By Tom Sullivan
September 21, 2017 – Seventy-five percent of hospital executives believe that digital innovation is important and, among those with 400 or more beds, the same percentage is gearing up to create an innovation center, if they have not already established one.
Among all the respondents to research conducted by the American Hospital Association and AVIA, in fact, 29 percent have either built one or intend to.
The AHA and AVIA also ranked the top 5 areas hospitals are innovating:
Patient-generated data and customized services. With more and more patients wearing smartwatches, wristbands and other fitness trackers, hospitals are “eager to understand how to securely integrate these data,” to improve patient experience as well as managing high-cost populations under risk-based contracts, the report explained.
Network utilization and management. Hospitals are looking to maintain network integrity for tracking and managing patient populations in the transition to value-based care. That involved analyzing patient utilization data, profitability, demand management, scheduling and patient readiness.
Referral management and in-network retention. Much like the other innovation priorities, this one has a focus on revenue and reimbursement. In the case of aligning patients with appropriate clinicians, hospitals are turning to new technologies for decision support, logic-based provider screening and referral tools. “Hospitals and health systems hope to reap a host of potential benefits, including better access and service, improved satisfaction for referring providers and their patients, improved in-network utilization, and more effective care coordination,” according to the report.
Social community support. Providers are looking to surrounding communities, including underserved populations, to both control costs and improve outcomes. The AHA and AVIA noted that digital technologies are fostering new opportunities to create virtual networks, connect to community partners and, as such, more effectively coordinate care.
Convenient patient access — including telemedicine. As of now, the report found, only one-quarter of hospitals responding to the study have implemented a solution to improve patients’ access to care services. But the AHA found consumers are increasingly requesting better access, on-demand services and when those are not available, they will seek care elsewhere. Tools like telemedicine and virtual consults can help make care more convenient and efficient, thereby enhancing patient experience, satisfaction and retention.
Despite the innovation in these areas, obstacles persist. Within the 317 responses from 44 CEOs and 273 other innovation leaders, the AHA and AVIA found participants said funding, implementation operations, staffing and implementation agility are the trickiest parts of innovation.
But there is one long-standing hurdle that appears to be softening.
“Leadership buy-in is no longer a barrier to digital innovation. Leaders are strongly unified in their belief that digital innovation is a necessity, a priority at their health system,” AHA and AVIA authors said. “They also believe that they need to be experimenting consistently rather than playing it too safe.”