The Quest to Make Healthcare Easier, Higher Quality, and More Accessible
I’ve been the CDO at Memorial Healthcare System for years, but there’s no denying it: I’m a people guy first and a tech guy far, far second. For years, it’s been my mission to discover and integrate new digital tools and technologies that will help our clients do more. Our digital transformation journey puts the patient in the center of everything—including our current tech stack.
Of course, not everyone defines digital transformation in the same way. Typical definitions are synonymous with information technology and entangled in discussions about software, platforms, and tools that improve operations and create efficiencies. There’s a time and place for this, but that’s not the kind of digital transformation that fits today’s consumer needs. Even in healthcare, consumers desire engaging experiences whenever and wherever they want to be engaged.
A Digital Transformation That Addresses Consumer Needs
I came back to Memorial Healthcare System from a hiatus about four years ago, and as soon as I walked through the door, I knew it was time for large-scale changes. These would include a digital front door for streamlined patient journeys, an innovation center, and migrating services (where it made sense) to the cloud.
Whether serving patients with direct care or consumers with information, digital transformation is always necessary to address critical points and needs. Of course, this is easier said than done. Placing patients and consumers at the center of their own experience requires re-imagining existing tools, including how healthcare systems incorporate new strategies and tactics for better results. From my point of view, a digital transformation means simplifying the environment for everyone involved.
Digitally transformed healthcare is better healthcare, but we’re one of the most complicated industries around. Couple that with the complexities of technology, and there’s a vast maze of potential solutions and possible pitfalls. To better navigate the healthcare system, we need to simplify the friction points for those accessing our services.
Bringing Innovation to Memorial Healthcare
When I became CDO at Memorial Healthcare, there were several hurdles that stood in the way of patient delivery and digital innovation.
One of the largest of these was our fragmented contact environment. Patients could call 10 different physician practices and get 10 different greetings and messages, which was overwhelming and confusing. Our first step was to create a standardized, consistent experience through centralized call centers, what we call our Patient Access Center. Now when people try to contact us, they know what to expect, which helps them navigate our environment better to get what they need faster.
The next step was to lay the groundwork for an omnichannel approach, which will allow consumers to achieve a consistent experience through any channel they choose. Historically, we expected a patient to call us with a request. From now on, I want them to be able to go online, use a chatbot, text us—to take advantage of these self-service capabilities to get what they need. I want our future technologies to be patient-centric, no matter how long it takes.
Healthcare has lagged behind many other industries from an IT standpoint, but the pandemic has pushed us forward in a few ways. Telehealth has made significant strides, giving our consumers more flexibility around their healthcare experience. Just four years ago in 2018, Memorial Healthcare Systems had 2,000 telehealth appointments scheduled for the year. Today, we average 15,000 telehealth appointments in a single month. Thousands of patients can now access the care and attention they need without making physical visits or navigating uncomfortable situations outside of the home.
I’m particularly proud of how Memorial Healthcare has forayed into remote patient monitoring. The use of IoT technology has exploded over the past few years, and it’s had a direct impact on monitoring a patient’s recovery and progress in their own home. Patient monitoring can lead to faster recovery times and reduced readmission, particularly for patients with chronic illnesses. This type of digital transformation is wrapped firmly around patient care, creating exceptional results within an extraordinary amount of time. Long-term monitoring keeps patients out of the hospital, reserves vital hospital resources, and saves thousands of dollars for healthcare providers.
Over the past few years, we’ve seen how commitment and dedication lead to the digital transformation of a complicated system. The technology is here, and we’ve begun to leverage technology to improve the patient experience and outcomes.
A Technology Partner Who Thrives on Innovation
Of course, no digital transformations exist in a vacuum. They require collaboration and partnership, and one of our most valuable partnerships is with Cisco. Cisco technology has become the backbone of Memorial Healthcare System’s entire infrastructure. From wireless capabilities to security platforms, we rely extensively on Cisco solutions.
