How to Drive Digital Transformation in Healthcare with Telehealth
by Camille Super, on Aug 5, 2021 11:47:16 AM
Read Time: 7 minutes
Following a year that saw the world retreat indoors, most of our day-to-day life went digital. Now that the world is reopening, I don’t know about you, but I’m starting to think that some of those changes are for the best. Perhaps the healthier work-life balance hybrid work offers or the convenience of hopping on Zoom for a quick consultation instead of commuting across town. Industries that were hesitant or in the process of digital transformation had to adapt to our pandemic realty quickly and reactively.
While nearly every sector was affected by this, the healthcare industry found itself uniquely positioned to not only adapt but lead the charge in digital innovation. Why? They found themselves directly in the eye of the storm. Digital transformation in healthcare soared to the top of strategic plans, while care providers sought every outlet to ensure patients were receiving the care they needed during the global pandemic.
The Rise of Telehealth and its Growth During Covid-19
Telehealth use skyrocketed, with the CDC reporting an increase of 154% in telehealth visits in March 2020, compared to the prior year. Between the time and cost-savings of virtual appointments versus in-office visits, coupled with convenience and increased accessibility, most patients look for expanded telehealth services moving forward. Providers tend to agree, with over 76% continuing to offer telehealth for chronic care management, amongst other treatment plans.
Digital transformation opportunities in healthcare extend well beyond telehealth visits. Traditional providers find themselves challenged by new market entrants, concierge healthcare providers, who have been delivering direct and personalized patient care, with the latest digital health and wellness tools. With an upfront, monthly fee, for example, these providers can streamline antiquated processes of billing to support an over-stressed workforce. The digital start-up company, Transcarent, is just one example of a consumer-centric healthcare experience using a self-service app. Patients are connected to available doctors within a minute via video or chat and provided with recommendations for continued care with nearby providers, including full cost transparency and quality ratings. Livongo is another tech startup leveraging real-time patient data to manage chronic disease management, improving patients’ overall health outcomes while lowering costs for both insurers and providers.
Clearly, patients and medical staff increasingly demand digital innovations like telemedicine. With an added layer of complex, federally mandated interoperability rules (the first of which went into effect July 1, 2021), where should healthcare organizations go from here?
How Can Providers Continue to Improve the Telehealth Experience?
While most organizations have adopted some digital transformation strategies, most have not been able to move beyond the planning stages. A recent global survey of executives found that 39% were concerned their organization was not adequately responding to this digital shift, with 61% reporting a fragmented digital strategy. The pandemic required swift actions in digitizing, but to fully realize your digital strategy and innovate, not just adapt, organizations need to reimagine their strategic planning processes outside of traditional approaches.
This requires more than an IT system upgrade, but rather a holistic approach equally evaluating your organization’s people, processes, and technology.
Through this lens, you can identify any gaps in capabilities and needs for process re-engineering to prioritize the future investments that will clarify and effectively implement your digital strategy. This is a pivotal moment for the healthcare industry to learn from the lessons of the pandemic, particularly as we’ve seen both the benefits of and future potential that telehealth appointments can deliver. As providers continue to digitize, they should also redesign their processes to deliver more efficient and effective quality care, while taking advantage of all the opportunities telemedicine provides.
- People: It’s not surprising to find patients at the heart of every hospital’s mission statement as the industry moves towards a patient-centric, value-care model. Yet, most decisions at the executive level lack patient advocates to ensure solutions being implemented meet the needs of both the providers and their patients. Not unlike traditional customer journey mapping, mapping out your patient’s care journey, along with your internal stakeholders – from ER operators and administrative staff to nurse aides and physicians – can inform an optimized experience to not only deliver quality care, but also identify problem areas where telemedicine can serve as the solution.
- Process: Digital transformation provides an excellent opportunity to reengineer traditional processes that no longer suit the needs of the consumer or care providers. Telehealth has improved the patient care journey by removing traditional barriers that discourage preventative care visits, from lack of reliable transportation to lower co-pay costs. As this streamlined process has increased accessibility, patients have more control over their health and over time will result in better health outcomes. Medical staff have also benefited immensely from digitized processes, lowering the administrative burden, lessening the risk of medical errors, and allowing providers quality time with their patients. As you enjoy the gift of time telehealth grants us by eliminating the cross-town commute or missed lunches to make that ten-minute check-up, what else will the healthcare industry reimagine or reinvent to deliver a seamless patient care journey?
- Technology: The overall success and adoption of telehealth opens the door for further digital innovations with data interoperability, AI, and chat bots, for starters. Beyond adhering to standard interoperability guidelines, removing the barriers to patient data provides further consumer empowerment and improves patient care through digitizing analog patient records into Electronic Health Records (EHR). These EHRs are now easily transmittable from providers to payers, ensuring a more seamless care coordination in benefit of the patient – no longer would we need to wait for our PCPs to send our charts to specialists or risk delays in insurance reimbursement due to administrative backlogs. Advancements in AI can further support overburdened providers by aiding in medical diagnoses, such as detecting abnormalities in cardiac rhythms or studying medical images. As AI and health informatics continue to advance, chatbots will only become more sophisticated and move beyond a general “help line”. With seemingly limitless possibilities, it is easy for us to rush in digitizing everything possible, but should we?
How can organizations thoughtfully harness the power of digital transformation in healthcare to innovate and improve the patient care journey while achieving their strategic goals?
Case Study: AllWays Health Partners
What is an Example of Successful Digital Transformation in the Healthcare Industry to Provide Telehealth?
Looking back to March of 2020, we can all relate to the unprecedented nature of a global pandemic that provided us without a clear path forward. Before federal and state governments issued stay-at-home orders, AllWays Health Partners, the health plan provider for Mass General Brigham and an Accelare partner, saw the potential disruption their providers and patients were going to face, particularly in rural areas. Under the direction of Mark McCormick, Chief Operating Officer at Allways and President of Accelare, AllWays developed an innovative, customizable digital solution based on Microsoft Teams, rolling out AllWays on Teams in just four days. Clinics and independent primary care practices were able to remain open during the stay-at-home ordinance, serving thousands of patients and saving these providers millions in revenue.
Within two months of launching, we had 5,000 telehealth claims from providers using AllWays on Teams to care for patients.
- Mark McCormick, COO AllWays Health Partners.
While the incredible feat of shifting to a digital telehealth delivery solution in just four days can’t be understated, one of the keys to their success was a strong, digital foundation powered by an earlier investment in digital transformation back in 2017. With an organizational move from a primarily Medicaid health plan to a full-service plan, their existing processes and digital platforms had to adapt to a much larger provider network. Investing in a cloud-based platform supported their growth expansion, while providing an agile platform that would continue to grow with them – through changes in health insurance and reimbursement processes to adjusting to a digitized patient care delivery during a global health crisis. To read more about AllWays Health Partners’ digital transformation story, visit this link.
As you consider your digital transformation, read our latest insights to learn more about capability assessment using Accelare’s signature Strategy-to-Execution (S2E) methodologies. And when you’re ready, our consultation team is here to help guide your organization’s digital strategy through the S2E process.