Is your IT department a strategic hero?


Hospitals and health systems are moving from being a cost center to being a strategic differentiator. However, this pace of transforming IT from a Keeping The Lights On (KTLO) cost center to a strategic enabler is slow. 

We recently surveyed 100 CIOs from the nation’s top health systems to get a feel for what the typical CIO of a large health system looks like and to better understand how CIOs are equipped to deal with the new age of healthcare IT.

The majority of top health system CIOs have backgrounds in running large system integration organizations. The jury is still out on how these CIOs will retool themselves to deliver strategic differentiation in the age of real time decision enablement and information flow. 
 

Average Age:

We started with a simple proxy of CIO readiness: Age. While the typical age of leaders in core technology companies in silicon valley is trending lower - based on our study, the average age of CIOs was slightly unexpected: nearly three quarters (70%) are over the age of 50, and close to 20% over the age of 60. The shift in HIT of moving to a more strategic position could be the reason for this statistic. It is becoming increasingly obvious that executives at health systems are realizing that IT leaders need to be more involved in the boardroom and not just from a “review and approval of large IT projects” standpoint. Now more than ever, it’s important for CIOs to work with their peers in identifying and formulating strategy on forward-thinking technology that can improve and automate business processes.

Number of years at the current health system:

What we found interesting about the data in the graph above was the lack of longevity these top CIOs had at their current position: Five of 54 CIOs who have been at the health system for five years or less did not start off as a CIO, meaning that they worked their way up to the leader position. Since the IT department has the most constituents and bear the most burden of maintaining core functions of a hospital, it may be becoming more common to bring in new eyes and ideas to help move the IT functions of a health system forward. Another thought is that IT leaders need to have some experience in implementing change management because they have to bring departments together in order to be successful in running all the technology of a health system. By switching health systems after a series of years, more experience and exposure to best practices from other environments is helping to propel this change. Possibly, these new best practices are being learned and are more common that the new phase of IT is more than just a systems integration function. 
 

Non-IT Experience:

A small minority (18%) of the CIOs surveyed had non-IT experience throughout their professional careers. These non-IT positions were medical/clinical (41%), operations (29%), consulting (24%) and project management (6%). While having a tremendous amount of experience in information technology is important, not having other business knowledge and experience can be somewhat crippling. Clearly, it is imperative for CIOs to have knowledge about infrastructure, platforms and integrations, but having experience outside of the IT world is just as important. The fact that can make or break a solution is knowing not only how to run the solution and keep it running but also knowing if the solution actually solves the problem and is realistic for its use case. When IT leaders have had additional experience outside of the IT realm, it can be very useful when evaluating technology solutions utilized 24/7 in a health system such as clinical solutions.
 

Non-healthcare experience:

Close to 60% of the CIOs have not had experience outside of the healthcare industry. The majority of the CIOs who have non-healthcare experience held those positions early in their careers and made the transition to healthcare shortly after. The industry has seen a recent trend of hiring executives outside of healthcare to bring in different perspectives on improving operations and the patient experience. Having a different view from another industry that is more technologically advanced than healthcare could be very important in the near future. As health systems compete more and more, new perspectives will help differentiate them from the rest. The same is true with IT. Even though technology is technology, CIOs need to be at the forefront of new and innovative advances that could help their organization. Instead of being the gatekeeper, the IT department should be the gate enablers and lead the guidance and support of useful technology for their peers and constituents.

Employed at more than two organizations prior to the current role:

Of the 62% that have worked for two other organizations outside of their current health system, 50% have worked for companies outside of healthcare. This could be another testament as to how health systems are bringing in more talent from other industries and different types and sizes of organizations. While this statistic shows dedication and loyalty to an organization, it could also promote the “this is how we have always done it” mentality which is common for people to have when they have worked at an organization for a long period of time. Fortunately through the increased usage of analytics, IT leaders are getting past the preference for experience over data. The utilization of and reliance on analytics is ever present and will not be losing importance anytime soon, if ever.
 

Is your patient portal failing? The story of rewarding “A” while hoping For “B”

Top five reasons why you should consider add-on solutions

Are you staring at your under utilized patient portal and asking, “how did we get here?” It’s basically the most unused healthcare technology that every health system had to have in order to meet Stage 2 of the Meaningful Use criteria for the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act. Health systems were incentivized through reimbursements to install patient portals to improve patient engagement and management of care. And those reimbursements were the end of the benefits that most organizations have experienced with patient portals. Patients don’t use the portal because it’s unfamiliar to them, they don’t know it exists or they view it as inconvenient because it’s not user friendly. 

According to a 2016 Grand View Research report, the patient portal market was valued over $1.1 billion in 2015 and is expected to grow by nearly 18% each year for the next 8 years. Ironically, the 5th Annual Xerox EHR Survey stated that 64% of Americans do not use patient portals. If this were any other industry, this would be considered very bad. The question is: how does a market continue to grow each year when an overwhelming majority of its target population doesn’t use it? Historically, patient engagement tools have driven more engagement from the already engaged. While add-on solutions improve patient engagement with the portal, some big EMR vendors have tried to lock out best-in-breed solutions from integrating with the EMR. But they are losing that battle because each year, more and more sophisticated solutions enter the market that integrate and provide real and true solutions. 

