Healthcare News & Insights

3 lessons hospitals can learn about technology from Amazon

You may not think comparing healthcare delivery to a shopping website would be worthwhile. But according to one healthcare IT pro, when it comes to effective technology use, hospitals have a lot to learn from online retailer

177852632Ed Park, COO of AthenaHealth, a cloud-based electronic health records (EHR) system, recently wrote a piece for tech journalism website Re/code outlining the lessons hospitals could learn from Amazon about technology.

Here are three of his takeaways:

1. The customer should always come first.

At Amazon, all tech innovations are made with the customer’s convenience in mind. From its recent announcement that it’d be using drones to speed up package delivery, to the diverse products it offers customers (e.g., e-books, digital music, online streaming entertainment), tech is seen as a tool to increase customer satisfaction.

Hospitals tend to make tech improvements because of government mandates. So rather than thinking of how patients can benefit from the upgrades, the focus tends to be avoiding penalties and making the system user-friendly for clinical staff.

For better results, all tech improvements should be patient-centered. The priority should be to allow them to access info about their conditions anywhere, on multiple platforms, instead of housing it all internally on a closed EHR system.

Creating a secure network that patients can log into from a computer, smartphone or tablet to view their records is a step in the right direction.

2. Use big data to customize the patient experience.

Shoppers who use Amazon get suggestions for other products to try based on previous purchases or searches. It’s the retailer’s way of catering to customers’ current preferences – and anticipating their future needs.

This is just one way Amazon uses the info it collects from users. The company also regularly reviews data to determine where to expand its operations, and even how to organize its warehouses to make its staff more efficient when shipping products.

One day, hospitals and health systems could have similar capabilities using the data they collect from patients. After being treated for an illness, patients could view personalized recommendations for their follow-up care based on their unique experience in the hospital, or get suggestions for preventing other problems that could make them sick down the line.

And hospitals could also use this info to improve their efficiency and care delivery. They could analyze data for entire groups of patients with certain conditions to see exactly what they can do to provide them with the best quality care possible.

While a comprehensive system like this is still a work in progress, the info is already available to create a foundation for it. And certain hospitals are already using data from their EHRs in this manner on a smaller scale.

To make the best use of this patient info, hospitals will have to start embracing technologies that allow data from multiple sources to be stored centrally, such as cloud computing.

3. Cooperate with competitors.

Amazon makes it a point to work with its competitors to reach its goal of providing the best customer experience. In fact, Park states that 30% of the products it offers are sold by third-party companies. And Amazon rents out its core technology infrastructure to other companies that provide similar services, including Netflix.

Hospitals never work this closely with one another. And transparency is rare. They tend to keep details about their operations to themselves.

To create a better patient experience, the tech infrastructure needs to be put in place to allow patient data in EHRs to be shared among different hospitals. This makes the transfer of care easier if patients need to be treated elsewhere.

Additionally, hospitals should make more of an effort to openly share what’s going well at their institutions – and even what’s not. The Internet gives hospitals a great platform to share data about their successes and failures, so other hospitals can learn from them and improve their own care.

Bottom line: The best use of healthcare tech should be to promote collaboration among various hospitals and providers as a way of providing better patient care.

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