There’s probably more information traffic through Cisco than any other application or technology at Memorial, which gives us a considerable advantage when delving deeper into predictive analytics and precision medicine. This kind of transformation is difficult for any healthcare network, but thanks to the massive scope and size of Memorial Healthcare, the process is even more complex. This complexity is why we heavily rely on Webex by Cisco to help everyone stay up to date and on the same page.
Some days, I work in Webex for 10–12 hours a day. I run a monthly Webex meeting with my team, CEO, and leadership staff. They’re all doing regular communications inside Webex, too, especially in the face of the pandemic. We can stand up a meeting within seconds and gather all necessary staff together at the touch of a button.
I’ll admit it: before Webex, we were a lot less efficient. We relied on in-person meetings, which was difficult when attendees had rotating schedules. The logistics of getting everyone together limited us to quarterly all-hands meetings for leadership teams, which was way out of step with how quickly the world moved around us. We use Webex to meet much more frequently, and we’re more efficient because we have less catching up to do. Thanks to Cisco’s digital tools, we’ve stayed out in front of people and communicated more effectively over the last two years than before the pandemic.
Our extensive Webex usage has continued to provide enormous results for providers. Critical team members can cut down on hours’ worth of travel time and enable consultations to continue when someone isn’t in the office. Webex enables us to communicate more effectively and more often about COVID-19 and other patient needs, leading to better transitions and continuity of care.
Our streamlined communication and enhanced collaboration reach far beyond internal communication. COVID-19 testing has become such a big part of our lives, and with it came a host of additional problems, one of which was the sheer volume of patients who tested negative.
When someone tests positive, it’s really important that a provider call with that information and answer any questions. But someone who tests negative just wants a quick notification so they can get on with their life.
With the help of Cisco and some of their partners, Memorial Health created an automated bot that called and left messages for patients with negative results. This process saved a massive amount of time and resources. We’re communicating with patients quicker because it’s all automated. We also eliminated a lot of administrative work for doctors and clinical staff, freeing them to get back to the front lines to take care of patients.
Cisco’s been a great partner, and one of the reasons I love the company is their deep commitment to innovation. If I’m looking to solve any problem, I know I can reach out to the account team and executive leadership to help me think through a situation. Even if there isn’t an off-the-shelf option, they have an extensive network of partners and relationships—and the financial and clinical resources—to reach the best result.
Better Healthcare Is Here Today
I see technology changing our organization every day, but it’s also critical to showcase that transformation. We’re launching the Universe of Innovation, a space where we can test, trial, and demonstrate the digital tools available throughout the patient journey. We designed this center to show patients, employer groups, board members, and other stakeholders how we can care for people in the most effective ways. Everyone can see what we do and how we do it—everything from attacking access problems to eliminating errors—and what might be coming in the future.
Another important initiative is our Care Coordination Center. Part of that involves telehealth, but this command center’s most important use case is to improve patient flow between our facilities. Every healthcare system faces a major problem around the utilization of resources, availability of beds, and fast and effective discharges and transfers. In our Care Coordination Center, we can view our entire healthcare system and that of our discharge partners, including nursing homes, long-term care facilities, rehab facilities, and skilled nursing facilities. This holistic view will help facilitate a modern patient flow process.
For a long time, technologists implemented digital solutions primarily to gather data, not necessarily for the sake of people. But in today’s era of rapid advancement, I think we’ve reached that next level: a combination of clinical intelligence and business intelligence that provides meaningful insights that impact all elements of the healthcare system. New technology is focused on improving patient care, helping providers make the best use of their data to unlock a proactive place of wellness. Patients and consumers are empowered to take action and access what they need when they need it, free of unnecessary obstacles.
The future of data for better healthcare isn’t on the horizon; it’s already here. As new technologies become available, I’m ready to leverage everything possible to make Memorial Healthcare as patient-centric as it can be.