Step one to fixing the problem is to identify the right one. The problem to be solved is not low portal usage, but low patient engagement. How do we drive higher engagement? By using best-in-breed solutions to augment your portal. Here are the top five reasons why you should seriously consider augmenting your patient portal:

1. Add-on solutions create multiple access points
Lets face it, there is not one standard way patients engage. Engagement varies based on the persona of the patient. By using solutions that augment the portal, you can engage patients from whichever method they prefer. Google search? No problem. Some solutions such as online appointment scheduling, can integrate a scheduling widget directly into the Google search page. This is also the case for other search websites such as Yahoo, Bing, Yellow Pages, etc. With an EMR-provided patient portal, the only place you can catch the attention of the patient is the health system website. By being everywhere your patients are, particularly when they are seeking care, you are engaging them on pathways they user and trust. 

2. The Primary goal of patient engagement is better health outcomes, a close second is driving loyalty for your brand
The more you put your brand out there, the more it will become recognized and top of mind. Repetition is key for brand recall. We all know the Kaisers and Mayos of the world, and that is because they are good at spreading the word about everything they do whether it is cutting edge research, acquisitions or the utilization of breakthrough medical technology. These health systems know that the more they expose and repeat their brand across the healthcare ecosystem, patients will position their brand as synonymous with quality healthcare. Therefore, the more patients see your brand, the more that their brain will register your brand as top of mind when it comes to healthcare. It is all about repetition. Your patient portal currently doesn’t have the means to expose the brand across the consumer marketplace. It only lives within your EMR and on your health system website.

3. The name best-in-breed says it all: they are the best at what they do
The pendulum has swung way too far towards standardizing your application stack. Your EMR is probably decent across the board. It has to be. Since it has to cover all of the bases, it is spread pretty thin. This is great when trying to cover the entire IT infrastructure of an entire hospital or health system but it leaves little room for specialization. This is where add-on solutions come into the picture because they are primarily focused on one area and are expert solutions within that niche. Specialized solutions have the capacity to be the best in its space and truly optimize the department or process that needs to be focused on. Your patient portal wasn’t designed to be specialized. It was an afterthought. It was created to capitalize on a federal mandate.

To put this into perspective, let’s use surgery as an example. I bet you would not go to a general surgeon for a  quadruple bypass you  would go to a cardiothoracic surgeon. Patient engagement is complex and many have failed trying to solve it. Stakes are high - You need a specialist there. 

4. Add-on solutions can increase flexibility of your EMR
Most leading EMRs were built in the last century. They were originally designed to be downloaded to a desktop and/or installed within a network, and have been slowly trying to migrate to more innovative, cloud-based platforms. That said, the chances of patients being able to use the patient portal on any device besides a desktop is slim. Luckily, cloud-based solutions that integrate with EMRs are developed and designed to be responsive. Patients have the ability to access these solutions from any device whether it be a smart phone or a tablet. You can improve engagement by being at patients’ fingertips.

5. Integrated solutions increase the ROI of your huge EMR investment
By optimizing your EMR beyond its capabilities, you are getting more for your investment at a smidgen of the price you spent on your EMR. Why not make your EMR the best it can be? As long as the add-on solutions have live integrations with your EMR, it is a no-brainer to utilize these solutions to boost the success of the EMR across all departments who use it. Particularly, the revenue generating departments. For the past decade, health systems have been focused on removing costs to improve the bottom line. They haven’t wanted to spend any more money on IT after the big investment of its EMR. However, now is the time to implement long-term strategic solutions that will bring in previously untapped revenue. Various solutions allow you to capture this, such as having the ability to schedule appointments online 24/7, not just when the office is open during business hours. Your patient portal is part of the EMR package; without it being utilized fully for revenue generating purposes, it won’t impact your bottom line very much, if at all.
 

Top three ways Penn Medicine sparked the digital patient experience

Recognized as one of the nation’s best hospitals by U.S. News & World Report and as a prestigious academic medical institution, University of Pennsylvania Health System (Penn Medicine) sought out a way to better connect their physicians to the modern patient. In coordination with Clinical Care Associates, Penn Medicine’s employed primary and specialty care physician group, the organization saw the immediate need to improve patient access, attract new patients, and increase patient retention.
 
Strategy #1 - Connect patients to their providers: Allow for accurate patient navigation through patient-provider matching based on provider scheduling protocols that are specific to operational and clinical workflows.
In working side-by-side with Penn operations and the scheduling team, DocASAP was able to develop Penn Medicine specific criteria to navigate the patient to the correct physician and appointment time during the scheduling process. “It was not only important for us to keep the experts at DocASAP accountable for developing these complex workflows for our primary care and specialty physicians, but we had to take a detailed look into our entire scheduling protocols and processes,” said Ronald Barg, MD, executive director, Clinical Care Associates.

