Digitalizing Healthcare Delivery

By Karl Macklin,
Director, Access & Engagement, Greenville Health System

Various publications have reported that the average American spends one day (24 hours) online each week. Therefore, 14 percent of your life, you are on the internet. Searching for everything from your clothing and shoes, to your favorite foods, book recommendations, and the list goes on. There are apps to assist with everything from budgeting to meditating to your wardrobe. These apps and online resources are real-time, intuitive, and easily accessible. Everywhere you go; there is free Wi-Fi available. Our lives are becoming more digital each day. Our lives, managed at our fingertips more and more each day. Many of us absolutely love it.  Technology has held up its end of the deal by evolving exponentially to become more intuitive, more user-friendly, and more integrated into real-life. This includes how inpatient and outpatient healthcare services are delivered. The development of vast Wi-Fi networks, smartphones and apps have provided the healthcare industry with a new model of care delivery and if you are a healthcare organization, you had better hop on this bandwagon as soon as possible. The bandwagon I speak of is telemedicine.

Telemedicine is the remote delivery of healthcare services, such as health assessments or consultations, over the telecommunications infrastructure. It allows healthcare providers to evaluate, diagnose and treat patients without the need for an in-person visit. Allowing patients to utilize their smartphones, tablets, and computers to better communicate, engage, and manage the delivery of their healthcare has several benefits both for the care deliverer and patient.

The use of the telecommunications infrastructure and innovation in the way we communicate securely and appropriately with our patients and each other in the healthcare field is a big opportunity. Providers are able to communicate with each other and patients for consults, referrals, securely while being HIPAA compliant. This will transform what has traditionally been a face-to-face process.

The time is now for convenience. The convenience of having on-demand care delivered to you virtually can contribute positively to productivity, work/life balance, and time management. Having an appointment from the comfort of your office or home allows for less travel time, increased access and engagement with your provider and cost savings. Another important component is the reduction of unnecessary ER and/or urgent care visits, which will also provide savings in provider costs for organizations as well. Done the right way, telemedicine can streamline everything that impacts the patient and provider experience. A few examples, are integrating your telemedicine offerings into your patient portal. Adding efficiencies and savings into your home health initiatives through virtual visits. Influencing ER readmissions by providing post-discharge clinical support via telemedicine with your clinical contact center staff.

The time is now for healthcare without geographic restrictions. Driving opportunities to deliver care into remote areas and for providers to not be bound by their office location and traditional brick and mortar. Telemedicine will revolutionize ambulatory care delivery, chronic disease management, and remote monitoring of acute care through telemedicine and call center operations. Providing the acute care and ambulatory staff the ability to focus on the in-office patient experience.

The time is now for healthcare to continue to challenge ourselves to redesign our delivery models and integrate telemedicine, digital and mobile health into our care continuum. Making virtual visits, e-monitoring, health app integration as common as stethoscopes and nurse carts. Making on-demand access and engagement the norm and focus our efforts on creating the ultimate patient/customer experience. Many industries have taken advantage of this approach and will benefit greatly as a result. I visited my first McDonalds a few weeks ago with self-ordering and the focus of the staff being to create a more service-oriented environment. I enjoyed that experience and will make that my McDonald’s of choice moving forward. There is a lot to learn from courageous organizations who anticipate and plan for a generation that will only know apps, smartphones, and UberEats.

As I travel the country, I have learned that key positions and initiatives are being developed to support this telemedicine movement. Whole departments and divisions focused on the development of a digital care delivery model. Having models that leverage intuitive algorithms and applications with live personnel support in the background is key to providing a sustainable, customer focused telemedicine environment. The use of both clinical and non-clinical support staff allow for a wide range of initiatives to have the appropriate, on-demand resources available to meet our internal and external service levels. The demand for these types of services grow each day and I would love to see healthcare organizations continue to evolve to meet that demand.

The digitalization of healthcare delivery presents very exciting opportunities for consumer,  technology industry, and providers of care services. In this new world, the marriage of healthcare and technology has tremendous upside. Maybe one day providers could even attend patient visits via hologram, like Obi Wan Kenobi from Star Wars. May the force be with us all.