The technologies and consumer demands that have shaped the past-and will continue to shape the future.
There’s no doubt that healthcare has evolved at a rapid pace over the last quarter century.NRC Health’s Brian Wynne,Â vice president and general manager shares findings from the company’s latest report highlighting why an even combo of technology and human innovation will create better care experiences over the next 25 years. NRC Health, a customer intelligence company located in Lincoln, Nebraska, brings human understanding toÂ healthcareÂ with holistic, data-driven solutions that help health systems improve the care experience.Here are the top ways healthcare has changed and how healthcare executives can adapt.
1. Budgeting for technology
Meaningful Use went into effect nearly 10 years ago, marking the unofficial start to technology’s irrevocable impact on the healthcare experience. “Since that time, executives have had to completely shift the way they invest in, and budget for, tech-enabled operational improvements,” Wynne says.
For example, healthcare executives predict that their organizations will spend an average of $32.4 million on artificial intelligence over the next five years-with 36% expecting to see a return on this investment in the form of upgrades to the patient experience. That’s a huge line item on a healthcare executive’s operating budget that didn’t exist 25 years ago, says Wynne.
2. Finding new ways to access care
Patients used to only have access to healthcare by visiting a hospital. Today, patients want convenient access to care above all else.
Executives at Akron Children’s Hospital, in Akron, Ohio, are taking a unique approach, says Wynne. The hospital sends advanced practice nurses into low-income neighborhoods to give proactive, preventative care where it’s needed.
Executives at Wausau, Wisconsin-based Aspirus looked at the problem of appointment availability and “took an extraordinary measure to solve it by staffing their consumer intake call-center exclusively with RNs in order to more effectively triage incoming customers and direct their care efficiently,” Wynne says.
3. Addressing workforce burnout
“The healthcare industry has always demanded more from its workforce than perhaps any other field,” Wynne says.
Innovative institutions know that the quality of their care depends on engaging their employees.
“Recognizing this, today’s healthcare executives are doing things very differently than they were 25 years ago in an effort to preserve the vital spark of empathy in their staff,” Wynne says.
Executives at Mary Greeley Medical Center in Ames, Iowa, built an internal social network, specifically designed for inter-colleague praise. CareMount Medical in New York also dedicated extensive resources to building a real-time feedback initiative that helps sustain employee morale with encouragement sourced directly from patients.
4. Prioritizing patient transparency
“Healthcare consumers are demanding more transparency from their healthcare providers, especially because they’re now paying more out of pocket for their care than ever before,” Wynne says.
One example of this effort comes from Vetter Senior Living, an organization based in Elkhorn, Nebraska. It now publishes verified reviews from residents onto community websites in an effort to provide greater transparency. In the months after Vetter Senior Living published its first reviews, the organization’s website traffic grew by more than 30%, “underscoring that patients want an open, transparent look at their healthcare providers and that when executives answer the call, business results come along with an improved patient experience,” according to Wynne.
5. Negotiating with technology vendors
As of 2014, all public and private healthcare providers were required to adopt an EHR in order to secure reimbursement from Medicaid and Medicare. “As a result, much of a hospital C-suite’s time is spent managing contracts and negotiating with vendors to ensure operational efficiency, compliance and financial health, something that certainly was not part of their job a decade ago,” Wynne says.
6. Protecting sensitive data
Cyberattacks against the healthcare system are happening at an alarming rate, as healthcare organizations are now in possession of more sensitive patient data than ever. “Making sure that information stays secure is a huge challenge that healthcare executives have not had to deal with before, and cybersecurity is now their number one financial concern,” Wynne says. “Ensuring risk assessments are being run and software is getting updated and checked regularly are now imperative to overall security compliance.”
7. Realizing that technology alone won’t solve healthcare’s problems
While technology has been pivotal to the evolution of healthcare over the last 25 years, putting it to effective use will likely continue to be a balancing act for healthcare leaders-between protecting the provider-patient relationship and making sure patients can access convenient, affordable care, according to Wynne. “It will be up to healthcare leaders and providers to learn the art of that balance in the years to come,” he says.