From the waiting room to the post-visit follow up, the healthcare experience is overdue for transformation.
There’s an old commercial for a company called Life Call that’s seared into the minds of every 1980s latchkey kid. In it, a series of catastrophes befall elderly folks, with one stricken woman calling out the catchphrase, “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up!”
Don’t worry: The victims were saved thanks to the technology that allowed them to summon help, even if they couldn’t get to a phone.
Cut to a few years ago when I worked on DeloitteAssist, an innovative healthcare solution that combines ServiceNow workflows with a smart speaker based on Amazon Alexa to digitally enable the hospital room. Patients can speak requests to Alexa, which then uses natural language processing capabilities to kick off workflows that provide contextual alerts to on-duty nurses.
DeloitteAssist is a potential lifesaver for patients who can’t reach the in-room emergency call button. It’s also a smarter way to work, allowing nurses to prioritize and route calls, respond immediately with the right resources, and gather metrics on response time and call type.
Here’s the thing, though: Two years after DeloitteAssist was first rolled out, this type of technology is far from commonplace. Today, when grandma falls and can’t get up, there’s a good chance she’s still depending on outdated technology to get help. This points to the difficulty of digital transformation in healthcare.
That difficulty is no surprise. The stakes are high (literally life and death). Regulatory requirements are byzantine. Systems are archaic, complicated, and fragmented. Perhaps that’s why just 20% of healthcare executives say their organization has made major customer experience improvements and 8% major employee experience improvements, according to a 2020 ESI ThoughtLab/ServiceNow survey.
Still, that seems to be changing. When Covid-19 hit, this traditionally risk-averse industry transitioned in the blink of an eye from in-person care alone to widespread virtual visits. Now, the opportunity exists to extend that digital transformation in more far-reaching ways.
The waiting room
Let’s start with something that doesn’t poke the hornet’s nest of regulatory requirements: the waiting room.
Why do we wait? One reason is so patients can fill out the required forms—forms that in many cases we’ve already filled out once or twice before. Siloed systems and processes mean information held by one part of the healthcare organization rarely translates to the next. At my yearly check-up, for example, I filled out forms online before filling out those exact same forms once I arrived in-person. Kudos to them for trying, but an online experience only matters when it translates to the physical world as well.
This is a prime opportunity for an enhanced experience on both ends. For example, a front-end patient portal, such as the one used in ServiceNow’s Vaccine Administration Management solution, allows customers to enter required information and have it workflowed to healthcare administrative staff. That frees staff to actually provide care, as opposed to inputting data from paper forms.
And of course, it’s relatively simple to institute a virtual queue that allows patients to wait in their car and be notified as their turn approaches. The DMV—not exactly known for its modernity—has taken a similar approach in several states With all due respect, if they can do it, so can the healthcare industry.
If pre-consultation transformation is about experience and convenience, digital transformation during the consultation is all about improving patient outcomes.
When used properly, electronic health records (EHR) make it easier to consider all aspects of a patient’s condition and to identify medicine allergies or other risk factors before it’s too late. But physicians say EHR systems are clunky, poorly designed, and hard to navigate, so it’s a challenge to surface this data at the right time.
That’s understandable because EHR systems were designed as “data capture engines”—a system of record as opposed to a system of engagement.
By building user-friendly systems of engagement, we unify data across siloed EHR and other health systems. Rather than forcing physicians and staff to sort through masses of mostly irrelevant data, we can use workflows, robotic process automation, and AI-powered knowledge bases to surface patient- and case-specific information.
Soon, healthcare providers will even tap into AI to analyze large datasets and offer personalized treatment suggestions based on patients with similar symptoms and characteristics.
In 2017, healthcare administration costs equaled $812 billion in the U.S.—or $2,497 per capita. That’s some serious coin, and much of it is likely unnecessary. A recent study found that of the $350 billion spent on healthcare admin, almost $4 billion could be eliminated by automating eligibility and benefit verification alone.
We do this by applying the same principles applied by corporate auditing in governance, risk, and compliance. For example, policies could be uploaded and documented into a system of record, parsed out based on requirements and controls, and then automatically checked either pre- or post-visit to understand what’s in scope and what’s out-of-pocket—no staff or insurance experts required.
It’s not as if this is technology from some distant, utopian world. Everything covered in this article is available right here, right now. What’s missing is the mandate to use it. Maybe, then, Covid-19 was just the push healthcare needed to adopt a consumer-friendly, digital-first approach.