Lynn Gibson, VP/Chief Technology Officer, C hristusHealth
Thanks to the COVID-19 virus and its unbelievable rapid spread throughout our world, so many things have shifted from where we were a year ago. The winds of change have swept into our world without regard to our ability to control our culture, desires, or expectations. Would any of us in September 2019 think twelve months later we would have had to make the decisions and change our processes so significantly in so many aspects of our lives, including how we are delivering healthcare?
Twenty-five years ago, the idea of technology in healthcare was limited to labs, some ancillary services, and new drugs. Expecting to have medical records, pharmaceutical interactions, or even home-based laboratory testing was something you saw in science fiction movies. Today there are apps on cell phones that provide immediate responses that once took days to come back from a laboratory process.Ten years ago, many clinicians were just beginning to incorporate the availability of immediate patient information into their practice patterns. Now it is a daily norm with high availability an expectant performance level.
Healthcare providers have had to quickly react to a number of situations that were unique but now all too common. Consider some of these challenges we have had to address and what if we did not have the technology to meet those challenges: The office visit went from loaded up waiting rooms where you could not be certain who had what when you sat down to being in your home waiting on the doctor to join. When hospitals had to limit families from visiting patients in person, imagine being told your grandbaby is born just 10 blocks away, and you cannot hold them or see your child in person who just became a first-time parent.
We have all been talking about the ascension of telehealth in the last few months. It is the artifact of so many developments in technology and its use in our world. Now the expectation of the patient, the family, the hospital executive, to the physician all of whom are now managing the individual health conditions in different ways with different expectations than they were at the beginning of 2020. Telehealth is just one technology that is making a leap into the mainstream. Other technology,such as virtualization, has quietly been making the leap that has paved the way. The role of artificial intelligence is growing throughout every aspect of healthcare delivery. The impact of mobile technology with the growing number of healthcare apps is shifting the delivery methods and with them the impact on expectations and decisions. The security issues and protecting personal health information are riding the ascension coattails with every new and greatest way to communicate between the patient and the clinician.
Successful organizations are the ones who position themselves in both infrastructure and end devices in order to meet the challenges. Preparing to deliver at the edge is not easy work regardless of the sale pitches floating around. It is more than simple equipment plug and play devices. It is changing the workflow approach, adapting your culture to acceptance, and potentially shifting your investments of time, money, and resources. Everyone has already started to adapt their approaches. Healthcare professionals now market their services, focusing on their latest and greatest technology innovations to support social distancing as well as convenience. The patient or consumer of healthcare now expects to have a technological interface before coming into a waiting room to see any caregiver in person. Both providers and patients have become more aware of their backdrops for video calls, the quality of their PC, cameras, microphones, and any other new tools that are “internet/web” enabled such as blood pressure cuffs, blood sugar monitors, and even stethoscopes.
We must be prepared for some dark sides of what we have been experiencing. There have been so many offers from different vendors to provide services, some free, some at a surprising minimal cost. Those offers will dissipate, and there will be a new pressure with new pricing and costs behind them as these companies realize they must develop new pricing models and new revenue sources. Be prepared for added service costs for using Company’s A product inside the new virtual world being supported by Company’s B environment. The challenges of new security controls will also be expected by corporate auditors and organizations that certify organizations’ integrity to protect personal information.
We are never going back to the way it was. COVID has presented us with cultural change and expectations that are changing our delivery models. The role of technology has leapfrogged from what might come to what is expected to be in use. Those who have and will be successful will wrap their strategies to what the consumer/patient will expect and will demand. It will truly be interesting to see what we are doing in 2025.