Technology Best Practices for Stabilizing Healthcare Revenue and Operations
In a recent Leader Dialogue Radio podcast, ABOUT Healthcare in partnership with the Baldrige Foundation, discussed how health systems can best leverage technology to stabilize revenue and operations in wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. In the episode, titled What’s Next: Stabilizing Revenue & Operations, host Dr. Chuck Peck interviewed past president and EVP of Southern New Hampshire Health System Dr. Scott Wolf.
Dr. Wolf stressed the importance of three key tenets – people, process, and technology – to achieving optimal outcomes. Specifically, he urged healthcare providers to scrutinize existing processes and apply technology to these operations to address burnout-related workforce shortages.
“It behooves us to leverage technology to optimize our processes and operations to support existing staff to ensure they can work at the top of their licenses and be more effective at delivering the care our patients need,” he said.
Squeeze more out of existing technology investments
The podcast panel then examined the frustration many healthcare leaders experience due to substantial technology investments — namely electronic health record (EHR) systems — that haven’t significantly addressed key process issues. According to Dr. Wolf, one of the key reasons these technologies have fallen short of expectations is because of ineffective integration. He argues that health systems need to integrate data that resides in disparate systems and put it in the hands of decision makers. Moreover, he recommends that this information not only be used to streamline acute care episodes, but to support pre-acute through post-acute transitions of care.
“Our health system has nine process measures it regularly reviews from the ED to the post-acute space,” he says. “Placing this information at the fingertips of the appropriate operators is vital to empowering a seamless transition of patients to the right side of service. When data seamlessly integrates – not only with the EHR, but through the entire care journey – you can optimize care transitions and support your human resources.”
ABOUT Healthcare CMO Dr. Darin Vercillo agreed with Dr. Wolf’s assessment and petitioned healthcare leaders to request that their technology vendors readily exchange their data and information.
“Delivering optimal patient care cannot be facilitated via data silos,” said Dr. Vercillo. “Better data integration will also reduce unnecessary spending that occurs when health systems are repetitive in their approaches to data capture and access. Partnering with the right experts can help you leverage existing technology investments to their fullest through better information exchange.”
Aim for systemness and empathetic automation
Another point of frustration among health system leadership is when technology complicates workflows for clinicians rather than making them easier. For example, a primary criticism of EHRs is they often require clinicians to perform excessive administrative tasks. According to the panel, technology needs to enable “empathetic automation” – complementing and facilitating patient and provider interactions rather than hindering them. According to Dr. Wolf, the best way to ensure this is to consult physician leaders on the front end of the technology decision-making process and get their support in implementing these systems.
Establishing better “systemness” between facilities in a health network is also crucial to streamlining operations and maximizing revenue. For example, establishing access centers that allow clinicians and operational leaders to access and view dashboards that outline capacity, access points, expected admissions/discharges, and other key information across the health system helps to drive intelligent decision making, improve patient flow, and prevent patient leakage. Dr. Vercillo argues that this idea of systemness should extend beyond the health system itself to connect multiple networks within a geographic region.
“Applying technology to provide better visibility into state or interstate care capacity would establish a whole new paradigm for care,” he says.
Streamline referrals and leverage the entire care team
The podcast closed with panelists offering their thoughts on the key steps healthcare providers could take to improve patient access and enhance their revenue streams. Dr. Vercillo suggested streamlining referral processes, particularly between primary and subspecialty care, was a quick and easy way to improve patient satisfaction, increase throughput, and prevent leakage. Dr. Wolf noted making better use of clinical care teams was necessary to achieve results.
“Many healthcare providers still drive patients directly to the ER or physicians,” says Dr. Wolf. “Not all patients require this level of treatment. Health systems need to embrace the full complement of team members – including physician assistants and case managers – to ensure patient needs are addressed quickly, comprehensively, and affordably.”