16 big trends in health IT today

During the pandemic, clinicians transitioned their practice to virtual care, and a large portion of the workforce began to work remotely. Healthcare providers were hit hard financially during the early waves of the pandemic and now many are turning to technology to become more efficient and cost-effective.

During the Becker's Health IT + Revenue Cycle Virtual Event Oct. 6 -9, experts from across the U.S. discussed the biggest opportunities and threats for healthcare providers today. Click here to view the panels on-demand.

Here are 16 takeaways from the event.

1. Hospitals moved quickly once the pandemic hit to ramp up telehealth services, and now they're looking at ways to expand those services post-pandemic. Some hospital leaders were previously reluctant to expand telehealth because it wasn't always reimbursable. Currently, it is reimbursable and hospital leaders hope that continues.

2. Healthcare providers with robust data analytics capabilities were more prepared to respond quickly to the pandemic. Hospitals across the U.S. rapidly accelerated data analytics projects and are making an effort to expand real-time data reporting, data storage and predictive analytics. It is more important than ever to have organized, clean and complete data to care for patients and prepare for future disasters.

3. To grow their footprints and strengthen certain service lines, some hospitals are moving away from traditional acquisitions and looking to partner with physician groups, ASCs and even competing organizations. They're seeing service arrangements change and expect to see more affiliations in the future.

4. Healthcare systems have to value each individual person and provide what they need in the simplest way possible. This obviously involves technology, with the pandemic pushing forward the personalized digital health movement.

5. Hospitals and health systems are investing in traditional and non-traditional healthcare solutions to bring in additional revenue. Some have venture capital arms and others are informally investing in technology startups. There will likely be new business models and collaborations that provide needed population health service lines, especially for underserved or under-resourced communities, that will be more cost-efficient.

6. When implementing new technologies, it's critical to be laser-focused on a facility's needs. Avoid the siloed solutions and partnerships of the past and look for something more; a seamless and patient-focused retail experience. Use digital transformation to really improve how care is provided.

7. Increases in remote care and declines in in-person visits amid COVID-19 have pushed hospital leaders to reexamine how their organization maintains an empathic relationship with patients outside of the hospital. Moving forward, technology will not only play an essential role in clinical care delivery, it will also support provider efforts to build trusting relationships with patients.

8. Healthcare is saturated with data, but some data may get overlooked in the revenue cycle, such as the time it takes a patient to get back to the provider once they walk in the door. By looking at data that is most meaningful to the organization, hospitals can reduce risk of losing significant reimbursement.

9. The pandemic has allowed hospital IT, operational and revenue cycle areas to collaborate to reduce the financial effects and stressors related to the public health crisis. Leaders in these areas also have been able to come together to strategize for the future.

10. The COVID-19 pandemic has underscored the importance of improving workflows, achieving greater clinical efficiencies and better integrating data across a health system. This need will continue to accelerate digital transformation in the healthcare industry, as leaders look to capabilities like natural language processing, remote process automation and cloud-based technologies, among others.

11. The best ideas for the intersection of revenue cycle and health IT should include automation, more reliance on data than anecdotes, outsourcing where applicable and investing in EHRs that better integrate front- and back-end billing processes within them.

12. Prior to COVID-19, many healthcare leaders took a hospital-centric approach to innovation, focusing almost entirely on improving clinical care inside the four walls of the hospital. Now, healthcare leaders are thinking about transforming the way their organizations care and interact with patients outside the hospital.

13. Relationship-building — across teams and leadership — will continue to be instrumental when setting up IT initiatives quickly and successfully to improve patient experience and service quality. Silos need to come down so expertise can be shared across teams and extended to the community.

14. Many healthcare organizations have established a work-from-home policy for the revenue cycle department due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This has led to several positives such as an increase in staff satisfaction and cost-savings opportunities like the ability to save on lease payments for brick-and-mortar offices. However, revenue cycle leaders must pay attention to how the remote strategy will impact team dynamics and productivity in the long run. They should consider what the culture look like and whether the team will maintain its efficiency in 10 years when it may consist of only people who were hired remotely and work remotely.

15. Healthcare organizations need to look at tech from a health equity lens — for example, though telemedicine has exploded, many platforms do not have interpreter services, which then creates a digital divide. Socioeconomic status is not a proxy for race and ethnicity, and health systems are initiating efforts to understand social determinants of health as well as some of the systemic issues such as racism and bias that have contributed to the disproportionate burden of COVID-19 on communities of color.

16. There are a lot of opportunities to deliver better, faster care and at a much lower cost, but big tech won't solve that problem — no one company or solution will be a silver bullet. Hospital leaders must work together to better understand patient needs and ensure patients are engaged in their care and clinical processes.


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