How health IT can improve the patient experience: Core concepts with Fairview's Dr. Sameer Badlani & Marlena Kane

CIO Sameer Badlani, MD, and Marlena Kane, Vice President of Consumer Solutions and the System Operations Center at Minneapolis-based Fairview discuss how technology complements the patient experience.

Question: What is the best technology investment the health system has made in the past year?

Dr. Sameer Badlani: We are deeply focused on running our operations more efficiently as well as improving the consumer experience. Together this helps us provide better value and a better experience to our customers. Information technology at large has tremendous value in enabling operational excellence and how healthcare is delivered and experienced from a consumer and employee perspective.

Marlena Kane: When I think of technology, I think of it helping us make things work better, simpler and easier for our patients as well as the people who work with us. To achieve that, we are starting with key foundational areas, such as moving to one patient satisfaction survey vendor partner, so we are as consistent as possible in how our data is collected and interpreted. We see this as a very important technology investment, so we can make the best possible, most targeted improvements for our patients.

Our patients are telling us very clearly that they want better, easier access to us, the care our organization provides and information that can help them. As we look ahead to future technology investments, a major focus will be providing information in ways that patients most want to receive it and improving access to the services and human expertise that we provide.

SB: Many of these efforts center around a sustainable digital core that is transformative. While some patient-facing digital apps are sleek, engaging and drive consumer interest, once the consumer engages with traditional brick and mortar sites the experiential and transactional difference is all too visible.

We are leveraging multiple technologies such as artificial intelligence, machine learning and CRM. On their own they aren't magic, but when put together with disciplined workflow analysis and with the patients at the center of the experience, material impacts can be made to healthcare delivery and experiences.

Changing the patient experience requires design thinking. The first step is developing empathy for the end-user whose life and workflow are changing. Thinking about the work / life challenges for clinical and non-clinical staff members is critical, so they can better serve their patients.

Q: How do you approach EHR implementation and interoperability within the system? What is your strategy for connecting inpatient and outpatient settings?

SB: On most of our locations, we have a single EHR system that is the backbone of interconnectivity for the system. We are in the process of integrating two instances of our EHR, so we now have a seamless transfer of information. Interoperability is not just transferring all data from one location to another; it solves a higher functional and experiential issue in my mind.

A lot of data is exchanged for the sake of interoperability, but a very small portion is used for changes in the care of the patient; often done to meet the federal requirements. For us, we are taking a step back and looking at interoperability and data liquidity from a functional standpoint. How can our efforts within interoperability improve clinical outcomes and business processes?

Q: Where do you see the biggest opportunity to improve the patient experience with IT?

MK: A major opportunity we see is joining the human power of truly caring with technology, so we make sure every person we interact with feels as though they are the only person we care about in that moment in time. Again, we see technology as an essential part of this, but it can never replace the human element that provides empathy, builds trust and provides comfort. A focal point when it comes to technology is how can we use it to make sure that our employees are not overburdened by work and can focus on why they entered this profession in the first place, and that is improving people’s lives.

SB: The customer experience is our true north. The patient experience has a lot to do with technology, but not everything to do with technology. I am a clinician/care giver first, and a CIO second.

One example of a great customer experience is Delta Airlines. They do a phenomenal job. On my last flight, the hostess came up to me, while I was sitting in economy, and said 'Thank you Dr. Badlani, for being a gold member. We appreciate your business.' She had a simple report that showed her where the frequent fliers were seated. A simple acknowledgement improved my perception of a long, cramped flight.

Similarly, our consumers benefit when we make the effort of knowing them. Besides airlines I always note similar examples from the retail and hospitality industries.

Q: How do you think Amazon, Apple and Google will change healthcare? Is disruption possible?

SB: The tech giants are not going to replace healthcare in the way we deliver healthcare when patients are really sick, at least from what I can see. We are the organizations that people trust with their lives. Amazon isn't going to open a hospital; Google won't open a birthing center. But they both are looking for discrete opportunities to get into the healthcare cycle where their competitiveness based on analytics, technology and mindset can disrupt and provide them additional revenue. That's perfectly fine with me because it provides us with even higher impetus to do better for our consumers and self disrupt.

They can bring a different way of thinking to healthcare — a digital transformation to reconstruct the value proposition. We are going to disrupt ourselves in that way. I think it's really important to look at the challenges from Google and Amazon as making the healthcare experience better. They are really getting into wellness and diagnostics and will likely continue to pursue different spaces in the care delivery life cycle.

In the end it’s up to us to reimagine and reinvent our value proposition for our patients. Dual disruption as it's called.

MK: I'm very excited about what technology companies are doing. At Fairview, we believe in the power of partnerships. That is where I believe we are going to see positive disruption that makes life better for the people we serve, when we take what we are best at and combine that with how technology can make what we do better and improve our patients’ lives.

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