Many of us recently returned from HIMSS 2017, and Digital Transformation DX was the topic on everyone’s mind. A recent series of twitter chats on the #HITsm hashtag is helping to keep that conversation going. On 3/10, we began that day’s chat by trying to nail down exactly what DX really is. Here are some of the ideas that emerged.

Patients At the Center

DX is not merely technological, and those who focus on that aspect of it miss the point. True digital transformation puts the patient at the center, just as other industries do with their customers. And in truth, patients increasingly drive DX, as they look for the same level of service from the healthcare industry that they’re getting elsewhere. They want scheduling an appointment to be as easy as requesting a ride from Uber, and in some cases, they’re even looking to redefine the word appointment.

Healthcare consumers want choices. They expect autonomy and data access similar to what they’d have in other industries. They’re more likely to use their mobile devices to access healthcare and healthcare information. What this means is that we should be focusing our efforts on creating digital systems and workflows that are powerful, beautiful and easy to use.

Empowered Employees

This improved model doesn’t just benefit those on the payer side. It also increases employee satisfaction by simplifying the process of meeting patient needs. But leading employees through the DX process until they can see the benefits involves a culture shift, and this is a topic that came up again and again in our chat. We’ll be doing a deeper dive into that topic in our next blog, but for now, suffice to say that true transformation should remove bottlenecks and roadblocks for employees, who need to be deeply invested in the DX process.

Optimized Operations

While there are many opportunities to optimize the ways in which we address patient needs, there are some areas ripe for change. It’s of paramount importance to stay centered on the idea of a continuum of care. Gone are the days of treating patient interactions as a series of one-offs. Instead, we can provide continuous support throughout the healthcare cycle, from signing up for benefits through follow-up and ongoing care.

We’re already seeing this kind of access in some networks. A lucky few can book appointments, view their test results online without having to reach a nurse, and message their physicians directly with lingering questions. But the majority of patients still don’t have this unbroken cycle of access. It’s something the healthcare industry can work to improve. And that’s just one avenue of optimization. Billing cycle management, insurance pre-approvals, and communication with vendors can all benefit from the application of digital technology.

Product Transformation

Digital Transformation affords us the chance to fundamentally transform the what and how of our products. Case in point: access to care, both in terms of geography and mobility, has always been a problem for some patients. Telemedicine is one way that healthcare is transforming the services it offers to meet demand in flexible and innovative ways. Virtual appointments save money for both the healthcare organization and the patient. In cases of long-term illness, virtual appointments make receiving ongoing medical care much easier. Someone who’s suffering from chronic pain is much more able to keep appointments if they can do so from home. As chat participant Jeremy Coleman put it, we sometimes “define the problem to fit a solution.” In a true DX model, we have to throw out that predetermined solution/legacy system, so that we can see the opportunities at hand.

Unleash data

Data continues to be an underused resource when it comes to improving our model of care. As one example, despite all the data available, 85% of physicians are still selected based on word of mouth recommendations. With all the data we have at our disposal, why should this be the case? GIS and zip code data can make it easy for patients to find physicians near their homes, and we can integrate those results with reviews to simplify the process further.

Healthcare sometimes lags behind other industries when it comes to applying Big Data, in part because of the challenge of securing highly sensitive information. These privacy concerns have historically led to silos, which complicate the flow of digital information. Today, advanced security measures are key to opening up the flow of information and defragmenting communication. The benefits, both to healthcare organizations and patients, are tangible.

After identifying the central qualities of Digital Transformation, the next logical step is to deconstruct what resources are needed for a successful DX project. In the next blog in our DX series, we’ll give you the highlights of that discussion.

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