In a new era led by patients as consumers, technology advancements are proliferating and reshaping the delivery of healthcare. Expectations of expanded access, transparent pricing, and greater convenience call for significant investments in technological innovations. Technology also provides opportunities for providers to improve the quality and safety of care and to lower costs. How do organizations develop and use new technology, and how do they measure the value of their investments? What innovative business models will drive the development or adoption of new technology?
To compete in the healthcare marketplace, innovative hospitals and health systems must develop a foundational information infrastructure, starting with and building on the electronic health record (EHR). Their platform must support interoperability for data exchange, predictive analytics, and data integrity and security. It must also support population health management and care coordination; the use of digital wireless devices and wearable sensors; and e-mail, social media, web-based portals, and mobile apps. Tools and technology are necessary to engage consumers, communicate effectively, facilitate service provision, and demonstrate quality and safety, as well as to support new models of care delivery.
This issue of Frontiers of Health Services Management shows how organizations—large and small, urban and rural—have developed and applied technology to reach patients as consumers and provide their care where and when they need it. Telemedicine, telehealth, e-consultations, physician e-visits, patient engagement apps, and direct-care delivery apps are just a few of the solutions that are changing the delivery of care in a significant way.
Based in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, Avera Health is nationally recognized for its progressive approach to the development and use of technology. In their feature article, Judy Blauwet, FACHE, and Mandy Bell describe Avera's innovation development processes, telehealth network and service lines, on-demand electronic access care model, electronic dashboard for monitoring care, care team communication system, and enterprise EHR. The impressive success of Avera is built on a culture of innovation to improve access, quality of care, and operational efficiency.
Feature article author Michael A. Franklin, FACHE, provides an overview of investments and advancements in technology at Atlantic General Hospital (AGH) in Berlin, Maryland. Through strategic planning, prioritization of investments, and collaboration with other hospitals, AGH has developed technology-based solutions such as Maryland eCare to improve intensive care and a smartphone app for sharing emergency room wait times. Technology investment has helped AGH to achieve its quality and cost-control goals, ensure access to care by filling gaps in physician coverage, implement evidence-based best practices, and maintain independence as a community hospital—in short, to change how the organization delivers healthcare.
In her commentary, Mary Lou Mastro, FACHE, describes the Edward-Elmhurst Health EHR platform and enterprise data warehouse as “foundational to system enhancements in quality, cost, and population health.” She explains how technology drives clinical and financial efficiencies at one of the largest systems in Illinois. According to Mastro, “Technology is an invaluable asset to the delivery of safe, efficient, and effective care.”
In his commentary, Warner L. Thomas, FACHE, shares how Ochsner Health System in New Orleans, Louisiana, adopts technology to deliver and transform healthcare and meet the needs of patients and staff. Ochsner continually assesses technology opportunities to improve outcomes and reduce costs. Thomas concludes, “We all must continue to disrupt ourselves and proactively integrate innovative change before we get disrupted by others. In doing so, we are leading the future of healthcare so that patients can benefit and live happier and healthier lives.”
Commentator Thomas E. Skorup, FACHE, of the ECRI Institute, draws from his organization's scientific research approach to technology and innovation as he examines how technology advancements such as those at Avera Health and AGH can lead to quality improvement and cost reduction. He takes a cautionary tone in discussing the importance of structured planning programs in identifying, assessing, implementing, and measuring the value of new technology. “Without a compelling value proposition, new technology warrants a healthy dose of skepticism until proven,” Skorup advises.
To thrive under value-based reimbursement, hospitals and health systems must work with consumers as partners in preventing disease and readmissions, as well as in promoting and maintaining better health. Technology is absolutely necessary for achieving these goals and driving transformation.