By Lance Burton, President
We’re at a tipping point in American Healthcare. Wait…let’s take a step back. If you work in a hospital, you’ve likely accepted it already. You’ve likely learned to live with the frustration…learned how to get around it. And perhaps you’ve been at it so long, you no longer recognize a fundamental truth of healthcare in the United States.
The fact is, when things don’t change over long periods of time, acceptance sets in. What are truly significant challenges start to become “the way it is.”
And when this complacency sets in…when the current state is accepted as the way it is?
That’s when quality suffers the most.
That’s when costs get out of control.
That’s when chaos reigns.
Oh, don’t get me wrong…no one actually accepts the challenges as how it must be.
There are no hands thrown in the air.
No one gives up trying to improve healthcare.
That would be silly and insulting.
The fact is, the healthcare industry at-large is made up of people that care deeply. But, thanks to a relatively recent phenomenon, no matter what’s done to improve healthcare quality, results are much tougher to realize than they have to be.
So, what’s this phenomenon? Why did it happen? And How does it present itself?
I’m glad you asked…
It’s true of any industry these days, but especially so in healthcare. Technology has evolved so quickly that today, individuals have the ability to buy, install, and use advanced technology in mere minutes. What ten years ago seemed like science fiction is today almost outdated.
This incredible rate of innovation has helped us make huge strides in healthcare, from allowing patients to be seen—live—by specialists located across the country…to capturing real-time patient data, comparing it to historical trends, and predicting complications so they may be addressed before they present themselves…and everything in between.
And, that ease of acquisition has created a nightmare for health system CIOs.
With so many different monitors, systems, algorithms, and devices already in place, CIOs now have to worry about the next new thing.
All of this innovation is fantastic…
…until you have to make it work together.
…until you need to update it or upgrade it or change anything.
…until chaos reigns.
This clearly seems like an IT problem, right?
It’s integration! It’s interoperability! Get on it, CIO!
Well, let’s take a look at some issues this accidental architecture can cause:
You may not have considered all of these IT problems, but perhaps after reading on, you’ll change your tune.
CLINICAL: Clinician Frustration
The patient experience has been a quality measure for some time….and for good reason! But, the clinician experience? It’s played second fiddle…
But, when the clinician experience is so closely tied to outcomes…so closely tied to the patient experience, it has to be a focus.
Let’s take a step back.
The IHI Triple Aim has been a measure and guide for quality in the hospital since it was developed in 2007. Created to help health systems, “… improve the patient care experience, improve the health of a population, and reduce per capita healthcare costs at the same time…” the Triple Aim has but a single purpose: Improve the quality of healthcare delivered.
And when you stop and consider this, it makes sense.
Improving the Patient Care Experience is obviously 100% about the patient. And, improving the patient experience is directly tied to the next part of the Triple Aim…
Improving the Health of a Population. Population health management is largely about moving to value-based care…about reducing risk from populations…and about better outcomes. It’s all driven by:
Reducing per Capita Healthcare Costs. When healthcare costs are reduced, the ability to deliver high-quality care is enhanced. Lower costs lead to better outcomes in this regard.
Today, many have instituted a fourth: The Quadruple Aim adds Improving the Clinician Experience to the Triple Aim of improved patient experience, better outcomes, and lower costs.
A lot has been made of clinician burnout, and for good reason. One key component lies in the access to complete patient data at the precise point it will make a difference! Clinicians today are dependent on the EMR and hundreds (if not thousands) of supplemental technologies.
And from all this tech, clinicians struggle to access more than 1% of patient data. Anyone in any industry would get frustrated if the very tools needed to help meet goals failed to provide the most up-to-date information. Clinicians today should have more information than ever, but access to it is fleeting.
And the frustration is summed up in a broken promise you’ve likely heard ad nauseum from Healthcare IT vendors for years: The right information to the right clinician at the right time.
With so many technologies running between patent monitors and the EMR, and—as we’ll touch on shortly—a longstanding lack of innovation in one particular space, most collected patient data is never accessible, let alone used to make what have been promoted for years as “the right decisions.”
Sounds frustrating, no?
OPERATIONAL: Medical Device Integration Innovation…or the lack thereof
So, what is medical device integration?
In plain language…
- It’s collecting patient data from all devices and monitors and algorithms.
- It’s aggregating all that data so it may be used.
- It’s allowing all those systems to cohabitate and work together no matter the vendor.
The thing is, medical device integration (MDI) hasn’t changed much in the last decade.
Sure…vendors have announced all sorts of new features. They’ve updated and upgraded their versions; maybe even expanded their offerings.
But, more or less, the approach of MDI vendors is all the same. And that approach results in the chaos that slows—if not stops—the beating heart of healthcare innovation.
When it comes to operations, THIS is what’s at the core of the chaos problem. Because the more your IT organization must spend maintaining all these systems, the less time exists to be strategic in their work.
And, since the approach to MDI largely has not evolved, virtually all health systems continue to slog along in acceptance, not considering there could be another way.
FINANCIAL: The IT Landscape…and its many costs
Healthcare IT is complex. (No kidding.)
And, as alluded to above, everything that comes along with it is accepted.
- All the vendors
- All the frustrations from vendor lock
- All the lack of standards in the delivery of patient data across vendors
- All the restrictions accessing comprehensive patient data
- All the challenges in gaining real clinical value
- All the barriers limiting innovation
- All the integrations
- All the support agreements
- All the testing
- All the expensive upgrades
- All the downtimes
- All the complexity
- All the rising costs
- All the challenges
- All the hassles and headaches and worries about how it’s all going to just work when it has to
It all adds up to what this article started with:
In other words, look at it this way: In any integration, there is a potential point of failure.
And when you have tens? Hundreds? (Dare I say) Thousands of integration points?
That’s tens, hundreds, or thousands of potential points of failure.
That’s not good.
And, the costs—that are largely accepted as how it has to be—really start to add up:
It’s money that could be spent on more impactful investments.
It’s resources that could be focused on more strategic initiatives.
It’s time that could be spent on more pressing matters.
Imagine what you could accomplish if you could deal with fewer vendors…fewer integration complexities…fewer support agreements…less testing.
Think about all the people who could be freed from these tasks and how they could reallocate their precious time.
Consider the impact more simplicity could have on not only the IT landscape, but your health system…your clinicians…and the patients you serve.
What would things look like if they were truly efficient?
The New Reality
So, have you accepted it?
Have you learned to live with the frustration?
Has getting around it become so commonplace, it’s just business as usual?
I’m talking about the chaos, of course.
We’re at a tipping point in American healthcare.
The chaos can’t continue if we’re going to innovate…If the system is going to persevere. If we’re going to be able to balance the growing demand of healthcare services with the supply we all know is dwindling.
At Excel Medical, we’re on a mission to tame the chaos. We hope you’ll join us.
The only way to meet this mission is working hand-in-hand.
This tipping point starts with inquisitive questions and frank conversation.
Let’s get it going.
What’s your take?