Crafting the digital front door: How Cone Health is pushing forward IT investments

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When the COVID-19 pandemic began, Ben Patel, CIO of Cone Health, rallied his team in support of the Greensboro, N.C.-based health system's fast changing IT priorities.

To comply with social distancing requirements posed by the pandemic, Mr. Patel zeroed in on the operational side of Cone Health's business. As employees transitioned to remote work, he and his team stood up virtual desktop, video conferencing, team collaboration and COVID-19 self-assessment capabilities along with predictive models to provide open channels of communications throughout the organization, he told Becker's Hospital Review.

While Mr. Patel and his team were focused on supporting employees' virtual and tech-related needs, the IT division was also responsible for outfitting the health system's new COVID-19 hospital, which opened April 13 at the former Cone Health Women's Hospital in Greensboro. Once the pandemic hit, the IT team's immediate priority was to equip the new Green Valley campus with network connectivity, telehealth carts for virtual care, iPads for patients, biomedical and point of care devices, along with robots for research.

"In the short term, we focused heavily on supporting all COVID-19-related efforts from a technology perspective, while not losing sight of those IT initiatives that were high priorities prior to COVID-19," Mr. Patel said, adding that his team was also very busy installing enterprise platforms for virtual care, which accounted for approximately 60 percent of patient visits during the peak of the pandemic.

As Mr. Patel now looks ahead to long-term IT investments, the biggest needs fall into three main categories: digital transformation, artificial intelligence/analytics and digital workforce enablement. Relative to customer acquisition and activation, health systems must craft targeted initiatives by prioritizing digital outreach and engagement investments to strategically attract patients based upon their profiles. 

Digitizing the consumer experience is a key component of Mr. Patel's consumer engagement strategy at Cone Health.  His team is developing a personalized digital front door approach, or engagement strategy, to provide omni channel access to a wide breadth of health services not just for patients and consumers, but also physicians and care managers across the health system.

"We're incorporating a digital front door to provide the optimal digital experience for our consumers and patients to engage with us at every touch point along the healthcare journey via mobile, social media, web portal, text, email or any modality of community-driven platforms," Mr. Patel said.

By digitizing engagement and care management, Mr. Patel and his team are developing a system of insight which aggregates clinical and patient encounter data to provide a comprehensive view of the patient that enables the health system to improve care experiences and health outcomes. This empowers Cone Health to better plan for business operations relative to revenue projections, digital engagement and identifying new care models and service lines.

"Drawing on consumer data insights provides capabilities for health systems to better recognize the needs of their communities and deploy resources to address patients' social determinants of health requirements," Mr. Patel said. Applying advanced analytics and AI to these use cases, as well as precision medicine, virtual care expansion, automation, e-commerce and digital command centers are all initiatives that Cone Health has included in their strategic plan.

"These are incredibly exciting initiatives, and we are embracing the future with our digital front door strategy and creation of the 360-degree patient view to ensure that we are always engaging our patients and consumers with the most impactful and meaningful experience possible," Mr. Patel said.   

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