Digital Transformation Can Help Healthcare Organizations Struggling In A Pandemic
Earlier this summer, there was a New York Times story about the challenges healthcare officials face, including a memorable anecdote about how a fax machine spilled hundreds of pages of faxed Covid-19 test results all over the floor of a Texas public health department office. It effectively illustrated a critical larger point: Healthcare providers are drowning in paper.
In fact, despite the widespread adoption of electronic health records platforms, the amount of printed healthcare forms and paperwork has actually increased by 11%, according to a 2018 CynergisTek survey. As a result, patient data remains trapped in siloed systems that don’t talk to each other and organizations still rely on manual workflows with heavy administrative processing.
The situation only worsened with the Covid-19 pandemic, a finding underscored in Xerox’s ongoing research for our “The Future of Work in a Pandemic Era” survey. In interviewing 600 information technology leaders in more than a dozen industries, we found that just over a third of healthcare companies were forced to slow down digital transformation efforts in favor of revenue-generating activities. Thirty-eight percent said the pandemic has changed how they’re tackling digital transformation.
In the United States, the reliance on paper and manual workflow processes is impeding healthcare organizations’ ability to meet their regulatory obligations under the 21st Century Cures Act, which is designed in part to ensure consistent, secure patient access to electronic health records through mobile apps patients authorize. (The act goes into effect in July 2021 with new rules around interoperability and access). But even more critically, the lack of digitization and automation is blocking digital transformation goals for healthcare organizations worldwide. Here are practical ways to get started:
Healthcare organizations can conduct internal audits focused on digital transformation.
Internal clarity around technical and operational readiness for the Cures Act has proved elusive for U.S. providers. According to an Accenture survey, as of last year, just 5% of providers reported feeling “very prepared” for the new regulations, and only 16% described themselves as “very familiar” with the regulations. Couple this with the slowdown in digital transformation goals, and healthcare systems are facing a major problem: They can’t deliver what’s required without digitization, automation and cloud technologies.
An internal audit could help healthcare organizations:
• Assess the degree of manual processes and identify the potential for digitizing and automating them.
• Evaluate stakeholder awareness of the Cures Act rules and readiness to implement. For non-U.S. systems, this evaluation could focus on larger digital transformation activities.
• Benchmark the organization in terms of transitioning to cloud-based software as a service and technologies.
• Create an action plan that uses secure, regulation-compliant technologies — both in-house and sourced from reliable, qualified external partners — to stand up quick implementation mechanisms.
Recognize that a single view of the patient drives better outcomes for all involved.
I believe that beyond just a patient’s medical record, digitizing every single touch point — from paper records to billing to communications to archives — would add significant value to every healthcare system.
From a case management perspective, the transition from paper to digital supports better, more holistic care and patient outcomes. It puts comprehensive information at the fingertips of every care team member involved in patient treatment. Imagine not having to carry around a folder of your medical records to new doctors as many people still do.
Forms management also gets easier with digital. It’s much more convenient for patients to get set up and otherwise interact with their providers electronically — and it eases the administrative burden of processing forms. Zooming out to the organizational level, having digitized data at the ready fuels more effective operations, from better billing to reducing the expense of paper storage to identifying new opportunities to drive efficiencies into internal processes.
Push for a secure, centralized storage option for digital health records.
One very nuts-and-bolts foundational element that healthcare systems can consider creating is a secure, vault-like repository for digital health records of all kinds. Whether for the Cures Act or for digital transformation, this electronic vault satisfies regulatory compliance as it ensures an audit trail. It also eliminates costly bottlenecks of information as a consequence of paper records — and it speeds information sharing between an organization’s various sites.
Use technology to strengthen the connective tissue between data and your medical records systems.
Automation, digitization and “app-ification” are critical components of digital transformation. Anything that’s heavily manual and paper-intensive is a good candidate. Patient collections could be a place to start because 90% of patient collections are still mostly paper-based, according to a recent InstaMed survey. At a time when hospitals and healthcare systems lost an average of $50.7 billion per month from March through June in the U.S. alone, that seems like one fairly important problem to solve.
Other “untamed” healthcare processes that could benefit from this transformation include:
• Patient record recovery, which would make it easier to track, audit and analyze records and connect them with EHR and electronic medical record systems
• Processing day-forward patient records, meaning using digital methods to register, scan, index and securely store these records for connection with EHR or EMR systems
Although the immediacy of the Cures Act in the U.S. is one catalyst, it’s the longer-term potential of digital transformation that I believe will deliver a welcome sea change for all healthcare systems globally. Healthcare organizations everywhere can use it to create fully digital, transparent, successful and lucrative operations where the patient is constantly connected with their medical data and digitally empowered to take charge of their own care.
This article originally appeared on forbes.com To read the full article and see the images, click here.
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