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Healthcare Spotlight: How Modern Applications Facilitate Engagement in a Digital-First World

The healthcare industry finds itself in a situation requiring fast action forward. The wellbeing of every person on the planet is interconnected and digital solutions are now firmly in the spotlight as the tools that can ensure individual health, as well as public safety. 

Patients, and even healthcare staff, demand greater accessibility and easier-to-navigate digital environments—particularly during a time when leaving your home is a health risk. They crave the frictionless experiences provided by other industries. They want access to health data and the ability to communicate with healthcare providers from home.

Healthcare organizations must deliver on these digital demands. And leveraging digital tools that provide value to stakeholders is not a matter of incremental gain, but a strategic business move.

The industry’s capability to provide remote care and greater accessibility means patients have more choices around where and when they receive medical care. And choice means healthcare organizations must differentiate themselves from a growing list of competitors. The convenience of location is no longer enough to win patients’ loyalty. 

68% of healthcare organizations  

say it’s very or extremely important to  

deliver better software faster. 

(source: AHEAD independent research) 

It’s time for healthcare organizations to look at how IT infrastructure and modern applications can help patients, providers, and payors engage more deeply with health data for better value and greater efficiency. 

This is healthcare’s change moment. 

Healthcare’s Digital Lag 

It may be a hard pill to swallow, but healthcare is behind other industries when it comes to digital transformation. There are good reasons for this lag, including a lack of disruptors, as well as prevalent regulations and security concerns.  

Healthcare is low-tech overall. When compared to the banking industry, for example, the differences are easily recognizable. It wasn’t too long ago when banking customers had to either make a phone call or visit a brick-and-mortar bank branch for banking services. But a disruption occurred when small, nimble start-ups started picking off the business of larger institutions by providing born-in-the-cloud, seamless digital banking experiences. The entire industry was forced to quickly digitally transform to stay competitive with fast-moving up-and-comers. Now, even customers of the largest institutions can open an app on their mobile device and make money moves in seconds. Our banks are in our pockets—always accessible—thus alleviating the friction and time investment around interacting with financial service providers for basic tasks.  

Healthcare currently operates in the world that banking was in 10-15 years ago. For the most part, patients pick up the phone and make an appointment, visit doctors in person, and receive health records over the phone or in the mail. Even today’s more digitally advanced healthcare experiences provide little more than automated text message reminders or a white-labeled version of Epic health records. 

And the challenge goes beyond just patient engagement and experience. Healthcare provider staff and payors can also see tremendous benefits from an embrace of digital, with greater efficiency, enhanced security, and lower costs all on the line. 

But the digital tides of healthcare are shifting. Just as in banking, digital-first start-ups are gaining market share, particularly in areas that lend themselves to telemedicine, such as mental health care. This wave of competition, coupled with COVID-19 driving the need for less in-person and more digital care, has created enterprise healthcare’s digital change moment. So how do organizations make the leap? 

Modern Applications Facilitate Regulatory Compliance and Quality Healthcare 

Modern applications architectures allow organizations to have not only the foundation, but also the flexibility to grow digital capabilities. Before we dive into modern apps as engagement drivers, we must first take a closer look at the technical obstacles standing in the way: 

  • Legacy systems (mainframes, dated technologies, on-premises) 
  • Archaic processes 
  • Organizational politics and red tape  

Just like the financial services providers mentioned earlier, healthcare organizations must overcome digital hurdles that have built up over decades. It’s like scraping the paint of off a sealed shut window—you must remove years and years of accumulated debris to open the window and apply a fresh, functional coat. 

Because of the immense responsibility of providing health-related services, coupled with regulations like HIPAA and HITECH, healthcare organizations have developed multi-layered processes upheld by archaic legacy systems that serve as the bedrock of their technology operations. This doesn’t have to be the case. We can look once more to the highly regulated financial services and banking industry once more to see that these hurdles can be overcome. 

