How Houston Methodist selected and implemented technology to transform its patient, provider and staff experiences

Hospitals need to innovate and transform themselves using digital technologies to meet the rising demands of today's consumers. There is no shortage of technology companies promising to help health systems get there.

During a December Becker's Hospital Review webinar sponsored by Everbridge, Roberta Schwartz, PhD, executive vice president and chief innovation officer of Houston Methodist, discussed how the organization's Center for Innovation helps select the best technologies to implement and described some recent successes.

Five key insights were:

  1. Instead of trying to predict the future, Houston Methodist focuses on customers, agility and innovation. "Customers have told us very clearly: 'Help me now, make it easy and remember me. ... I don't want to have to work to get to you,'" Dr. Schwartz said.

    Based on what customers are demanding, Houston Methodist has created a vision focused on making its experiences as seamless as consumer brands such as Amazon and Uber. "We are in an era where healthcare is quickly moving from being the Flintstones, where change hasn't occurred in a very long time, to becoming the Jetsons," Dr. Schwartz said. "The new normal of healthcare is mobile, digital, automated and value driven."

  2. Houston Methodist's Center for Innovation evaluates new offerings by conducting pilots and determining whether to implement these offerings. Innovative ideas and technologies are piloted to determine if they succeed. "At that point, opportunities either graduate from the Center for Innovation because they've proved their return on investment or they rest in peace," Dr. Schwartz said. As a result, the Center for Innovation has found innovations that deliver what Houston Methodist needs.

  3. Patient-centric technologies transform consumer experiences. From scheduling an appointment, orchestrating virtual care or guiding an inpatient hospital stay, Houston Methodist has implemented digital solutions that make the patient's experience seamless. For example, two-way text messages are personal, appear to come directly from the patient's doctor and link directly to a block scheduling program. Inpatient tablets allow individuals to connect with family members, log in to MyChart, access spiritual care information and translation apps and stream entertainment.

  4. Predictive technologies and proactive communication serve patients better and save time for providers and staff. Analysis of data using technology has found, for example, that "about 50 percent of patients who have knee operations call within 48 hours to ask when they are allowed to drive again," Dr. Schwartz said. "Now, at 36 hours after knee surgery, we send a message that tells patients they are allowed to drive at two weeks if they can bend their leg. We get people the information that they want when they need it, and we cut down on phone calls to the doctor's office. It's a huge win-win."
  5. Robotic automation extends organizational capabilities without adding staff. Houston Methodist has heavily focused on its robotic process automation program. "The goal is to think about ways that we can replace routine work with bot technology," Dr. Schwartz said. "It took a while for us to figure out the places where we could get that return on investment. We want to expand our workforce without expanding full-time equivalents."

Houston Methodist's journey evaluating, selecting and implementing innovative digital solutions has improved experiences for patients, providers, staff and the entire organization.


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