From EHR to Connected Health Technologies

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Nathan Williams_NEWIn this special guest feature, Nathan Williams, Business Consulting Senior Manager at Sapient, discusses the new set of interoperable technologies around connected health and big data analytics that are emerging as future sources of competitive advantage for health providers. Nathan serves as a business transformation consultant and is the strategy lead for Sapient’s health practice. He provides unbiased and objective strategic expertise to innovation and digital initiatives. His skills like competitive analysis and financial modeling help identify opportunities and execute changes for the organization. Nathan evaluates consumer insights, industry trends and competitive positioning, as well as the structure, management and operations of the client organization to help solve issues, drive growth and improve business performance. When Nathan is not buried in Excel and PowerPoint, you’ll probably find him spending time with his family or skiing down the rocky, ice-laden slopes of the Northeast U.S.

A new set of interoperable technologies around connected health and big data analytics are emerging as future sources of competitive advantage for health providers. This next generation of healthcare solutions, broadly called connected health technologies, include remote monitoring, mobile, wearable, and IoT (Internet of Things) devices that promise to connect patients with integrated teams of care providers. With this promise comes the challenge of managing the data, deriving actionable insights, and building effective intervention processes. In many of these scenarios, big data platforms can help aggregate, normalize, and interpret both the consumer and clinical data passed between patients and provider organizations. Meanwhile, patient outreach tools like population health, marketing, and relationship management platforms can align interventions with patient’s preferences.  The collective set of these connected health technologies enable new, personalized forms of care delivery and extend the health continuum to wherever the patient may be.

This evolution in healthcare delivery is made possible through the widespread adoption of electronic health records (EHRs). In a 2016 annual report to Congress, the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) stated that 74 percent of physicians and 97 percent of hospitals have adopted a certified EHR. And the recent 2016 HIMSS Conference, the largest healthcare IT conference in the U.S., reflected this achievement. Whereas previous HIMSS conferences were geared toward adoption of EHRs, this year the discussions and vendor messaging moved past the point of care to the daily lives of patients.

EHR software supplies digital versions of a patient’s medical and treatment history across all care providers in the health system. Many EHR implementations have increased the accuracy, quality, availability and timeliness of patient information, all of which have improved the patient experience within the health system. But the influx of value-based care arrangements is exposing key limiting factors of today’s EHR software. HIMSS Conference speakers pointed to the fact that less than one percent of a patient’s life is spent with physicians gathering the information that goes into the EHR. They also referenced studies that show that up to 50 percent of health outcomes are determined by patient behaviors between patient-physician interactions.  As providers are increasingly reimbursed on outcomes in value-based arrangements, they need solutions that interact with patients on a much more frequent basis in order to influence the behaviors that drive health outcomes.

Connected health technologies offer a bridge between the physician office and EHR to the daily lives of patients.  These technologies working in concert with the EHR, create a continuous dialogue of messages, automated alerts, and shared clinically-relevant data between care teams and the patient.  This information exchange, combined with the systems and processes that interpret the data, enables care teams to proactively connect with patients and deliver the tailored interventions needed to drive behavior change.  Collectively, the technologies, people, and processes working in concert to deliver care is known as a connected health ecosystem.

The opportunities in connected health technologies are only as good as the data flowing into the system. The most challenging aspect of creating value from a connected health ecosystem is getting the variety of care providers and patients to adopt these technologies and adhere to processes. To ensure adoption, health organizations must design engaging and empathetic experiences that deliver clear and immediate value without being overly intrusive. This is not an easy task. Organizations need to develop a deep understanding of user segments and personalize experiences in ways that effectively influence what are often ingrained behaviors.  Here, analytic teams and behavior change experts can segment users into clinical and behavioral cohorts to align best practices with the needs and preferences of the individual. Meanwhile, experience designers can employ strategies such as user testing and user-centric design techniques to ensure engagement. Lastly, change management and strategy expertise can help identify gaps, measure risk, prioritize opportunities, and build adoption plans. Doing these things in the right way will differentiate organizations in ways that create a sustainable competitive advantage.

The promise of a connected health ecosystem is profound.  Although the central focus is improvement of health outcomes through better and more frequent interaction with the patient.  Organizations can also expect improved satisfaction scores, increased retention and brand loyalty, as well as less revenue leakage through better care coordination.  Those organizations that best choose, implement, and manage these technologies are most likely to succeed in a value-based operating environment.


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