital readmissions, because it’s important to incentivize successful treatment. Unfortunately, the nature of healthcare and the nature of life is that you sometimes need to go back in for continued treatment or to inquire about something. But maybe you moved or you’re too sick to keep going back to your treating physician. Discharge solutions are allowing people to reconnect and get the follow-up care they need without the hassle.
Urgent and emergency care solutions are also becoming really important. Imagine a burn victim walks into an ER at 4 a.m. and needs to see a specialist – but the staff is all tied up or there isn’t a specialist working in that particular facility. Without an urgent care app, the patient would be waiting and suffering, while the provider would be struggling to give them the care they need. With an app, they’d be able to pull up a tablet and connect that patient face-to-face with the doctor they need almost immediately.
The healthcare industry remains at a crossroads as providers and healthcare IT professionals confront a rapidly changing business and regulatory landscape. With factors like rising patient cost obligations, growing payer complexity, and the inevitable shift to a value-based payment environment weighing on them, medical practices nationwide are in search of new IT solutions to support them. The rapid pace of cloud adoption across all sectors is a prominent example. The market for cloud solutions is one of the fastest growing areas within healthcare, but it’s not solely a private sector phenomenon; the federal government’s cloud-first strategy finally gained traction in 2015, prompting a FCW analyst to predict accelerating momentum for federal cloud initiatives over the next three to five years.
One of the strongest factors driving cloud momentum among medical practices today remains security concerns: with growing IT complexity increasing security risks, cloud options remain an attractive plug-and-play alternative to on-site servers that allows healthcare providers to minimize vulnerabilities. But modern cloud solutions also allow providers to maximize practice management capabilities and offer faster time to value. And, with features like pay-as-you-go pricing, cloud solutions don’t require a big upfront investment, making them a popular choice with budget-conscious healthcare organizations.
Another key factor driving practice adoption of modern, cloud-based solutions is the need more efficient workflows to support effective patient billing. The patient share of healthcare costs is growing rapidly in the US. According to a Kaiser Family Foundation report, out-of-pocket costs have grown three times as fast as overall healthcare costs. And, the average deductible has skyrocketed from $584 in 2006 to $1,318 in 2015. Practices need solutions that can help them implement controls and analytics as patients become responsible for a greater share of costs.
As a result of these and other factors, cloud technology now plays a pivotal role in healthcare, and cloud-based healthcare IT solutions are becoming increasingly important in helping practice successfully navigate this new environment. So what’s in store for 2016? Here are some healthcare IT trends to watch:
A more modern, intuitive software experience: The consumerization of healthcare IT has begun in earnest, and that means practices are looking for design-centered products that deliver intuitive solutions. Cloud-based healthcare IT solutions that move beyond Web 1.0 to provide a consumer-focused user experience (UX) will be the clear winners.
The past year has been a turbulent one for U.S. physicians, according to the 2014 Practice Profitability Index (PPI). The PPI was conceived in 2013 as part of a partnership between leading cloud-based health technology provider, CareCloud, and Quantia, Inc., a leader in physician engagement and alignment. The research is intended to serve as an annual barometer for the operational wellbeing of U.S. medical groups in the year ahead. 5,064 physicians contributed their insights to the second annual PPI during March of 2014. To download the entire 2014 PPI, visit: http://www.carecloud.com/practice-profitability-index-2014/
Physicians Have a Darkening Outlook on their Practices’ Profitability
The key finding of the PPI survey was that U.S. physicians are now more than twice as likely to foresee eroding, not increasing, profits in 2014. Those with a negative outlook increased from 36 percent to 39 percent during the past year, while optimists declined from 22 percent to 19 percent. The issues weighing on finances are still led by declining reimbursements (60 percent);rising costs (50 percent); requirements from the Affordable Care Act (49 percent); and the transition to ICD-10 (43 percent).
Operational Challenges Impact Patient Care
“The 2014 PPI results show that physicians are experiencing increasing strain on their practice operations as a result of healthcare reform and government mandates. This strain, in turn, affects patients – including the millions of new ones entering the system as a result of the Affordable Care Act,” said Albert Santalo, Chairman and CEO of CareCloud. “Nearly half of physicians say they cannot take on these patients, foreshadowing an access to care issue. Meanwhile, despite the hype about emerging reimbursement models, physicians are most likely to seek improvements through programs that help them engage with their sickest and most vulnerable patients.”
The complete 2014 PPI survey results, which also explore physicians’ opinions on technology adoption; time spent on administration rather than patient care; impact of healthcare reform; intent to stay independent or sell their practice; and strategies for improving operational performance, can be accessed at www.carecloud.com/PPI
Additional key findings from the 2014 PPI included: