Health Technologies

What Is Digital Health and How Is It Evolving?

“If there’s a patient waiting in the office and the physician is late, the patient doesn’t leave. If a patient is on Zoom and the physician is late, the patient leaves,” she says. “There’s all the process that goes into how you schedule things so that the physician can be on time and the patient can be engaged while waiting if needed. The technology itself is easy. It’s all the process around it that becomes much more complicated and, frankly, even more interesting.”

Many patients want to see the consumer-focused approach of non-healthcare industries applied to healthcare, meaning more choices and better access.

“It’s not OK for patients to wait six months for an appointment. We have to be way more consumer-friendly, not just in the timing of access but also by allowing patients to schedule visits when and how they want,” says Basow. “That’s not something that health systems have traditionally focused on.”

Disruption to traditional care models can be beneficial for healthcare access, but Basow warns that it could also disrupt continuity of care. Part of the CDO’s role is to use innovative technologies and processes to maintain continuity of care in the face of changing care models and industry players.

Tips for the Successful Implementation of Digital Health Technology

The healthcare industry is often described as slow-moving, but factors such as the pandemic, a growing number of digital health startups and disruption from non-healthcare companies is speeding up digital transformation in the space. With this desire for change comes the need for agile change management.

“We’ve been operating virtually the same way in healthcare for decades, and now we’re asking people to think differently,” Basow says. “One of the ways we’re asking people to think differently is to not focus on cramming technology into what you do today. It’s really about rethinking what you do today.”

When it comes to telehealth, Basow says, adding new technology to an already existing workflow won’t work. The implementation’s success relies on rethinking how appointments are scheduled using this new care delivery model.

LEARN MORE: How virtual care solutions are addressing rural healthcare challenges.

The addition of multiple new technologies and apps over time can lead to workflow challenges. Ochsner Health created a nursing innovation group that set out to rethink how nurses are operating due to nurse burnout and shortages that were leading many to leave the profession.

“We had to make their lives better. We put together a group of leaders, and before we could even start to talk about some of the interesting technologies available, we realized we had to go back and solve some of the basics,” Basow says, adding that nurses were having to log in to different devices and apps dozens of times a shift, which took up valuable time in their workflows.

Rab agrees that workflow considerations are key when implementing a new technology. He explains that when the EHR was implemented in many healthcare organizations, they did not build the workflows and processes in a digital way with interoperability in mind.

“We just dumped it in, and right now we are trying to change that,” he says.

It’s important to consider workflows as well as preferred outcomes for patients and clinicians when undergoing digital transformation. Basow emphasizes the importance of being clear on the organization’s desired outcome and the key performance indicators for achieving those goals rather than simply focusing on the technology itself.

“You don’t want to design a project and find out six months later that it wasn’t right. You want to design smaller steps and milestones along the way,” she says. “I think that’s really critical. If you don’t have those things defined upfront, it’s hard to get buy-in and deal with the change management required.”

In addition, all stakeholders must agree about these goals and the path to achieving them.

“Everyone needs to be aligned for one purpose,” Rab says. “Don’t just talk to a doctor or a nurse, but also talk to a patient, because who are you doing this for?”

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