Healthcare is not alone in facing ever-rising costs while contemplating the application of disruptive innovation. Patient's expectations are increasing and demand grows inexorably: there is mounting pressure on organisations to operate more effectively, to offer consistent quality and to achieve higher productivity. Traditional approaches are fast becoming untenable, both operationally and commercially.
To counter this perfect storm, the adoption of innovative, digital technologies can have an important role in:
reducing costs – absolute reductions in unit costs
improving productivity – using resources more efficiently
achieving greater interoperability to empower patients and providers
facilitating new service developments.
Apple and Google, for example, are making wearable technology more accessible. Senior managers are being forced to adopt new approaches to gathering and sharing information that both complements and challenges the status quo. The healthcare landscape is changing. Patients demand faster and more flexible access, higher quality services and a more personalised approach. They want healthcare providers to recognise them, remember them and understand their current (and future) needs.
How can the creative use of technology help?
Improved integration and access to data provides a digital infrastructure to share data internally and externally. In particular it can offer better visibility of operational data such as the movement of people and assets, fluctuating demand and utilisation rates supported by live and accurate metrics on volumes and costs.
The provision of healthcare can be highly compartmentalised. So adoption of emerging technologies such as wearable devices and self-service, while beneficial, will require a high level of coordination and interoperability to ensure that the true benefits of improved proactive healthcare are realised and sustained.
Recognising the complete patient journey should determine a roadmap for the adoption and use of technology throughout the complex healthcare environment. Some exemplars are the adoption of data sharing and its management and use in common situations:
the transcription and processing of consultant notes can take weeks but can be reduced using paperless solutions. Several organisations adopting this technology have seen improvements in patient engagement and annual cost savings of circa £1m.
Cambridge University Hospital's adoption of a 99% paperless environment has released the equivalent of 120 nursing posts, allowing staff to spend a longer time with patients more effectively.
Understanding the patient journey provides the foundation for adopting technology.
So where do we start with these potential solutions?
Data - coordinated and integrated. It should have not just a clinical focus but also operational. It can help to capture trends, environmentally relevant data and allow the sharing of information across specialist silos - improving visibility and efficiency. The benefits of this include the ability:
to optimise the allocation of resources
to reduce risks of readmission
to reduce length of stay
to minimise risks of adverse events
to manage costs more accurately and timely.
Improved productivity - remove non clinical tasks from clinicians through the separation of service management from clinical care. Remove any non clinical tasks from clinical providers through better management of services and the introduction of digital technology. An example of this would be the adoption of radio frequency identification (RFID) tracking to automatically manage assets and staff, improving utilisation and reducing costs.
Improved visibility - of data for both operational and commercial management of services and patients through the use of dashboards and data visualisation. Provide frontline staff and senior managers with accurate, relevant and live information.
Adoption of machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI) - remove repetitive and administratively burdensome tasks. It is anticipated that AI will save £18bn in administrative costs across the world in the next decade.
All of these opportunities rely on technology, but this should not be the emphasis. Improving patient flow by delivering services and care in a cost-effective manner to the highest quality is the goal. This would make any interaction - as ad-hoc or infrequent as some may be - feel personal, efficient and professional, providing better care at lower costs whilst preserving clinical standards and reliability.
You can find out more about the digital services that Collinson Grant offers on our website. Our approach includes the review and improvement of core processes as well as adopting new technology solutions, avoiding the common pitfall of replicating the current state in a digital solution.
If you need some information on how we can help map, review and improve your patient journey, please ask. Collinson Grant's managers and consultants have experience in all aspects of process improvement, commercial analysis and adoption of technology.