Healthcare operations leaders hold the key to an integrated enterprise

In healthcare, frameworks such as the Institute for Healthcare Improvement’s groundbreaking Triple Aim and the Quadruple Aim provide guiding points to optimize health system performance. The goals are common to all health systems and include better outcomes, lower costs, improved patient experience, improved clinician experience, workforce well-being and safety, and the advancement of health equity.

But achieving these aims requires steady and strong healthcare operations governance by healthcare leaders. And that requires integrated, enterprise technology.

There’s much work to be done to achieve the truly connected healthcare enterprise: Ponemon Institute surveyed 554 IT and IT security professionals in healthcare companies and found that each organization had an average of 1,320 vendors under contract. Most of those vendors offer siloed point solutions that don’t connect with one another or other applications.

In a hospital or a health system, three core systems are used every day. One is the EHR, which provides the clinical backbone. The second is the revenue cycle solution, which manages finances, and the third is the enterprise resource planning (ERP) solution, which manages day-to-day business operations.

If you imagine each of those as the lines of a triangle, the area in the center is the hospital operations space, where these components come together to facilitate day-to-day business. Healthcare operations leaders and their teams touch all of healthcare’s priorities: Elevate patient care delivery, contain costs, maintain compliance, increase revenue, support a burned-out workforce and foster healthier communities.

An organization’s culture, leaders, workforce composition, technological capabilities and other factors affect where enterprise connections will and won’t bond. But the logical starting point is to identify and make crucial connections using enterprise healthcare operations software technology. Doing so will make every healthcare operations job easier.

Objectives and outcomes of healthcare operations

These day-in-the-life scenarios of healthcare operations leaders reflect common outcomes goals:

  • A supply chain administrator requires unbiased, evidence-based data to identify value and potential savings in contracts, products and services purchased.
  • A CNO must align patient care goals with the workforce’s well-being. This requires clinical communication and easy-to-use collaboration tools that help providers.
  • The leader of the combined quality and medical staff services department strives to use provider data to aid in compliance, safety and quality as it historically has. But now there are also expectations to use the data to mine revenue.
  • The chief compliance officer must translate for colleagues the impact and risks of failing to comply with federal and state regulations and accreditors, and the organization’s own bylaws, policies and procedures.
  • The CTO/CIO bears the weight of defining and delivering the technical strategy of the entire organization. This is a difficult task made harder by cybersecurity threats and other physician and virtual access challenges.

Addressing these objectives will require digital transformation that relies on transparency, connectivity and security. Similar to the many benefits that new, streamlined technologies have brought to other industries, digital transformation has the potential to significantly improve healthcare by modernizing and streamlining areas such as clinical communications, the EHR, workforce management, provider data management, access and vendor management, spend and contracting, and more. We can improve all of this with the ability to interoperate between all of them in a connected fashion that supports the deficiencies of one with value from another.

For example, technological inefficiency is a leading and well-known cause of burnout among healthcare workers and staff. An astounding 60 percent of physicians say they’re burned out by administrative tasks. And nursing shortages and the pandemic have exacerbated staffing issues across the industry. Thirty-two percent of registered nurses surveyed in November 2021 said they may leave their current direct-patient-care role, according to McKinsey & Company.

However, the right technology can provide hospitals with more efficient and seamless workflows for behind-the-scenes activity and take much of the administrative burden off of healthcare workers.

Areas ripe for transformation and more disciplined data management include the elimination of duplicate data entry, inefficient workflows, multiple logins, and cumbersome, slow technology. A symplr survey of more than 200 provider data management leaders (directors and above) found 51 percent use at least five or more applications to do their job on any given day. Improved solutions that work with the healthcare workforce will enable staff to spend more time where it matters most — with patients or to better serve their patient-facing colleagues.

A deeper dive: How an API gateway enables an integrated enterprise

Having an application programming interface within each solution and across a product portfolio allows solutions to connect with one another, as well as the larger ecosystem around them. This enables exchange of the necessary information to be more efficient and effective.

Creating a connected enterprise starts with an API that enables data movement, workflows and proactive events across the systems’ technology ecosystem. The integrated enterprise system gives leaders and their teams a gateway to improve collaboration, consolidation and communication across the system. That equates to better resource utilization and higher reliability, to name just two advantages. Every authorized user gets a one-stop shop to locate all the data their system holds on a particular facility, vendor, person, contract or regulation.

If a healthcare operations leader requires information on a specific healthcare provider, that leader must first locate the data that the system hosts or accesses on that provider: credentials, current privileges, performance improvement data for quality and reappointment, employment contract, HR and payroll data, payer-panel inclusion, directory information for scheduling, and more.

Through the API, healthcare operations leaders gain a seamless way to ask for data without having to go to singular standalone software products or modules one by one. The data that’s returned in any search is accurate and uses industry standard terminology, ultimately improving productivity for these leaders and their teams.

Don’t forget security, configuration and communication

It’s mandatory for any system in healthcare to maintain a strong security mechanism to bar unauthorized access. In the connected enterprise, authorized users are granted a set of security credentials to allow secure access to the API gateway. In any model of API communications, auditing of access is a key component to ensure the safety of the data along with record keeping of who, what and when data was accessed.

The configuration of the API gateway is what enables a healthcare organization to specify the modules — and therefore the data — a user can access. Configuration is specific to an organization, so customized constructs can be made to reflect the health system’s data prioritization.

Finally, by referencing communication in an enterprise healthcare operations software, we simply mean the “flow” that creates the entry point into a program. Using our provider data management example, this would be the clinician’s onboarding workflow, through contracting, credentialing, reappointment and updating a patient-facing directory listing, for example.

When striving to integrate different environments, configurations and software solutions of varying ages and maturities from different vendors, use the following three-step approach to emerge successful.

  1. Unify the user experience. Users should experience a universal look and feel across the organization, even with solutions that have been acquired through mergers and acquisitions. While this is a large undertaking and cannot happen overnight, making small changes over time can create that unified experience customers are looking for. This also can protect against any major disruptions to service.
  2. Connect workflows. Once a common look and feel is achieved and products have a universal API infrastructure, activities in one product can trigger a response or workflow in another. This level of autonomy behind the scenes will drive overall efficiency for the product portfolio and improve the user experience.
  3. Use enterprise analytics. Enterprise analytics and reporting provide a core service to aggregate data across the product portfolio and create a centralized data source. By leveraging aggregated data, analytics platforms can serve up new insights that might not have been possible in solutions composed of siloed, disparate systems, especially when they’re point solutions from various vendors.

In today’s complex healthcare enterprises, leaders are making progress using better-connected data to achieve better outcomes, for all participants. They’re using enterprise healthcare operations software to solve immediate, real-world problems and take a uniform, high-reliability and human-centered approach to healthcare operations.

With the right enterprisewide solutions, healthcare operations leaders can integrate technologies to improve operation speed and resiliency while supporting clinicians.  

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