The Direction of Healthcare's Digital Future

Sutherland has always believed that to help our clients thrive, we must focus on the forefront of industry transformation. That’s why we’ve posted on topics ranging from the best ways to leverage automation, to harnessing the advantages of experience design.  And our recent “Winner’s Circle” ranking in the Horses for Sources Research (HfS) 2017 Blueprint Report for Healthcare Business Operations.

In keeping with that commitment, this post will be the first in a five-part series dedicated to healthcare’s digital future. Covering everything from targeted analytics to design thinking, we hope this series will help decision makers at health plans, health systems, and independent software vendors alike align their business operations with the direction of healthcare’s ongoing transformational change.

Value-Based Care and the Rise of the Digital Era

Of course, healthcare’s move into the digital era is inseparable from the overall shift from volume-based to value-based care. Legacy care delivery built on volume-based reimbursement schemes were less reliant on access to up-to-the-minute, accurate, and accessible data. But rapid access to accurate data is necessary for true value-based models to thrive.

While the move toward value heralded the arrival of the digital era, it has not been the only driver. Federal regulations mandating outcomes-oriented reporting, combined with internal market pressure to drive down medical loss through proactive patient outreach and wellness initiatives have also contributed to the move. And the final push into the digital age has come with the many mergers and market disruptions we are witnessing today, both within and outside of healthcare. The joint ventures of Amazon, Berkshire Hathaway, and JPMorgan, along with CVS Health’s acquisition of Aetna, have spurred disruption in the industry. And that disruption has led to unique opportunities for digitally-focused organizations; opportunities that few could have imagined even a few short years ago.

Customer Experience Is Key

So what does all this disruption mean? Two simple things. First, the digital era is now fully upon us. And second, only those organizations with access to the data and operational processes necessary to provide the best customer experience will thrive in this new age.

The research on this is clear. As Forrester notes, companies with access to timely digital data and the ability to apply it operationally will have a pronounced advantage in the digital era. In fact, that advantage can already be seen. Forrester’s research indicates that the revenue growth of “customer experience leaders” is already at an impressive 17%, compared to just 3% for “customer experience laggards.” And this discrepancy can be expected to widen.

After all, when digital information can help create a more personalized customer experience — one that improves outcomes, increases process automation, and delivers administrative savings through more granular, patient-centric, and coordinated care — those organizations that can deliver that experience can expect their market advantage to exponentially increase with surging customer demand.

Become a Digital Disrupter

How can your organization deliver the enhanced customer experience needed to become a digital disrupter in today’s transformational digital age? To start, focus on three specific areas: analytics, design thinking, and automation.

Analytics

Advanced digital analytics can be applied throughout the care lifecycle to improve patient wellness, increase care coordination, and reduce administrative costs. And the advantages of purposefully deployed analytics can impact both front and back office operations, from accounts receivable (A/R), provider data management, and revenue cycle management, to clinical support, admissions, and medical coding protocols.

By deploying a digitally-focused analytic solution that not only draws from a wide range of data sources — everything from electronic health records, pharmaceutical, and behavioral health data, to claims and payment history—but also identifies emerging usage patterns from within those data streams, clinical support protocols can be refined and improved even as back office functions can be streamlined in an iterative way. As a result, digital analytics has the capacity to do more than offer one-time savings and immediate efficiency improvements. It can grow those savings and improvements over time.

Design Thinking

The key to providing an improved customer experience is, of course, the customer. And what better way to quickly, efficiently, and cost-effectively enhance the customer experience than by using design thinking to recreate and refine the customer experience, and augment the gains of your analytic insights? By deploying journey mapping and persona creation, design thinking can be used to simulate the user experience through every step of the healthcare spectrum. And it can be done from the perspective of every potential user.

Are the revised front and back office functions you’ve developed transforming the health consumer’s experience and realizing maximum gain? Only if the appropriate personnel in A/R, admissions, and other operational areas have the tools they need to act on your analytic insights. Design thinking allows you to craft, revise, and refine processes to ensure that the user experience is maximized and that full operational advantages are captured. And user interface tools and experiences can be tested against the needs of multiple potential users, from clinicians to patients, ensuring that you are always providing the most streamlined and effective user experience.

Automation

The digital age demands automation. After all, you can only deliver an exceptional customer experience — to patients or members, as well as to the personnel who serve them — if accurate and up-to-date information is available at every step of the care journey.

Robotic process automation ensures that the information you need to be a “customer experience leader” is in the hands of the people who need it most at the time, when it is most needed. By maximizing the number of automated processes in your operations, manual touchpoints are limited, opportunities for errors are reduced, and internal personnel — armed with accurate, up-to-date data — are freed up to focus on the needs of the patient and member. System-wide automation also helps deliver the timely reporting and data maintenance records needed to support compliance.

Thriving in a Digital Future

The three keys to thriving in the digital age — analytics, design thinking, and automation — may seem simple enough. But their importance cannot be overstated. Organizations that effectively utilize these keys today to transform their operations will become tomorrow’s digital disruptors.

Want to find out more about how Sutherland can help you transform your operations? Contact us at healthcare@sutherlandglobal.com

Up next? The Direction of Digital Healthcare, part 2: a more granular look at the strengths of analytics.