Nancy Schultz, North Highland

Embracing Human Factors in Healthcare Transformation

By Nancy Schultz
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Nancy Schultz, North Highland

Technology isn’t the only driver in this change; the sociological factor plays a role as well.

Amid tremendous change and ongoing uncertainty, healthcare payers and providers understand the need to transform—to become more agile and responsive, predict shifts at any inflection point to ensure positive patient outcomes, along with efficiencies and cost containment.

Technology is playing a big part in this effort. Artificial intelligence (AI) is automating administrative work and providing organized information about potential treatments and medications—confirming physician diagnoses and allowing them more time to focus on engaging with patients and caregivers. Robotic process automation (RPA) is being used to organize, shield, encrypt and report sensitive patient data. “Bots” link electronic medical records and CPT systems. Data analytics systems that sense, capture and filter data from multiple parties is reducing human error, speeding up decision-making and streamlining backchannel agreements among non-patient facing entities such as billing and coding.

These innovative technologies hold great promise for the industry, but all too often, the emphasis given to technology alone as the essential transformation driver overshadows the underlying human factors that can ensure or undermine successful deployments. The ROI on technology innovation can be improved significantly by embracing a new perspective on the importance of human factors—understanding stakeholder motivations, needs, wants and their barriers to adoption.

There are gaps in patient engagement, as well as in engagement between payers and providers, at every touch point in the healthcare experience. Digital technology (AI, chatbots, predictive and responsive systems) can help bridge these gaps, but to drive optimal benefit everyone in the ecosystem (payers, providers, caregivers and patients) must understand and respond to the human side of the equation.

In this sense, transformation is more a sociological challenge than a technological one. The industry should embrace this issue and design solutions accordingly. Even the most innovative tools won’t drive success if people don’t buy into the solution, or if the interfaces are complex and difficult to learn.

For example, look at the digital divide in healthcare delivery and payment. Older generations typically cannot embrace new technologies as quickly and effectively as younger ones. Aging patients who are higher users of healthcare services are challenged by access to technology, along with cognitive and sensory impairment and physical constraints. Serving elderly patients requires a comprehensive solution that sees, understands and solves for these limitations across the entire ecosystem, so that technology can maximize their ability to engage.

In healthcare operations, technology should be viewed as one tool in a toolbox that contains the resources to address overall problems. Technology and human experience must be married, not siloed, in this process. Designing a comprehensive solution that includes engagement methods around patients, caregivers and families, as well as payers and providers, requires organizational transformation and culture change.

A stakeholder engagement focus should also embrace shared ownership of the solution. When stakeholders are part of creating the solution, they are connected to it and invested in its success. When they are given a prescribed or mandated solution, they’re likely to be less engaged. Healthcare organizations that are taking an outside-in perspective to understanding the human experience that is in play are designing better solutions to connect with those they serve, getting their attention and bringing them into deeper engagement.

Generating return on technology investment requires a commitment to human-centeredness. By refocusing strategies and technology design and implementation to understand and meet the needs and desires of key stakeholders, the healthcare industry can drive transformation and innovation that increases stakeholder engagement and optimal technology utilization.

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Nancy Schultz, North Highland

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