Over the past decade, Healthcare providers have moved to a point where their internal operations have transitioned to a platform of systems and automation. Finance has been systems-based for a long time, and areas such as HR, Supply Chain, and the rest of the Revenue Cycle have followed. With the ARRA push, clinical areas completed the major areas of most Provider organizations. This transformation of the clinical areas resulted in some patient-facing interaction through patient portals and health information exchanges. Outside of patient billing and payer interactions, this represented a significant shift, and a new front along which to engage patients. However, many provider organizations were concentrating on doing the minimum necessary to meet regulatory compliance or incentives. Parallel to this, the rise of social media and the beginnings of the Internet of Things, allowed marketing and outreach efforts to engage patients in new ways. In an important third parallel stream, consumerism has been on the rise fueled by intuitive and valuable personal technology.
While the CIO has been contending with all of these streams and more individually, there has not been a concerted effort to look at the complete experience that is emerging. I would draw parallels to the Facilities environment at most Health Systems. For years, we have worked to create as friendly an experience as possible around parking, signage, wayfinding, look and feel, vertical and horizontal transport, etc. In other words, we have taken a complex and often fragmented physical plant, and invested time, effort, and dollars in making it friendly to patients. We even created patient transport departments. It is fairly common to float bonds and reserve the majority of capital budgets for facilities improvements. It helps that the Patient Satisfaction scores contain this element, but I foresee this including the virtual environment to a greater degree going forward. Today, the first impression, and the first engagement of patients is often virtual. What do your public-facing scorecards look like? What does your virtual campus (or separate clinical locations) look like? Can you perform common patient functions (reg, sched, education, refills, payment, e-visits, etc) virtually and seamlessly? Do patients have to repeatedly provide the same information at various sites in your system? Most importantly, is there a plan for how to move to a more seamless and patient-friendly experience?
While patient portals, reminder systems, billing systems, and various other patient-facing elements are increasingly present, they often do not represent the kind of experience that your organization has probably spent millions to create on a physical level. A significant portion of your patient population, and probably the majority in most cases, have growing expectations that healthcare will close the gap to fairly common virtual capabilities in other industries. The CIO, knowing the existing systems, industry capabilities, integration opportunities, and the gaps, is once again uniquely positioned to lead or to play a leading role in this critical transformation.