The digital transformation to on-demand healthcare — OSF HealthCare's CSO on the journey & what comes next

Michelle Conger, chief strategy officer at OSF HealthCare in Peoria, Ill., says the health system is using digital technology to become more patient-centric and to boost the experience of healthcare delivery.


Question: How is the health system investing in digital technology to improve patient care?

Michelle Conger: As we look across the changing landscape of healthcare, OSF recognizes that healthcare as an industry needs to become more person-centered and more connected with those who use our services. Our patients and communities want and expect convenience, easy and timely access to our services and multiple channels through which to contact us. As a system that provides care in both mid-sized cities and smaller rural towns, we know that it is not always convenient or even possible for our patients and their caregivers to come into an office, so OSF is committed to being present where patients are — wherever that may be.

Through investment in a cluster of digital solutions, OSF is creating a digitally enabled remote care platform that enables individuals to navigate their health and wellness journey where, when and how they prefer and through a single point of contact, with 24 x 7 x 365 access to the most appropriate level of care. Using tools such as mobile health apps, and virtual triage, we will be able to better connect our communities to the services they need in real time.

Q: What is your strategy for integrating digital solutions to support connectivity of care across the continuum?

MC: OSF, like many other health systems, faces challenges in connecting the inpatient and outpatient settings and ensuring that the journey through care is seamless for patients and that they are able to receive follow up care and ongoing support when needed. The increased use of digital solutions is really allowing us to connect our clinicians in new ways: to other clinicians, to patients and even to families and caregivers. One way we are doing this is through virtual advanced care for our most complex patients. This interdisciplinary team of caregivers will work with primary care providers and specialists to ensure wraparound support for our highest risk patients through frequent, face-to-face contact via a tablet or smartphone.

This service is just one example of working proactively to identify patient needs through a predictive model that will allow us to engage the patient and their providers early in the process. When you think about all of the resources that a really complex patient may need — things like nutrition, social work, care management, health coaching — it becomes very daunting to the patient to navigate all of that. Putting all of those providers on one team, in one location and with one focus will enable them to connect and individualize patient care in new ways. As this service grows and we build additional virtual care teams, we will have the capacity to deliver remote monitoring care for over 1,500 complex patients in the next three to five years.

Q: Where do you see the biggest opportunity to improve the patient experience through the use of digital solutions?

MC: We recognize that digital transformation is not only necessary, but valuable. Our patients and communities expect the best from us and they need us to be user-friendly. Upending traditional care delivery to bring easy, affordable and on-demand care is imperative. Creating a digital platform, which connects all of our health system pieces, allows patients to connect with OSF when and how they choose and enables us to use clinical protocols to triage patient needs to offer multiple options for care in a variety of different settings and modalities, such as urgent care, primary care offices and virtual visits.

Face-to-face and high touch care will never go away and is core to our mission as a Catholic healthcare provider, however, we have to know when high touch is most effective, what the patient is looking for and when digital is the better option. Rather than delivering one option for patients that often comes with them trying to figure out how to enter a sometimes-confusing health system, we want to really know them and their needs and help them connect how they would like.

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

MC: These companies are coming up with care models that don't require individuals to go to a doctor's office. They will use data to better understand their customers' (who are also our patients) wants and needs so they can deliver a customized experience. I do believe that, Amazon, Apple and Google could disrupt the industry, but I actually see their entry as a call to action and perhaps a source of future partnerships. It serves as a stimulus for healthcare providers to take control of our destinies by optimizing care, adding value for patients and communities and preparing to function in a new world. One that will definitely be digital.

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