As widely reported and acutely felt, in 2022 health systems are broadly on track to post their worst financial results in decades. That fact is all the reminder we need that healthcare organizations are businesses with exposure to macro-economic headwinds and tailwinds, like any other. But unlike other sectors, healthcare is part of the critical infrastructure that holds up our society, our economy, our families, and ourselves.
In the business of improving health outcomes and saving lives, questions about spending can be existential. Hospitals have a moral imperative to provide the care their communities rely on, making labor shortages and a looming recession much more than simply business challenges. Services and supplies will continue to be needed and secured, regardless of cost. At the same time, technology can and will increasingly be leveraged to drive improvements in productivity and efficiency—driving down costs and better supporting frontline workers in their efforts to provide the best possible care to their patients and communities.
So, now what?
Technology-led transformations that accelerated during the pandemic are likely to continue. Bain & Company and KLAS Research surface excellent data in their recent survey and report of 330 provider organizations, finding that more than 95% expect to make new software investments in the next year despite economic uncertainty. Healthcare IT (HCIT) spending is a top-three strategic priority for 40% and top-five priority for 80%. It makes sense as staff shortages and wage inflation drive demand for solutions that will rapidly improve workforce productivity.
The 2022 symplr Compass Survey dives deep into health systems' priority to insulate the workforce from distractions.
Don’t bait and switch me
The Bain/KLAS report unearthed a clear theme regarding the type of technology healthcare systems demand: Vendor partners had better deliver solutions that rapidly achieve a trifecta of demonstrated results in efficiency, profitability/ROI, and integration that is not disruptive to their healthcare workforce. It is evidence that health systems have found at least one concrete way to address burnout; they won’t rock the boat with unnecessary technological change on an exhausted workforce.
Unfortunately, 70-80% of technology transformations fail—and oftentimes not because of the solutions themselves, but rather because they fail to fully address people and process needs. Change fatigue is real. Employing a user-centered approach is more relevant than ever before. In healthcare, it’s critical to use technology, services, tools, and resources that are healthcare-specific, and that account for the nuances of end users’ needs.
95% of provider organizations expect to make new software investments in the next year despite economic uncertainty.
Control what you can
Healthcare operations (all the non-clinical and non-revenue cycle administrative functions that rely on and employ data to run the health system) is an area where technology can provide a significant impact in the efficiency—and ultimately the cost—of how healthcare systems operate. Healthcare operations—including workforce management, provider data management, healthcare governance, risk management, and compliance—has a meaningful impact on the overall financial health of a healthcare system, and investment in healthcare operations is an important step toward adopting a human-centered approach to a technology infrastructure that produces better outcomes for patients, clinicians, staff, the healthcare enterprise—and ultimately, the healthcare industry.
With the right enterprise-level HCIT solution, providers can quickly relieve the immense administrative burdens—especially the requirement to document visits in EHRs—and meaningfully address burnout and waste by empowering clinicians and staff to practice to the top of their licenses and skill sets. Simply put, the right solution gives caregivers more time to give care.
100 possible paths to better operations for better outcomes
Healthcare administrators know their overworked clinicians/staff would benefit from fewer IT-related complications with job tasks. They know they need to automate and simplify fragmented, operational tasks, providing the right tools to empower staff to focus on their jobs. And they know the right technology can help prevent burnout by standardizing processes at the system level, so staff spend more time focusing on patients and less time on administrative tasks. The end goal is clear, but the best path to getting there is often uncertain, especially in a recessionary period. Among healthcare leaders, and specifically, CIOs, there may not be consensus about how they’ll spend on technology: Add another point solution? Tack a module onto the EHR? Go for a complete software overhaul?
This lack of consensus is borne out in the Bain/KLAS report: “While the outlook for provider software investments is strong, vendor proliferation and expanding tech stacks are driving changes in how providers plan to make software investments over the next year.”
While the outlook for provider software investments is strong, vendor proliferation and expanding tech stacks are driving changes in how providers plan to make software investments over the next year.
Taming the tech stacks
For decades health systems have continued to adopt a multitude of software applications, primarily point systems, to address everything from supply chain spending to provider credentialing, compliance, and the prevention of unnecessary staff overtime. More recent years have seen increases in solutions that help systems create an appealing digital front door for increased patient acquisition amid changing consumer tastes.
This collection-of-tech strategy highlights the deficiencies of continually adding disconnected tools that clinicians and staff must master—all while still providing excellent patient care. COVID-19 was a reckoning, and now provider organizations increasingly recognize the need to streamline tech stacks.
If health systems fail to digitally transform their healthcare operations and continue to host disconnected software systems and solutions, the negative downstream effects will be amplified and unmanageable:
- When data is stored in multiple software solutions or sources, the risk of cyber security breaches rises in tandem;
- A lack of data transparency wastes resources and inhibits an enterprise’s ability to maximize its workforce and to identify opportunities for cost containment;
- The inability to easily locate and report accurate information that exists in multiple or manual systems introduces the potential for costly compliance violations;
- Value-based payment and risk-sharing arrangements reward care quality over quantity, requiring strict measurement of outcomes data that disconnected systems cannot achieve.
As provider organizations seek to streamline tech stacks using that new paradigm for decision-making on technology—make us more efficient and profitable, but don’t disrupt our workforce—they’ll hone in on the tractable factors they can and are influencing. The result is an accelerated timeline to digitally transform their operations, using healthcare-specific technology to predict, connect, complement, and streamline human tasks. That’s where enterprise healthcare operations solutions can make the difference in achieving the key results of efficiency, profitability, and user-centricity. I invite you to explore symplr’s enterprise healthcare operations software and services. We enable caregivers and staff to do what they do best: provide high-quality patient care.