Over the past few months, our relationship to healthcare has changed -- from telemedicine visits to wearing masks in public places. At this point, it's safe to say that our healthcare professionals have never been more vital. On this episode of the Transform it Forward podcast, we spoke to two such professionals who are leading the charge for digital transformation in healthcare.
Creating an environmentDr. Daniel Pepé is creating the environment he wants to practice. Not only is he a distinguished clinician and educator, but he's also the co-chair of a local working digital group and a dedicated early adopter of technology that he believes will improve patient experience and outcomes. He's won numerous awards and accolades and is a trusted advisor to the healthcare industry. Albert Tai is the CEO of Hypercare, where he is working to tackle healthcare's archaic ways of communication, specifically coordination of patient care. Hypercare is a mobile and web coordination platform built for clinicians by clinicians to securely connect and collaborate patient care. It has become all the more critical in a post-COVID society. In conversation with these champions of digital, we explored how COVID is accelerating the future of healthcare and how we can make that future sustainable.
Expanded Practice, Improved CareToday’s pandemic is expanding the horizons of healthcare. Through COVID-19, medical professionals were forced to augment their practices and think well outside the box by supplementing with new technologies. Previously, a longstanding culture in healthcare was blocking the way for most digital innovations. The pandemic became a force for change. Daniel explains:
“In Ontario, people weren’t doing a ton of virtual care pre-COVID. And then there comes a building code and the ability and permission for people to perform in a different way. Overnight, I’m doing 90% virtual healthcare in my office and 10% in person.”This gave Daniel the opportunity to expand his capabilities to deliver quality care. He could devote more time and energy to the small percentage of patients who had to visit his office. Meanwhile, new technologies have provided him with more patient data than ever before. Patients with high blood pressure can now send weekly data through a portal, whereas before COVID, Daniel would see those patients only four times a year. Now, he has 52 discrete data points to help him make informed decisions about the patient’s care.
Closing the Workflow GapsDigital workflows are connecting health care systems better. One of the biggest gaps the pandemic exposed was the inefficiency of connecting multiple medical settings. Think of your doctor sending a prescription to your local pharmacy. Now that same information is being sent online quicker and easier. Albert sees communication as one of the largest gaps in the healthcare system, but not the newest.
“As we move forward, I hope people recognize that this was a gap before COVID. I think that’s where people are going to start focusing more energy on solving that and making sure providers of different capacities can communicate with each other easily.”Innovators like Hypercare are implementing software and technology that can better connect the many touchpoints in a single patient’s journey. Of course, quick changes are much easier if you have full control over the business supply chain. Since the healthcare system is fractured, providers like Daniel had to focus on the most critical aspects of that supply chain in response to COVID. Even if all the downstream components weren’t integrated, they could at least have the screening component integrated to make sure the system didn’t become overwhelmed.
Curing pain points for all stakeholdersBoth Daniel and Albert say understanding all stakeholders within a workflow is critical to digital transformation in healthcare. You need to consider how many people are involved in getting it off the ground. How will they react? Is it easy for them? Thinking about each person and their needs will help make the workflow more efficient and consistent. Hypercare sits down with their customers to have a deep understanding of their workflow, speaking to multiple stakeholders to understand how all the different providers come together for a single patient. Albert explains:
“Once you understand that, technology can come in and improve the process. But don’t disrupt everything and change everything fundamentally, because sometimes that’s just too difficult.”Daniel feels that Hypercare is a great example of how to do digital disruption right. Instead of flipping the whole system, they complement or augment the current system seamlessly, so that it works in the background.
Keeping the Humanity in HealthcareWhile technology has a huge opportunity to reduce costs, expand access, and improve outcomes, there are things a physician is only going to be able to do with an in-person visit. Sometimes, that just might be a hug. Tech advocates must consider privacy and security when thinking about what they’re developing, how they’re presenting it to market, and explaining the problem they are trying to fix so that it will actually be adopted by clinicians everywhere. For Albert, it’s about making choices on behalf of the customers. He says that change management in healthcare can become overanalyzed as people consider all the law configurations involved. As Hypercare has scaled its services, borrowing ideas from other deployments and customers themselves has been extremely helpful. Meanwhile, Daniel recognizes the art of a doctor-patient relationship. Digital healthcare has actually made it possible for him to nurture those relationships while providing better care. He explains:
“When people do come into the office, I have the ability to give them more time in person. What you realize is that you can expand your capacity to deliver care when you use technology appropriately.”