COVID-19 has placed a significant strain on the healthcare industry over the last two years. The current labor shortage, the growing workload, and changing patient expectations have created an increased need for innovative solutions. Technology has played a significant role in helping leaders tackle some of the toughest challenges in the industry today. Many leading organizations have already realized the benefits of digital tools. They have started adopting these solutions to streamline workflows and create patient-centric experiences. Although there are many approaches to tackling these new challenges, there are five key ways we have seen organizations leverage technology to enable transformation successfully.
1. Increasing Patient Access to Care
Many patients today struggle with barriers that prevent them from accessing healthcare resources.
- 3.6 million Americans do not receive medical care due to a lack of transportation (1).
- Another 60 million patients live in rural areas with limited medical resources (2).
- About 40 percent of the growing elderly population have a disability that impacts mobility (3).
These are just a few of the top barriers to access many patients face today, and they all have something in common. Each of these barriers can be addressed using telehealth and virtual visit platforms.
The recent pandemic caused many organizations to quickly adopt these tools in 2019 to keep up with fluctuating restrictions and patient needs. These tools significantly improved patient care during the beginning of the pandemic. However, there was another benefit healthcare leaders did not expect. Telehealth helped give access to millions of patients facing long-standing barriers to care. As we move forward into a new year and organizations begin to discuss their plans for 2022, many expect telehealth platforms to stay. This is not surprising if you consider the number of patients who now have access to care or that about 40 percent of patients in a recent survey shared they plan to continue using telehealth services in the future (4).
2. Preventing Staff Burnout
The number of healthcare professionals dealing with burnout has skyrocketed since the start of the pandemic. Between 60 and 75 percent of clinicians recently reported symptoms of exhaustion. What is more alarming is that about 20 percent of healthcare professionals have quit during the last two years, intensifying the strain on the remaining workforce (5). This has left organizations struggling to find ways to better support their current staff.
For many organizations, technology has been a significant part of their strategy in addressing burnout. The adoption of healthcare chatbot platforms has helped them create more efficient workflows and reduce their employees' workload. For example, a healthcare organization overwhelmed with COVID-19 tests recently used chatbot technology to deliver patient test results. By leveraging automation, they streamlined the entire workflow and significantly reduced the workload of their staff. They were able to deliver results twice as fast, with half the personnel freeing up more time to spend with patients.
3. Improving the Flow of Communication
Effective and secure communication is essential to delivering quality patient care. Delays in communication, language barriers, and miscommunication in care transitions directly impact care outcomes. Unfortunately, these scenarios still occur all too often. However, organizations can significantly reduce them by integrating the right digital tools. Digital platforms that enable secure texting prevent the risk of a data breach while enabling streamlined clinical collaboration. Healthcare chatbots can deliver care guidelines to patients in different languages. Digital platforms can also use them to capture signatures and securely exchange documentation.
4. Addressing Healthcare Inequities
Long-standing healthcare inequities still exist today, and the recent pandemic has disproportionately impacted many underserved communities. One of the toughest challenges for organizations that have prioritized cultural competence is that there is no one-size-fits-all solution to health equity. The barriers these communities face are often unique and complex. However, many organizations have had success in developing effective strategies that include the use of digital platforms.
For example, the Hispanic Health Coalition of Georgia uses a multi-lingual chatbot to help community members securely schedule COVID-19 vaccination appointments. The chatbot also helps patients that lack transportation sign up for ride-share services.
5. Creating a Patient-Centric Experience
Creating a patient-centered experience has become a top priority for many health systems. This is not surprising if you consider the following facts.
- 96 percent of healthcare consumers perceive patient experience as an essential factor when selecting a healthcare provider (6).
- According to a study by Accenture, hospitals with better patient experience ratings tend to have 50 percent higher profit margins than average scoring hospitals (7).
Leveraging digital tools can help health systems create a more patient-centric and convenient experience. Streamlining clinical workflows by enabling patient self-scheduling, appointment reminders, and remote symptom checkers can significantly improve patient experiences. These digital tools reduce wait times, help patients get answers faster, and lead to greater satisfaction.
Although COVID-19 has brought new challenges to the healthcare industry, organizations leveraging technology have seen incredible results. Digital transformation has been critical in developing effective strategies. These digital tools create operational efficiency and patient-centric experiences. Learn more about how innovative technologies enable transformation by reading our blog post, What is Conversational AI and How is it transforming healthcare?
Brittanie is a passionate marketing specialist and content creator from Washington state. She has a background in both education and healthcare. Brittanie enjoys researching, crafting, and sharing stories that highlight how modern technology is transforming the healthcare industry.
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