healthcaretechoutlook

The Strategic Role of Health Information Technology Systems in Modern Health

By Jake Dorst, CIO, Tahoe Forest Hospital District

Jake Dorst, CIO, Tahoe Forest Hospital District

HITS for care providers and health systems have focused on taking care of patients when they arrive at facilities with an illness, then reporting to insurance payers for payment for services– supporting the volume based fee for service legacy business model. Now, providers are gradually taking on financial risk for these populations being served in a shift to value based care. HITS must mirror this shift by increasing focus and support efforts to keep populations healthy and prevent illness. Three strategies to explore that are part of the new HITS shift to value based care include:

Strategy One: Think Customer not Patient

Legacy HITS has been focused primarily on efficiency of operations supporting the business of health care or more specifically the diagnoses and treatment of illness.   In this scenario, the individual receiving services is considered the patient and the illness takes center stage.  As such, the HITS platforms in place are needed to keep track of the diagnosis (EHR, PACS, etc.), treatment (e-prescribing, tele-medicine, remote monitoring, etc.) and payment of services.  In the world of value based care the need to maintain these systems will still exist, but there are also tremendous opportunities to engage individuals about their health. 

As we broaden the relationship with our customers to one of health, and not just health care, it becomes increasingly important to think of all dimensions of the customer. At times throughout life (albeit infrequently) they will be a “patient”; however, the majority of the time our customers won’t define themselves as a patient, they will identify themselves as a mother, a student, an employee, an athlete or other role within their community. Each of these identities has inherent responsibilities and challenges with maintaining health. The mother might be challenged by making sure her family has a healthy meal for dinner.  The employee might be worried about deadlines at work and the associated stress from meeting those deadlines.  The athlete might be concerned about avoiding injury or maximizing performance.  In each case, it’s the multitude of choices that our customers make every day that will have a meaningful impact on their long term health. 

"HITS services will empower the health professional to put the “care” back into health care"

It’s within these daily challenges to maintain health that HITS can play a critical role in not only supporting our customers daily health through such things as community wellness programs driven by mobile, easy to use digital engagement  programs, but also by gaining valuable insights into our customers greatest needs with regards to health.  As we develop a deeper relationship with our customer we no longer see them as just the sum of their illnesses, but as a person.   

Strategy Two: Think Daily not Episodic 

Modern businesses across all industries are migrating from being exclusively transactional businesses to customer service or customer engagement businesses as well.  You don’t have to look back too far to a time where Apple was just a hardware company and Nike was just a shoe company.  In the past decade, while still selling products as part of their core business, both companies have made tremendous efforts to become part of their customer’s lives every day.  The iPod without iTunes would have been just another MP3 player.  The iPhone without the App Store would have been just another smart phone.  Nike introduced Nike+ and with it created a daily connection to tens of millions of their customers.  Yes, these companies made great products, but it was the understanding of the value of daily connections with customers and the ability to create experiences that surrounded their brands that extended their reach into the market allowing them to not only grow their business, but gain further insights into their customer needs which in turn allowed them to create even better products. 

The modern health care provider will integrate lessons from other industries into their businesses and explore ways they can create compelling consumer experiences around their brand.  Mobile first designs that integrate seamlessly into our customers daily activities, extending the reach of health coaches and care professionals, connecting family caregivers and communities of like-minded patients. These are all examples of ways evolved HITS will support their organizations in building enduring relationships with their customers.  When the need arises for legacy health care services, customers will seek the organization with which they have the strongest relationship. 

Strategy Three: Think face time not Facebook 

Some of the greatest opportunities for HITS will be behind the scenes and never directly experienced by the customer. These HITS services will empower the health professional to put the “care” back into health care.  The modern health consumer seeks care that is personal, easy to access and cost effective.  Yet, the current demands for such things as documentation can lead to health care professionals spending upwards of 30–50 percent of their time in front of a computer and not interacting directly with and providing care to the customer. 

The insights gleaned about customers through daily health engagement platforms will provide the opportunity to develop highly accurate customer segmentation allowing health care providers to better deliver the right services to the right customers at the right time.  Additionally, the evolution of open and interoperable information systems have the potential to automate many of the time intensive tasks that burden the care provider today further freeing their time to meet with the customer.  

Conclusion 

HITS alone will not lead the transformation of health into the modern era of value based care.  The services supported by HITS now and in the near future have never been more important to the organization, but need to be part of a global strategy for the organization that supports both optimized legacy health care services as well as extends the reach of the organization into the community and into their customer’s lives. The integration of information and understanding of the whole person (their medical data, their lifestyle data, their personal preferences) will create a deep understanding of the customer allowing the health care professional to deliver value in ways historically unimaginable leading to reduced overall costs, improved clinical outcomes and improved long term health in our communities.