Healthcare News & Insights

How to make sure you’re innovating the right way

GettyImages-511593090There’s no question that innovation in the form of new technologies can dramatically benefit health systems. But how can hospitals do it without spending precious time and money? In this guest post, Blake Marggraff, CEO of a company that offers interventions using automated phone calls or text messages to manage patients’ conditions while collecting disease specific data, answers that question. 

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With new products, services and processes driving revenue growth by up to 78% and customer satisfaction by 76%, the healthcare industry can’t afford to rest on its laurels. Why, then, do some providers adopt new technologies slowly?

  • The steep learning curve, exacerbated by the significant time required to understand many new products, can discourage adoption. For providers to successfully integrate new technologies into a medical staff’s workflow, the team must see the value and feel comfortable using the solution. Most technologies, though, don’t clearly show whether or how they save staff time, improve patient outcomes or align with economic interests such as quality metrics and readmission penalties.
  • Many technologies aren’t “plug and play.” Healthcare executives everywhere can empathize with the frustration of expensive on-site integrations, failed interfacing and custom solutions. Technologies may claim to be fully interoperable, but when a hospital or physician group must dedicate tens of thousands of dollars and several months to trying an unproven system, even the most forward-thinking individuals may struggle to justify the initial cost.
  • The struggle to distribute new technologies also relates to the pedagogical process of medicine itself. After training and residency, physicians rely on continuing medical education (CME). Unfortunately, the most widely used CME delivery methods, such as conferences, may not be as effective as less common “hands-on” training or outreach visits. Even if physicians hear about innovative processes and technologies, they may not embrace or apply that knowledge.

Prioritizing people

Human-centered design, as an approach to problem-solving, revolves around making people — particularly providers and patients — the priority. In the context of healthcare, human-centered design has long been an analog process. From collision-free door design to successful patient handoffs during nurse shift changes, the patient care process succeeds when environments align with people’s needs rather than require changes in behavior.

Now, the same design philosophies are slowly permeating health information technology. By increasing efficiency while integrating fail-safes into the care process, information can be shared almost twice as efficiently, charting can improve, and patients may even experience more efficient transportation and direction during the average healthcare experience. As digital solutions begin to replace chemicals and augment face-to-face interventions, this trend will continue to accelerate and benefit patients, providers and even payors.

How to know what helps

What steps can thought leaders take to vet new high-tech solutions before spending precious time and money on tenuous pilots and burdensome implementation periods? Start by asking these questions about new technology:

  1. Will the solution (and the team behind it) work well with your team? Similar products from comparable vendors might make final decisions difficult; ask the vendors for referrals to other customers (particularly the hands-on nurses and office managers) to determine which group will provide the smoothest process and the most organic engagement.
  2. Does the vendor offer straightforward product documentation designed for nontechnical users? Imagine the frustration providers could feel when using a new solution if the only recourse for technical questions is hit-or-miss phone support, burdensome education sessions and a sparse FAQ page.
  3. Has the solution been clinically validated and proven to help patients similar to yours? When speaking with the vendor’s other clients, learn whether they and the vendor collaborated to set well-defined goals during setup and expansion, and whether experienced implementation managers supported the solution. Do the clients receive continuous customer support in which the vendor’s account management team proactively contacts each client system? Avoid systems that might be difficult to scale beyond an initial pilot.
  4. What results should you expect, and how much time and money will it require to achieve them? Specifically, does the vendor offer a logical, evidence-based breakdown of value created? For products intended to drive improved patient outcomes and reduce economic risk for the provider, how was the new and innovative technology designed and tested? While software may be easier to create than a new pharmaceutical, the evidence for its efficacy is just as important.

It can be scary to adopt new technology. But new technology, if implemented correctly, is worth the effort because it makes providers’ lives easier and enhances treatment of their patients. So make the patients the priority for any new technology, and ask these questions before adopting it. In doing so, you’ll move the healthcare industry forward.

Blake Marggraff is CEO of Epharmix, a company that offers interventions using automated phone calls or text messages to manage patients’ conditions while collecting disease specific data. 

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