Perhaps more than any other industry, healthcare has experienced sweeping changes over the past year and a half. To adapt to the unexpected and rapidly shifting demands, many healthcare providers accelerated existing digital transformation plans, increasing adoption of telemedicine, remote monitoring and remote care to simultaneously meet their patient needs and maintain the safety of their workforces.
While healthcare providers still face a long road to a return to normalcy, the IT innovations they’ve adopted over this demanding time will continue to shape the future of patient experience. In other words, digitally connected healthcare is here to stay. And many industry experts consider this moment to be a valuable opportunity to capitalize on the expanding potential of technologies that are already helping deliver better patient experiences and outcomes.
So how will healthcare IT continue to evolve in the coming months and years? The following trends offer a glimpse into what the future will likely hold.
Making “Digital Front Door” a Reality
There has plenty of discussion in recent years about how healthcare must create a “digital front door” patient experience to enable patients to gain easier access to care and health information via digital channels.
Too often, healthcare providers and health systems have not provided a connected digital experience. Today, it’s no longer good enough to just have a few digital tools, siloed entry points or digital point solutions. True digital transformation in healthcare now means offering a connected patient experience of digital engagement across an integrated, unified digital enterprise.
Here is what a digital front door might now look like for a healthcare organization:
- 24/7 self-service scheduling and referrals
- Automatic patient reminders to minimize patient no-shows
- Proactive outreach to reduce readmissions and close care gaps
- Support for multiple inbound and outbound communication channels
Achieving a digital front door helps improve patient access, lower patient attrition, and deliver a better patient care experience. But to make this happen, digital platforms need to be intuitive, easy for patients to use, and welcoming. As of 2019, only half of patients were using digital patient portals. There is an opportunity here for health systems to improve the quality of their patient experience through personalized digital encounters.
Delivering Connected Patient Care—Inpatient and Outpatient
A connected patient experience requires knowing where every patient is at, throughout every step of their journey. With the right digital tools, healthcare providers can obtain this level of personalized patient engagement with relevant communications throughout the full continuum of care.
For Johns Hopkins Healthcare Systems (JHHS), achieving a connected patient experience required overcoming system siloes that hindered personalized care delivery and staff efficiencies. With six hospitals across Maryland, Washington D.C., and Florida, JHHS implemented a solution to automate the identification and validation of patients while providing patient services representatives with automatic “pop-up” screen access to patient information when calls come into the health system. This improvement has given representatives immediate access to the information they need to deliver a seamless patient experience.
“Patients calling JHHS have an improved experience with our efficiency in handling and processing calls,” explains Ruth Spangler, project director at JHHS. “We now have tools to improve the interactions between our patient access centers and other Hopkins departments.”
Improving Workflows and Communication for Care Teams
In the healthcare industry, employee experience is closely tied to patient experience. Care teams can provide better care if they have the right workflows in place to help them manage patient information, communicate more efficiently and avoid time-consuming manual processes.
In the early months of the pandemic, Frost & Sullivan predicted that healthcare technology solutions for workflow automation and operational analytics would experience 100% growth in 2020, with equipment that embeds workflows. And these solutions would help hospitals to increase workflow by 40–50%. As the pandemic continues, the number of healthcare providers adopting automated workflows continues to increase, enabling them to:
- Keep care teams’ entire circle of contacts included in communications
- Reduce delays, errors and rework
- Provide better coordination for care plans
- Deliver easier remote access to care teams and specialists
With a connected patient and employee experience, care teams benefit from better workflows. Healthcare professionals get the support they need to deliver high-quality patient care, without the friction and delays of legacy systems and manual processes.
Along with improving care teams’ operational efficiency, a connected experience also helps healthcare professionals communicate with patients in a way that is more effective, flexible and relevant to where the patient is in their healthcare journey.
As healthcare providers continue building on technology investments to keep up with the rapid pace of change occurring today, many are choosing flexible communications solutions to optimize operations and reduce risk while increasing operational efficiency and profitability.
Remote Monitoring Solutions for Outpatient and Chronic Illness Care
Smart medical devices and the Internet of Medical Things (IoMT) are bringing remote monitoring solutions to the next level of growth. The diagnostic and monitoring segment is projected to grow by 11.3%, reaching $43.2 billion in market revenue by 2027.
Along with IoMT devices, such as oximeters and heart rate monitors, there are a variety of engagement solutions that enable patients to get remote access to their care teams. Telehealth video and proactive outreach can help care teams monitor patients’ plan of care for chronic and outpatient care, including preventive care, chronic illness care, home care and end-of-life care.
Delivering Patient Experiences That Matter
The connected patient experience is about technology. But it’s also about creating a continuum of care that delivers personalized communication and relevant engagement with patients at every point of their journey. From the first moment they walk in the front door of a hospital or clinic, to the day they go home for recovery after a surgery, for long-term chronic disease management, or for palliative care at end-of-life, there are many opportunities to improve communication with patients and their loved ones.
Healthcare teams also benefit from a more fully digital, integrated and connected patient experience. Better workflows, time-saving automation and smarter platforms that put patient information in front of their care team and make communication easier and more secure will all help healthcare professionals spend less time on manual processes, and more time on doing what they do best—caring for patients and delivering the best possible patient outcomes.