Measurable outcome: Within less than a month, the online scheduling platform was up and running. The health system started seeing appointment bookings from the very beginning and saw the continuation of a drastic increase of appointments per physician every month. 

Strategy #2 - Increase reach: Expand and digitize access and availability for the modern patient through digital applications and websites that patients use and trust.
Penn Medicine made its EMR implementation and utilization a top priority by utilizing Epic’s scheduling module for existing patients, Epic MyChart. While this solution sufficed for existing patients through its portal, MyPennMedicine, DocASAP provided Penn Medicine, with a tool to draw in new patients and reach patients from diverse digital pathways, such as Google. An online scheduling widget was embedded into the Penn Medicine website so that once patients found the correct physician for their clinical needs, they could book an appointment instantly.

Measurable outcome: 34% of appointments were booked after-hours, adding additional appointments and incremental revenue that the health system would have not realized without the online appointment scheduling system. Additionally, 65% of patients were new patients brought to the health system through DocASAP. Penn Medicine responded to the modern “consumer-patient” by expanding online availability across more access points and more providers, better capturing patient demand.

Strategy #3 - Optimize day-to-day business: Utilize an analytics platform that enables deep insights for optimizing operational processes to better align the care delivery to patient demand.
In utilizing the DocASAP big data analytics platform, the operations team at Penn Medicine is able to measure patient behavior (demand), such as what visit reasons patients are seeking and when patients need an appointment, and match it with physician availability (supply), such as where schedules are blocked and/or showing limited availability. The robust analytics platform identifies mismatches between supply and demand or lost opportunities such as when patients were unable to schedule because the physician was booked and/or patients were unable to schedule because online booking was not offered. This comprehensive analytics tool has allowed the number of bookings to increase by at least 160% annually because the appointment per physician rate more than doubles each year.

Measurable outcome: 50% of appointments are booked within a week which helps fill the empty time slots and indicates that patients seek near term appointments. Since availability is shown three months out and patients are booking within a week, it shows that patients are opting for appointment times that may not be ideal but booking due to limited availability to get in that week. In making this holistic view into available time slots in real-time for the patient, appointment times are filled that would not be otherwise filled, resulting in missed revenue.

Want to learn more about these and other strategies that Penn Medicine used to reform patient access and engagement? Click HERE to read the full case study on how Penn Medicine and DocASAP meet the demand of the modern patient through online appointment scheduling.
 

Does your organization run a risk of patient loyalty liability?

According to a recent Accenture Study, the providers in the healthcare industry have low loyalty metrics, making them vulnerable to patients switching to competing health systems. Many patients, roughly 40% only stay with their current providers because they view switching as difficult. However, this lack of wanting to switch does not make them loyal.

As the healthcare industry explores and expands its digital capabilities and technologies, health data sharing and access has drastically improved. Health systems that digitize access (i.e. electronic health records (EHRs), online appointment scheduling, patient portals) are more attractive to the modern patient. These capabilities not only increase patient access to providers, but also make it easier for the patient to switch providers if they are unhappy with the quality of service provided. One combatant to this is the power of personal recommendations. According to the study, 44% of patients choose their provider based on personal recommendations, a percentage which is higher than any other industry. However, patients are less likely to advocate for their healthcare providers and are twice as likely to complain about their providers.

So, do you make your patients loyal?

Strategy #1: Give your patients a reason to stay. 
Implement methods that expand your brand awareness and market reach on websites that patients use and trust, such as Google. Providing an easy point of access through online appointment scheduling is a powerful tactic because it removes the hassle of booking an appointment which is the first step in getting the patient in the front door.

Strategy #2: Empower patients to be proactive in recommendations.
The traditional comment card tactic is still alive today. It’s in a more digital format but it’s still an effective method to garner feedback and incorporate it into your everyday business processes. Allowing patients to leave reviews and feedback on the provider who delivered care via a digital pathway or the more traditional comment card route will help your organization improve and become more efficient because you are hearing exactly what the patient wants.

Strategy #3: Let the road lead to you.
Making it easy for patients to find you will improve their perception of your health system. The more you can modernize the access to your organization, the easier it will be to retain patients. By streamlining one of the most hassling parts of a care visit, scheduling the appointment, patients will view your organization as forward-thinking and proactive to their needs.

Welcome to Spark!

We are happy to see you here! We hope to turn a little spark into a mighty flame with this thought leadership forum. Our main goal is to create the spark in healthcare that allows for innovative process improvements, best practices, and informed opinions on recent healthcare trends. 

We will spark your thought process through extensive thought leadership from some of the most influential industry and subject matter experts. The healthcare topics we will be sparking about include:

  • Overcoming the many challenges that are faced daily
  • Being proactive with growing consumerism
  • Disrupting the traditional through nontraditional synergies and strategies
  • Sharing opinions on recent trends and current topics
     

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