In healthcare, technology has arrived, but there is still plenty of room to run. We work with many manual processes. We still communicate via fax machines! The industry is notorious for being slow to embrace technology.
At MedTrainer, we talk every day with healthcare compliance teams who are relying on paper binders and files. But as individuals and consumers, these same people barely have any paper in their lives at all. Would you be willing to work with a bank that requires you to call them to find out your account balance? One that makes you deposit checks by physically going to a bank branch?
Today, automation and digitization of information and workflows is available to healthcare organizations. But even knowing improvement is at hand, organizations are still reluctant to make changes. I get it. Technology can be scary and deploying it takes time and money.
But with technology you gain an unfair advantage that you can use to make your healthcare organization more efficient, more effective, and a leader in delivering high-quality patient care.
Technology in Healthcare Is an Uphill Battle
It’s understandable why the healthcare industry is a slow adopter of technology. Protecting patient health requires a very high level of confidence when any technology is used. Patient data must be protected. Mistakes in patient care can literally mean life or death outcomes. There are also constantly changing regulations, and a wide variation of needs across a healthcare organization — all of which impact the complexity of deploying technology.
There are other traits of the healthcare industry that create additional obstacles for technology deployment:
- Healthcare workers did not get into healthcare to create or improve processes, which are now required because of the pressure around reducing cost and improving outcomes. Your team would much rather spend time with patients than worrying about what kind of software to use or how to deploy it.
- The healthcare industry has a lot of small businesses (practices) who don’t have the resources or the expertise to deploy technology. As a result, technology projects are often put off to the future, leading to slow adoption across the board.
- The healthcare field is relational, while the technology industry is largely transactional. While the technology industry has evolved to take more of a “partner,” rather than “vendor” approach, many healthcare organizations have already been burned by technology providers in the past. This risk underscores the importance of finding a technology partner that is ready to truly partner with you and who can help you beyond just the technology they provide.
5 Best Practices To Avoid Technology Wrong Turns
1. Crawl, Walk, Run
I’m sure you have seen software rollouts that dragged on for years and were miserably complicated. When a software deployment takes that long, it simply means the scope was too big or the complexity too high — and that’s where most people go wrong. Cut your project scope down to something manageable that gets the system deployed and solves the biggest problems you have. Additional capabilities and workflows can be rolled out over time.
Also, look for platforms that are modular so you can start with just one small part and add on more as you show results and success. With a reasonable initial scope, and a flexible platform, you can minimize the time and money spent on the implementation. Best case — you are able to deploy successfully with a low cost of ownership and find additional areas for the use of technology over time. Worst case — if the implementation fails, it isn’t a huge loss financially.
2. Stay Focused on Outcomes
Creating efficiency with technology in healthcare can save resources (time and money) and generate higher quality patient outcomes. Whether you’re evaluating technology solutions or working to determine results from an implementation, be clear on what is most important to you as the business owner. Build consensus across the stakeholders (users, other business leaders, IT) about what success looks like. Translate the outcomes identified to specific and measurable goals that you can track to confirm that success has or has not been achieved. If you don’t succeed initially, you will be able to identify the root causes using this same data and adjust. Out of the gates failure with technology doesn’t mean you can’t be successful down the road. You just have to be clear on where you are headed so you can course correct when you are off track — you will get there.
3. Empower Frontline Staff
Often where you can make the biggest impact with technology is through solving problems that are holding back your employees. But, you’ll never know these problems exist unless you create a culture of bringing forward issues. You don’t need complainers, but you do want people to surface constraints they have on their success. Getting this culture right empowers staff, drives employee engagement, minimizes turnover, and leads to better service delivery.
4. Find a Partner, Not a Vendor
You obviously want to make sure technology will do what you need it to do and you’ll get a good return on investment (ROI). But there needs to be more to the vendor evaluation. You’re looking for not just delivery of the product and ongoing support, but ancillary services and expert knowledge.
As competition for healthcare technology has grown and solution providers try to set themselves apart from the field, they have extended offerings beyond basic product and support. For example, MedTrainer has very deep expertise in regulatory requirements, which we make available to our customers. MedTrainer also has managed services available if clients want to fully outsource tasks, such as credentialing, and have MedTrainer run the technology platform for them. As a buyer, don’t just think about the system itself, but look at the whole partner ecosystem that you can tap into if — and when — needed.
5. Be Ready for Change
The regulatory and patient care environment in healthcare is changing every day which means your technology solutions will be changing too. The good news is that today, from a technology perspective, software is deployed as a cloud-based solution. It can be updated and re-configured with little or no cost to you.
A good healthcare technology partner is staying on top of regulatory and industry changes and aligning its roadmap to meet your ongoing needs. Just don’t forget that as the platform changes, you still need to change too. Don’t be afraid of change. Instead, embrace it to be sure that your employees and your organization are getting that unfair advantage that the latest technology has to offer. Doing so will not only ensure that you remain compliant, but also give you the competitive advantage that you want.
Looking at the Big Picture
The only thing moving faster than the pace of change in healthcare is the pace of change in technology. Embrace technology and you will gain the organizational advantage you need. Find your biggest pain points and then identify the technology solutions that can automate or digitize information or work in order to reduce the pain. Be smart and focused about where you deploy the technology. Identify your goals, get aligned, and track how you do.
With the right mindset and focus, you and your organization can unleash technology to not only be more efficient but to deliver the best patient care and patient experience possible.