How organizations are striving to improve experiences while rapidly adapting to new pressures
Looking back at how healthcare organizations globally have met the unprecedented challenges of COVID-19, a striking theme is the way the pandemic has driven the adoption of technology at unprecedented speeds and with great success. Gone are the days when transformation was a project pursued during times of relative stability. Instead, leading healthcare organizations increasingly see it as a dynamic response to constantly changing pressures.
KPMG International saw this approach to transformation emerge in the Healthcare CEO Future Pulse research in 2021, where 200 healthcare CEOs were surveyed from across the world about their ambitions and plans. Almost all (97 percent) agreed that the pandemic had “significantly accelerated” their transformation efforts, while 80 percent believed that the healthcare industry was in need of disruption and change.
Change in healthcare has often appeared in a scattershot fashion, with disconnected initiatives happening across systems, some led by clinical departments, and others by IT teams. This approach tends to reduce impact and increase risks. I, along with my KPMG colleagues around the world are starting to see more organizations wanting to pursue enterprise-wide transformation strategies. As the immediate pressures of the pandemic begin to recede in many jurisdictions, leaders are grappling with how to manage the transition between transformation as a response to a crisis and delivering longer-term change.
In the United States, these transformational winds of change are blowing strongly. I recently sat down with my colleague Michael Krajecki to discuss trends we are seeing among U.S. clients in the challenges they are facing and how the nature of transformation is evolving.
As managing director of digital solutions and architecture for KPMG Lighthouse in the United States, Mike’s work focuses on how data-driven insights and emerging new technologies can be leveraged to transform business, particularly in the healthcare and life sciences spaces.
Healthcare technology transformation trends
While the insights below may originate from the American market, we feel that they are relevant to healthcare organizations globally for two reasons. First, no healthcare system is absolved from serving their customers because if customers are served well through their experiences, patient compliance and health outcomes can improve, which leads to lower care costs. Second, given that healthcare organizations worldwide are experiencing workforce shortages and many of these workers are burned out, organizations should be looking for ways to help improve workplace experiences.
1. Making life easier for staff
One of the major trends we’ve seen recently is healthcare organizations being laser-focused on alleviating unnecessary burdens and stress for clinicians and providers. Some of the tech approaches being used to address these challenges are more common in other sectors. Process mining, for instance is normally reserved for back-office functions but is being used in healthcare to break down clinical workflows to identify barriers and friction points. To help clinicians spend more time on caring for patients and less time on documentation, intelligent automation platforms are being used to simplify tasks. Wearable technology is also being used to track patients’ vital signs and integrate this information directly into EMRs, saving nurses time in the areas of charting and documentation. In the wake of the pandemic, these sorts of improvements really matter to staff. Organizations that use technology to help improve the provider experience by aiming to reduce workload, inefficient tasks, and stress will likely see those expected benefits lead to better patient outcomes and experiences. Plus, they create a workplace to attract and retain talent.
2. Using patient data in real time
The two technologies we see that are having the biggest impact in healthcare right now are augmented intelligence and the Internet of Medical Things. We use the term augmented – rather than artificial – intelligence because we feel it has more resonance in healthcare because it’s unlikely the decision of a human clinician will be replaced artificially. One example of using augmented intelligence is to create a comprehensive view of patient data. It is now possible to stream patients’ vital signs and aggregate them with their medical history and lab results and make decisions based on unique patient chemistry and biomarkers. Currently, this type of clinical analysis is performed in retrospective studies, but the capabilities now exist for doctors to analyze this data in real time, to build streaming algorithms to identify anomalies and deterioration indicators, to make data-informed predictive decisions. This is really getting organizations close to that precision medicine goal of treating each patient uniquely, not just based on standard care pathways. We have also seen how the massive expansion of the Internet of Medical Things during the pandemic has helped patient outcomes and staff workflow. Whether monitoring patients remotely at home, or on an inpatient basis, healthcare organizations can get telemetry-like capabilities through the use of simple wearables that provide insights and monitoring flexibility with the goal of improving provider ability to respond to adverse events before they happen. In the near future, we are optimistic that this technology could help change what standards of care look like.
3. Winning patient trust through technology
We have also seen the way technology is giving providers a competitive advantage by building trust with their customers. Trust has a lot to do with bedside manner and clinical capabilities, but it also has to do with the overall experience of technology. Customer centric experiences from other sectors are changing expectations in healthcare. Nowadays, many people want to be able to look at their medical appointments, prescriptions, and test results in the same way that they look at their online shopping platform orders. People are also making decisions about who will provide their care based on which doctors or health systems offer that level of access and transparency and overall experience.
4. Evolving leadership and champions of change
Another trend we are seeing is that digital transformation no longer seems to be exclusively an IT play. CEOs and entire C-suites – not just the CIOs are championing transformation efforts. The CIO post itself is also changing, increasingly being recast as the Chief Digital Officer with a key strategic role in enabling the delivery of transformation across the organization while balancing the needs of clinicians, patients and the organization.
Practical advice for supporting digital transformation in healthcare organizations
Getting buy-in from staff When it comes to organization-wide transformation, the technology is the easiest part. Whether an organization is pushing technology or process transformation it is very important to get the right kind of buy-in from the people who actually do the work, for them to feel like they can take ownership to help ensure the initiative is delivering clinical value, not just data points. A great example of this is a large national-scope health facility operator in the U.S. that has a team of data scientists and engineers walking the halls of its facilities, observing the daily struggles of nurses and doctors and coming back to staff days later – not months – with solutions. This approach has built rapport with the staff and showed immediate results in freeing up more time for patient care and getting staff home to their families faster.
Taking small steps People tend to think about these mega, multi-year transformation initiatives that require a great deal of orchestration, but it doesn’t have to be like that. Digital transformation can happen in small steps. This process starts with having the vision, leadership and tools to help move an organization towards a modern way of working. To avoid trying to move too much, too quickly and leaving staff behind, opportunities for small wins can be found without disrupting entire workforces. An example of a small win could be moving to cloud-based technology starting with a few high impact areas that provide relief to clinicians, such as analytics in the cloud to give them more access to the information they want at their fingertips. Small wins like this can also build momentum for change.
Having extensive support To support successful business and technology modernization, healthcare organizations are increasingly requiring comprehensive support to augment internal capabilities. To respond to these requirements, KPMG firms bring multidisciplinary teams that have tech solution architects, cloud engineers, data scientists, emerging tech strategists and team them with licensed healthcare professionals and healthcare consultants to help ensure a thorough view is taken when supporting transformational journeys.
The pandemic has shown how healthcare systems with the right leadership, vision, team and skills can use digital transformation to provide outstanding care and a better experience for staff while rapidly adapting to new pressures. In the face of growing and changing demand and shocks to the system, repeated waves of transformation are expected to be essential to delivering excellent services.
(Courtesy KMPG. By Johnathan Baker. Partner Health & Government Solutions KPMG U.S. and Michael Krajecki Managing Director Digital Solutions Architecture KPMG Lighthouse, KPMG U.S.)