The COVID-19 pandemic impacted and changed the world in countless ways, including forever altering the world of healthcare. Of these changes, one of the biggest was the explosion of healthcare technologies.
Health systems’ digital strategies accelerated rapidly at the start of the pandemic. Telehealth’s growth and a significant increase in the adoption of digital solutions changed the way care was offered. While plenty of health systems understood the importance of implementing new technology in healthcare and had plans in place to do so, they largely hadn’t turned those plans into action.
But once the pandemic took the world by storm, the digital front door was opened faster and wider than anyone could have anticipated.
This digital transformation in healthcare has shown providers the importance of digital healthcare solutions and how powerfully they can impact operations and care. These technologies can increase patients’ access to providers and lower the costs of quality care. But their impact also extends to providers.
How Healthcare Technology Transforms Workflows
Health systems have long relied on complex and often inefficient processes. In an industry where the stakes are so high, changing the way things are done can create unwanted risk. But digital solutions have the power to transform workflows and traditional processes — especially those that rely on paper.
Manual, paper-based processes are often inefficient. Every element of healthcare operations is rooted in data collection, analysis, and storage, which creates a tremendous need for uninterrupted and streamlined processes. Digital healthcare solutions offer that capability by automatically assigning, populating, and archiving the forms used to gather and store this data. They also decrease the risk of human error and the time staff members spend on cumbersome manual tasks.
Even before the pandemic, rural hospitals were closing at record rates. According to a report by the Chartis Center for Rural Health, 19 hospitals in rural America closed in 2019. By 2020, one in four hospitals were at risk of closing — and COVID-19 has only worsened their financial challenges. This is particularly problematic for aging populations and the rural communities that already face barriers to proper healthcare.
As a result, many healthcare organizations are left wondering how they can improve the patient’s journey in healthcare and overcome major obstacles moving forward. They’re handling the drastic increase in telehealth visits, rescheduling clinical trials, promoting digital relationships with doctors, re-evaluating health portfolios, and more.
Given the various challenges healthcare providers and professionals face, what is the best path forward? It starts with establishing a patient-first approach. The industry has to take what it’s learned from an unprecedented 2020 and consider how to reach more patients in 2021 and beyond.
Digital Transformation and the Patient-First Approach
This starts with the role of digital in the changing industry. Advancements and shifts in the digital healthcare experience are likely here to stay. Many of the new tech-based processes brought about by the pandemic (e.g., telehealth, virtual check-ins, new technologies for remote intake) will become standard elements of the digital patient journey.
While industry professionals initially scrambled to adopt these tools, the benefits of digital transformations in healthcare were immediately apparent: convenience, reduced exposure to illness, and increased accessibility. Healthcare organizations became more proactive in reaching their patients, which led to better treatment and quality of care.
But digital transformation is not happening in a vacuum. The push to implement more technology in healthcare processes has also created a push for a more local, results-based approach to healthcare. Decentralized healthcare systems work to improve efficiency and quality of care; they can also enhance communication between a referring provider and the partner organization, ensuring a smooth continuation of care when it’s needed.
The ultimate goal of this push is to open up a “digital front door in healthcare.” This strategic and patient-first approach creates engagement during every interaction with the healthcare system. Why? A well-rounded healthcare strategy doesn’t rely on one component of the patient experience to determine the quality of care — and neither should a digital strategy. Instead, it must take a comprehensive approach that keeps patients engaged and informed.
The marriage between a patient-first approach and a digital front door strategy has the potential to be incredibly powerful. A digital-first, patient-centric approach can propel your organization into the future of healthcare. Here are three suggestions to get you started: