Future-proofing digital capabilities in the next wave of healthcare innovation

by Kurt Verbrugge

Healthcare has gone through tremendous change in recent years. These changes began with the implementation of electronic medical records and population-based analytics. Then came the growing emphasis on decision-support tools. The next flurry of focus and investment is expected to be on integrated care delivery to manage care across the patient journey.

In this continually changing environment, organizations must future-proof themselves to keep up with demands and expectations. With this in mind, we’ve put together a list of capabilities that need to be on healthcare organizations’ radars:

  • Combining data from different sources. To increase the quality of healthcare, caregivers need a holistic view of the patient’s healthcare journey, which will require clearly defining data and metadata to ensure that the data is properly mapped. This is the purpose underlying Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources (FHIR): to make it easier to exchange specific pieces of information.
  • Gaining insights and acting on combined (anonymized) datasets through analytics and AI. The next few years will likely see more advances in artificial intelligence (AI) and as unsupervised machine learning matures, there will likely be new applications built on datasets that we cannot yet predict. Today, supervised machine learning (where all data is labeled, and the algorithms learn to predict the output from the input data) is the most mature and most commonly used.  Supervised machine learning focuses on predicting a result based on your input. For example, determining the risk (probability) of a patient being readmitted to the hospital within 30 days. Knowing this allows the clinician to adjust the treatment plan to minimize that risk.
  • Managing more functionality across systems. One example is consent management implemented across different systems and determining which should take precedence. Patients want to know that the consent they provide for procedures is managed universally and that any restrictions they request are honored at all times and across all systems.
  • Integrating different care providers on one platform and automating processes across all systems. Successfully providing integrated care requires the data and the processes to be managed across systems to ensure that care can be managed across different boundaries — hospitals, practitioners’ offices, home care, nursing homes, etc. In the future, healthcare providers will want to provide their expertise to a broader geographic market, for example, enabling university hospitals to expand the market beyond their current geography for their research. Digitization will play an important role, but it will need to be incorporated into an overall strategy, so innovations can quickly be scaled and provided as services within the health ecosystem.
  • Leveraging proven clinical logic. This is integral to innovating successfully and will require that the proven clinical logic can be easily leveraged by innovative solutions. An example of how this might be applied is an app by which patients can manage their medications, leveraging the same (proven) functionality as the solution in the electronic medical record (EMR) to check for interactions, duplications and allergies each time the patient adds a new prescription.
  • Bringing together different solutions. The rapid rate of innovation means that for solutions to successfully meet needs now and into the future it will be necessary to have collaboration between vendors or partners. An API platform lets providers minimize their investment in potentially innovative solutions, keeping down the cost of change and enabling the most useful tools — according to users — to be adopted without stifling innovation.

Getting innovative projects developed and adopted is just one part of the process. The next challenge is to produce a solution that can scale to the needs of its users. This requires a strategy that incorporates governance, security and integration with other business-critical systems. This is complex because each system has different purposes and is used at different rates, so determining the best way to bring each solution to market requires careful consideration.

For example, change to EMRs is rare and predictable. When there is change, stability, patient safety and security are the priorities, and speed to market is less pressing. However, with more innovative exploratory systems (such as, for example, new patient apps to help manage their disease or health), speed to market is key, and short development cycles are critical to ensure that feedback is quickly taken into account to maximize usability and acceptance. Managing these two different styles of development will be integral to gaining value from each innovation.

The future of healthcare is exciting, with a huge potential to improve the interaction between clinician and patient, reduce the time clinicians spend on administrative tasks, enhance the quality of care, and reduce the overall cost of healthcare. Future-proof capabilities have the potential to help organizations realize these goals if they are developed and implemented carefully and strategically.

Kurt Verbrugge is leading the industry advisory services for Northern Europe at DXC. He is also the lead advisor for healthcare in the region. He is an innovative thinker with more than 20 years of experience in business and technology management consulting, helping organizations through their digital transformation.

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