August 3, 2021

Cooking Up The Future Of Healthcare Technology

Lisa is head of Industry Solutions for the Healthcare Provider business at NTT DATA Services. Follow Lisa @lisaesch.

You may not think being a foodie would translate into thought leadership for the health technology sector, but you’d be surprised. My career began as a dietician and food scientist — I can take stock of what’s in the pantry and create something impactful from whatever ingredients are available. In my role as senior vice president of our healthcare provider division, that skill informs my problem-solving approach when creating strategies for tackling the big issues of healthcare.

As we move toward a post-pandemic world, providers are focusing on “recipes” to improve public health and wellbeing, reset tech priorities for their organizations and accommodate evolving consumer expectations around the delivery of care. 

Digital Healthcare Ingredients

When we grocery shop online, as most of us have probably done in the past year, it’s usually pretty seamless. Our food categories are clearly marked. The shopping platform stores our payment method. The hardest thing is to avoid blowing the family’s budget — and diet — by picking too many deli dishes or packages of ice cream bars. 

A seamless e-commerce experience isn’t just for shopping and entertainment. Consumers expect the same personalized, holistic experiences from their healthcare providers, too. Especially in the wake of Covid-19, patients want the safety and convenience of a shopping trip in their health care experience.

But too often an in-person or online doctor visit feels disjointed and impersonal. The friction begins in brick-and-mortar clinic and hospital locations when multiple staff hand-off patients and those patients relay the same information each time to a new person. Surgery and new chronic care patients are handed brick-sized binders of onboarding information. The barriers continue when patients go home, with a potential dozen separate logins and user experiences for bill payments, lab results, therapeutic services, telehealth and more. 

While the pandemic has exposed and accelerated the need to change, healthcare providers recognized the problems of this fragmented delivery and the need for improved virtual care. But as they scrambled to meet the demands brought on by the pandemic, strategizing went out the window. Teams bought solutions to get by. The results aren’t dissimilar to shopping while hungry, yielding an array of products delivered as a cart of digital point solutions.

The Recipe For Patient Satisfaction

Depending on the service and consumer, a single-purpose tool may be just what the doctor ordered. But for providers throughout the ecosystem and for patients who engage frequently, the future lies with integrated solutions and a 360-degree view of the patient — the unified patient experience.

Such an approach combines specialized point solutions in a seamless view for patients to access services and for providers to support patients across their healthcare experience. This means tracking clinical and non-clinical details, ranging from appointment schedules to medications to family health history to payment preferences.

This comprehensive pool of patient data provides the foundation on which to leverage machine learning and AI. In clinical use, machine learning can predict health issues and suggest treatment based on individual patient records and cohort trends. On the non-clinical side, AI can perform routine administrative tasks, such as expediting the secure release of information between departments and institutions. Does your doctor spend more time looking at their computer screen than they do looking at you? Robotic process automation can take over repetitive tasks like filling out forms so your doctor can look you in the eye and engage with you and your concerns. 

Building The Integrated Platform

As we emerge from a long and costly pandemic, how do healthcare providers find the resources to step up to this unified patient experience? Fortunately, they shouldn’t need to cast aside existing tools. Neither do they need to develop a new solution from scratch. Open-source tools can accelerate the development of new capabilities, reducing time to stand up solutions without reinventing tools. 

Any solution must be able to interface with various systems and their data. One key requirement is the capability to parse and format structured and unstructured data. Add to this single sign-on, enhanced security, cloud support and analytics, and this approach provides the solid foundation for secure work and care from anywhere.

Healthcare providers should start by taking inventory of what capabilities they have and ask themselves:

• Do we have overlap or redundancy in tools? Do we have any gaps?

• Where can we reduce friction for both patients and clinicians?

• Are the investments we made delivering to expectations?

• If not, what lessons have we learned? How might those investments be better utilized while building for the future?

Coming up with an impactful recipe to tackle these challenges can be a daunting undertaking. Sometimes, we may need an outsider’s perspective to help us assess the potential of what we have on hand and what to reach for next. I recommend starting your post-pandemic reset by making sure your technology foundation is sound, which may include making strategic investments that better integrate your disparate tech mix. 

Whatever your ecosystem requires, remember that by developing a consumer strategy that considers the unified patient experience, you can improve patient outcomes — and increase revenue — as we all begin life again.


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