How integrated solutions smash silos and usher in a new era in health care — 5 Qs with 3M's Michael Bee

When it comes to health care data, it isn’t simply a matter of collecting more. For data to make a difference, it must be put into context. Unfortunately, today's health IT environment is largely composed of standalone systems that require interfaces to communicate. Interoperability challenges between these systems can lead to inefficient processes and communication gaps that can affect quality and financial outcomes.

Becker's Hospital Review recently spoke with Michael Bee, vice president of 3M clinician solutions. He discussed how a new generation of integrated solutions can help health care organizations avoid the headaches of disparate systems and achieve clinical, quality, financial and user experience goals.

Note: Responses edited for length and clarity.

Question: Can you lay out the pros and cons of a best-in-breed IT strategy relative to an end-to-end solution?

Michael Bee: For years, two paradigms have existed in the health care technology landscape. Either organizations deployed best-of-breed solutions to address very specific problems — and then tried to stitch these various solutions together — or they implemented one comprehensive, end-to-end solution that provided breadth in functionality but didn't necessarily meet the needs of every user.

In the best-of-breed paradigm, information silos and lack of interoperability can make it difficult to combine data across systems, creating hurdles for providing holistic clinical care and generating enterprise analytics. With an integrated, end-to-end solution, organizations enjoy greater continuity, perspective and context, but may not get the depth needed to optimally solve every problem.

Q: What are the major trends in health IT impacting how hospitals approach this trade-off?

MB: The digitization of health care and electronic health records (EHRs) have driven the need for interoperability. In response, new communication and integration standards have emerged, which enable health systems to more seamlessly integrate point solutions with EHRs.

In addition, artificial intelligence (AI) allows organizations to better understand the specific nature of a patient encounter prior to, during and after a visit. And cloud technology has reduced the burden for IT teams. Ten years ago, many health systems operated full-scale data centers. Today, cloud providers run data centers at a scale that a single health care organization could never achieve.

All of these factors mean that health care organizations no longer have to choose between multiple, disparate best-of-breed solutions and one end-to-end solution that lacks depth. A third, better option is now available: a suite of integrated best-of-breed solutions.

Q: What is 3M's vision of the future?

MB: It's important to recognize that just as a company’s stakeholders view financial results through what is captured by accountants, a hospital’s reputation and quality scores are heavily impacted by the ability of clinicians and coders to capture and record the full patient story. Hospitals must institute processes to capture documentation completely, compliantly and accurately – and looking ahead, we see a great deal of this manual work being automated through the cloud, AI and interoperability.

At 3M, we’re excited to be part of this transformation. We envision a future where health care is streamlined, reporting is seamless, and clinicians see more faces than screens. Our strategy for the future is based on three pillars:

  1. Reduce the administrative burden facing clinicians.
  2. Eliminate waste and excess cost in revenue cycle processes.
  3. Help organizations transition to value-based care by moving the right clinical content at the right time to the right person in the right context.

Q: What are you currently doing to get there? And what are you hearing back from the market?

MB: We've built real time AI capabilities to support clinical documentation integrity and clinical concept identification in cooperation with EHRs. The key is bringing insights to clinicians in subtle ways at the point of care so they can complete documentation compliantly and accurately to avoid downstream issues.

One of the most exciting areas, in my view, is ambient documentation capture, which automatically turns the natural conversation between a clinician and patient into a clinical note for the physician to review and sign off. As the AI learns, the time to return the note can decrease, costs can decrease and breadth of application can increase. Another key technology is computer-assisted physician documentation (CAPD), which can reduce retrospective queries by offering real time nudges to address documentation inconsistencies at the point of care. The market has reported reduced physician burnout and less workflow disruptions as well as financial and quality benefits.

Q: What are the implications for front-line clinicians and revenue cycle professionals?

MB: I think we're at a convergence of technologies that reduce clinician burden and cognitive overload and shorten the revenue cycle. From a physician perspective, this means getting time back to spend with patients or their own families. This is crucial for battling the clinician burnout epidemic and resulting exodus from medicine. Given that access to primary care physicians is already a challenge, this helps address societal concerns as well. From a revenue cycle perspective, automation enables professionals to focus on higher value tasks and operate at the top of their licenses, while allowing increased coder productivity as automation takes on a growing share of code assignment. Finally, as we look at the intersection of these automation platforms, what used to be two separate workflows is becoming a single integrated workflow due to the highly automated nature of documentation capture and code creation.

I'm excited about the impact that 3M can have, especially when it comes to bringing joy back to providers and enabling them to practice the art of medicine.

Learn how 3M integrated solutions can help reduce burnout, improve efficiency and support value-based care.

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