Modern applications can facilitate, rather than inhibit, regulatory compliance and quality healthcare. Successful modern applications and the organizations that run them share the following characteristics: 

  • Leverage cloud to drive efficiency 
  • Implement well-designed processes 
  • Foster a culture of digital innovation 
  • Expedite delivery of value into patients, payors, and staff’s workflows 

Adopting modern applications (and modernizing legacy apps) is part of a larger digital transformation play that focuses on how architecting infrastructure and core business critical apps works for the organization instead of against it.  

What‘s Possible Now? 

While most healthcare organizations have approached digitally slowly, those who recognize the importance of digital transformation are taking steps toward modern applications.  

Simple upgrades like enabling mobile responsiveness and customizing patient portals deliver better experiences quickly and inexpensively. For organizations that want to further set themselves apart, there are endless options for using digital tools to drive experiences, but even picking off the lowest hanging fruit can move the needle for patients, providers, and payors. 

32% of healthcare organizations  

currently have greenfield modern application projects underway and  

26% are refactoring existing applications for the cloud. 

(source: AHEAD independent research) 

Modern Applications Can Drive Digital Engagement Across Three Key Audiences 

Patients Want Health Data, Delivered Digitally 

Patients want user-friendly and frictionless interactions at every touch point—from appointment scheduling, to having the option to perform office visits over webcam, to receiving health data and test results through well-designed and secured digital channels. 

Consumers are already plugged into digital health-tracking experiences through wearables like Fitbit and mobile health data apps. There exists a deep interest in collecting, integrating, and analyzing health data that is driving consumers to be more interested in their health. And they don’t only want information about their health as an individual—they want to know how they compare to other people within their demographics, whether it be age group, city of residence, or others who have similar health challenges. 

Healthcare providers have an opportunity to both honor health data regulations and provide deeper insights to patients about where they stand and how they can improve their health and wellbeing. 

Providers Strive for Better, More Efficient Patient Care 

Doctors and nurses are being pushed to their limits with the COVID-19 crisis. Modern applications allow organizations to facilitate more efficient patient care, and help relieve stress from staff, by making information easier to access on the floor.  

Take for example the huddle board. Huddle boards have been front and center in provider facilities and have remained entrenched in the physical world the past few decades. Many organizations still use a physical board where care providers must be in front of the board to read and update its information. A huge number of care decisions are made based on the information provided on a daily huddle board, yet many are simply whiteboards that are erased at the end of the day. Once data is erased from the board, so is its lineage and audit history.   

What if we took common, physical-world tools and turned them into digital smart tools?

An ehuddleboard application turns the traditional huddle board into an interactive activity and status hub—viewable and updatable from anywhere. Care providers can have multiple access points for the same information, saving time when seconds count. Its data can be updated based on the latest info and historical versions can be saved for future reference, keeping a record of the data that drove past care decisions.

This is just one of the tools that have been common in the provider space through the years that could be exponentially more efficient if carried into the digital world. 

Payors Seek Data Efficiency and Cost Savings  

Payors have a nearly endless amount of opportunities to modernize as well. Many payors’ claims and adjudication processes are slow and painful. Bottlenecks can often be linked back to outdated mainframe systems and brittle monolithic core applications. 

Modernizing these systems and processes builds a reliable system foundation, which in turn facilitates a flexible digital posture. Flexibility and speed enable payers to equip both patients and providers and can digitally streamline the patient healthcare process from start to finish. 

Payors can take a two-way mirror approach to data-driven applications by using the same information for consumer-facing and internal-facing apps. Internally, efficiencies can be found from the effective organization of info to reduce errors and speed processing time. On the consumer side, mobile accessibility and enhanced reporting lowers the need for contact to confirm information and provides a better understanding of what insurance providers cover. 

Change Starts Now 

Healthcare’s opportunities for enabling greater engagement through digital channels are virtually endless. The window of change is open now, but organizations must act before their competitors slam it closed.  

Platforms for Digital Health  

AHEAD currently helps more than 60 health systems with their digital transformations. We understand that healthcare transformation involves fundamental changes in culture, communications, operations, and not least of all, the underlying infrastructure. 

To learn more about AHEAD’s Healthcare Practice and how we help facilitate engagement through modern applications and drive holistic digital transformation, visit thinkahead.com/digital-healthcare/. 

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