As companies and industries slowly emerge from the pandemic, many leaders are re-examining their operating models — no more than those in health care.
Challenges and opportunities abound: relieving burnout in the care team; thriving in an increasingly consumer-centric and value-based care environment; anticipate new and escalating cybersecurity threats; improve efficiency while reducing costs; Absorb and benefit from the latest advances in artificial intelligence, process automation, and much more.
The pandemic has not created these challenges in healthcare settings, they have long been realities. What the pandemic has done is throw the curtains on all of them in a big way. As the dust and debris from the crisis began to wane, these issues were still with us, but they probably need more urgent attention now that the pandemic has taken precedence on our minds for more than a year.
There is one common opportunity that runs through all of these challenges: Information technology can play a pivotal role in the solutions available to leaders to overcome them.
But IT can also be the problem. The pandemic may have set healthcare leaders back 16 months or so in working hard on these issues, but we’ve already been behind — healthcare as an industry has been chronically years behind in IT innovation compared to other industries like banking and transportation.
This article is an introduction to a weekly series of process-based articles that explore solutions and strategies to drive business improvement, with a focus on how to integrate information technology into this effort. In each of these articles, I will identify the important topic, explore the problem you are striving to solve, examine the implications for healthcare, and then suggest solutions based on real-world experience. Topics will include:
- How increasing burnout among all physicians – not just physicians – affects not only patient care but the health of the entire organization. It’s more than just medical errors or turnover, although these are serious concerns. As Junja and Sangwin wrote in a recent article: “In short, you will get paid lower if you have dissatisfied care teams under value-based contracts” (Juneja & Sangwin, 2021). I will explore what can be done about it.
- The need for managed services. Building on the previous topic, we see many clients expressing the need for managed and outsourcing services in order to scale and manage costs, especially with physician practices. This includes functions such as help desk, billing, payroll, and data entry. Managed services are about improving their operations in terms of speed, efficiency, and accuracy. Again, spending more time with the patient and less time on paperwork and haggling with insurance companies means better salaries and opportunities for increased satisfaction all around.
- What can we do with population health and precision medicine? Can solutions be found that allow both of them to coexist peacefully? Can we improve outcomes for the individual and the population at the same time through parallel initiatives? I will look at both sides of this challenge, which has come under a stark light of scrutiny during the pandemic as notable failures have occurred across the country. I will suggest data-driven solutions that focus on operations in this area.
- Recruit and retain the best talent in a post-pandemic world. We often talk about doctors and nurses in this context but we often forget the white collars in the mix – financial and executive people. The pandemic has given us new concepts of work and the workplace. Will the future be on-site, virtual, or a combination of the two? Whatever the model, finding and retaining the right staffing resources will be critical.
- Robotic process automation. RPA shows promise in serving our clients, whether they are patients, clinicians or managers. Areas of opportunity include implementing IT help desk chat boxes, records management, inventory management, and optimizing revenue cycle functionality, including billing and claims, appointment scheduling, and accounts payable.
- Adapting to new and growing cybersecurity threats. Cyber security threats, especially ransomware attacks, have been on the rise lately, and healthcare systems have long been soft targets. And the more complex the attacks, the more vulnerable the health care. Several proven solutions will be presented.
These are just a sampling of the articles I will be presenting over the next 10 weeks in this series. There are many challenges, but they don’t have to be overwhelming. Next week, I will begin to explore the convergence between population health and precision medicine, and whether there can be parallel solutions that improve both individual health and public health in our communities.
More coming soon…