Healthcare News & Insights

The digital hospital: Meeting demands of active, tech-savy consumers

 

Teenage Patient with TabletHealthcare is undergoing a transformation that’s driven by a fundamental shift in the expectations of patients. In this guest post, Brendan Ziolo, head of large enterprise strategy at an IP networking, ultra-broadband access and cloud technology company, gives hospital executives a glimpse into what patients expect and want digitally from hospitals.

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Today’s healthcare consumers expect to get what they want with ease and speed. They’re more connected to technology than any other generation, remaining attached to their networks 24/7.

According to the 2015 Internet Trends report by KPCB, connectivity is up dramatically. The millennial generation, made up of 80 million tech-savvy consumers, demand flexibility and prefer to collaborate online (34%) as opposed to in-person or via the phone. It’s clear that consumers want to be empowered with greater access, control and participation in their own care.

Shift in focus

To meet these growing and changing needs, hospitals need to rethink the services they offer, focusing on wellness and outcomes rather than the volumes of services consumed. They need to shift toward consumer-driven, value-based care. For this shift to succeed, hospitals must adopt both technology and process improvements focused on quality, efficiency and convenience.

How?

Utilizing technology and developing a digital transformation strategy can help hospitals enhance access to services and improve care while controlling costs. When considering a digital transformation, one of the goals is to streamline communications, providing staff and patients with instant access and exchange of information through a variety of communication methods and devices. Digital tools can enhance the patient experience throughout the care delivery process.

For example, sharing records across the healthcare system or between providers can give doctors and patients a holistic view of patient interactions that drive better outcomes. At the same time, patients want access to their electronic health records, including test results, images and upcoming examinations. They want to collaborate with their provider using networking tools, such as instant messaging and video conferencing. They also want to use these same tools to communicate with friends and family during their hospital stay.

Comprehensive picture

Physicians, clinicians and nurses want all information to be available at the point of care for their patients. The problem is that information often resides in different systems. For example, electronic health records (EHRs) could be kept in one system, a patient’s prescriptions kept in another and lab results in another system all together. This makes it difficult to pull together a comprehensive picture of the patient, and has the potential to be catastrophic to the quality of care that a hospital is providing.

To address this, information systems must be connected, accessible and aggregated. Data must be completely analyzed to bring the patient story to life. Providing full knowledge at the point of care can allow a doctor to walk into a patient’s room and with a touch of a screen, show the patient their situation and collaborate on a plan for recovery.

Digital hospitals, whether newly built like Toronto’s fully digital Humble River Regional Hospital or retrofitted with the latest digital technology, promise to enhance access and improve quality through better integration with all sources of care. Whether new or revamped, hospitals are embracing mobile, cloud and communications technologies as fundamental to the digital infrastructure required to meet growing patient and workflow demands.

Network infrastructure

Critical to the digital transformation is the network infrastructure, which acts as the hospital’s central nervous system. Nurses use tablets to record patients’ symptoms, and to gather and record the information throughout the patient’s stay. Doctors tap into the network via wireless devices to order prescriptions or lab tests.

The network links the information silos from pharmacy to labs and EHRs to images, increasing access to more information, eliminating manual tasks and reducing human errors. The network becomes even more important as providers move to the cloud in order to provide the best experience for the patients.

Creating a digital hospital requires leadership and innovation. Technology must be viewed strategically in order to lay a foundation for the future.

Leveraging a private cloud makes it easier to combine disparate systems onto an agile one. Choosing technology solutions that are open and support multiple vendors will help to ensure interoperability between them.

But before providers begin implementing their digital strategies, they need to ensure their network is up to the task to deliver the innovative services that today’s consumers demand.

Brendan Ziolo is head of large enterprise strategy at Alcatel-Lucent, an IP networking and cloud technology company. He has almost 20 years of security and technology industry experience

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