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HIT Think Why digital transformation is crucial for healthcare providers

  • March 01 2018, 5:43pm EST

In some respects, the future of healthcare is already here. There are ground-breaking treatments and medications that were unimaginable a few years ago. Researchers are exploring how nanotechnology can be used to deliver lifesaving medications, and robots are assisting surgeons in the operating room.

While the future of healthcare is here, unfortunately, it continues to get more expensive every year. A few days ago, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) announced its healthcare expenditures forecast for the next eight years. CMS expects U.S. health spending to increase by 5.5 percent every year until 2026, when the dollar amount for care is estimated to hit a staggering $5.7 trillion. From this data, it’s clear that healthcare will remain expensive.

While CMS cites several contributing factors, the “increases in prices for medical goods and services” impacts many people directly. This price surge has not gone unnoticed by healthcare consumers, who are already challenging the healthcare industry status quo as they read and post online reviews of providers and hospitals, search for care by quality and price, and generally push healthcare to become akin to an online retail experience.

Unfortunately, many of the systems that run healthcare today are expensive, cumbersome, outdated and rely heavily on costly and often inaccurate manual processes; nothing like their retail counterparts. If there’s to be a significant change in the future of healthcare—one that lowers costs while improving access to and quality of care—a digital transformation must be made.

The challenge inherent in building a system that involves healthcare stakeholders—care providers, payers and healthcare consumers—is deciding which areas should be influenced. A unified healthcare ecosystem, however, has but one purpose—to deliver the best, most effective and appropriate care in a cost-effective way to the patient.

Even with today’s many technologies, getting there won’t happen in a day, a month or even a year. It won’t occur by using a single methodology or solitary technology. Interoperability is needed across all healthcare stakeholders to effectively plan, execute and pay for services. The ability to view clinical data internally is deemed extremely important by 70 percent of healthcare executives, and 50 percent of those executives say its extremely important to view clinical data externally, according to a new HFMA report. Today, unfortunately, most systems don’t have the ability to talk to one another, which is why it’s so important to support the digital transformation of healthcare.

An effective way to accomplish this imposing task is by converting medical practices to fully digital organizations with the ability to accept and manage financial risk, integrate disparate software systems to improve efficiencies, build value-based care programs and optimize the entire revenue cycle.

This plan will help providers:

  • Transform healthcare into a fully digital enterprise.
  • Increase acceptance and management of financial risk.
  • Integrate new and legacy IT systems to improve operational efficiency and stability, and improve patient outcomes.
  • Enable care and payment model transformation to establish and manage value-based reimbursement models and care programs.
  • Leverage products and services to optimize a fully electronic revenue cycle, and introduce new cost transparency and healthcare consumerism concepts.

Making the digital transformation won’t be easy, and most providers will benefit from outside assistance. Organizations that make the successful transitions will be well-positioned after they achieve digital transformation.

Whether the fully digital healthcare model emerges in the not-too-distant future remains an unknown. However, building a digital healthcare infrastructure and utilizing the myriad resources that are its foundation is a step in the right direction to help keep healthcare dollars from being wasted through inefficiency or suboptimal care.

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