Thought Leadership

Innovation for Patient-Centered Care: Strategies and Lessons Learned from Healthcare Leaders

April 12, 2023
By
Suneha Dutta

In the past couple of years, the healthcare sector has undergone significant transformation, with a renewed focus on innovation across operations, structure, and collaboration. From our conversations with healthcare leaders across organizations in North America, one key unifying factor has emerged - best outcomes are achieved when we keep patient at the center of strategy and innovation. And that benefits not just the patients, but also clinical teams.

As Dr. Margaret Lozovatsky, Chief Health Informatics Officer at Novant Health, says in the Digital Patient Podcast, “All clinicians are driven by providing quality and safe patient care. So when I think about strategies of how to ensure that we have a good relationship with the clinicians and that we’re able to help them - that’s the strategy - it's to tie it back to the patient. That’s what we are all in it for.” Dr. Lozovatsky also emphasizes that with the increasing stress on clinicians, the need to take some of the burdens away from them with technology is becoming crucial. Instead of getting caught up in the next new thing, the role of innovation is to “connect it back to the clinical spaces and what do those clinicians need to be able to provide care to our patients,” says Dr. Lozovatsky.

This holistic strategy to innovation has proven to lead to long term sustainability and success. Donna Roach, Chief Information Officer at the University of Utah Health, shares how “for our digital roadmap, we created an experience ‘swimlane’. And it is about the total experience … we look at patient, employee, physician, clinician experience. The vision of our digital strategy is that if you do something and focus on just one level of the experience … I may achieve something short term, but it will have no longevity because eventually it starts to break down.”

So what does it mean to have a patient-centered approach to innovation?

With the potential to streamline processes and make the delivery of care more efficient, convenient, and cost-effective, digital health innovation can play a key role in improving patient care. And those pioneering digital health are the stewards of ensuring tech and patient experience come together. 

Key tenets for patient-centered innovation

Brian Dobosh, Vice President of Digital Health Systems at RWJBarnabas Health, views his role as a mix between technology and patient experience. He shares, “Technology is rapidly changing … The reevaluation never stops. How do we take that tech, if it's worthwhile, and improve the care, patient experience, and provider experience? It's not one or the other.” And for Dobosh, there are three areas of priority when it comes to considering new technology projects:

  1. Digital Experience - “Can be both from a patient or provider experience perspective. So much of the tech we use touches both. Did the patient who checked in through MyChart hit too many stops? Did the physician connected to the telehealth have audio or video problems? So we're trying to think of ways to make that digital experience/interactions  more meaningful, less cumbersome, and less noticeable.” 
  2. Digital Engagement - “That is about how our customers are connecting to us. Are they getting reminders about their health, do they have the ability to connect with someone through any of our front doors to ask medical questions or schedule appointments … How are we putting the right mechanism to interact with them and keep them engaged.”
  3. Digital Health Equity - “It's how we let the underserved communities not get left behind by digital technologies. Whether they don’t have the knowledge, skills, or resources to interact with these [digital health] products … We’re trying to focus on ways that we could help to bridge that gap and fix that scenario. But that is by far a huge and the hardest part.” 

Improving patient access

A patient’s healthcare journey is complex and nuanced, and often the experience can be fragmented and disjointed. Patients need care that consistently engages and informs them, and allows both providers and patients to stay connected to achieve the most efficient road to recovery. How patients access healthcare services, including telehealth options, online educational resources, recommendations, and tracking health metrics, such as recovery progress and medication usage, is key to patient-centered healthtech innovation.

According to Harshal Shah, Director of Digital Health at RWJBarnabas Health, uplifting patient access first and foremost relies on providers understanding a patient’s journey. The question for him is “How do we distinguish ourselves, that we are a core, essential, patient-centric model that's going to be right for you? So understanding when the patient starts their journey … understanding what they are actually going to search for if they want a primary care provider … How do you give them the opportunity to ask those questions? How do you interact enough with the patient to understand the patient? Across the board, we need to focus on all inclusive care. We need to focus on that 360 model.”

Shah emphasizes the value of utilizing available data, such as from wearable technology, in this form of inclusive care. “We need to understand the patients, their day-to-day, what they are eating, whether they would like to tell us as a healthcare provider, or we find out from wearable tech … and utilize that data for meaningful conversations,” he suggests.

An integrated digital front-door strategy

Digital technologies integrated as part of an organization's front-door strategy can provide tools and support for a highly coordinated and standardized patient experience across all stages of life.

Shah and his team at RWJBarnabas are focused on improving access for patients across New Jersey by creating a single front door for all services through a unified portal or app, for across different communities in the patient population. He shares, “We as a system are focused on access to our diversified patients across New Jersey. But we have to understand two things. If we roll out a big bang of a product, maybe we miss a lot of access for patients that need it. Our system has come from multiple portals. So our main focus right now is to make a single access front door for all services that are needed … whether it be telehealth, results, e-visits, scheduling with a provider, getting a referral, scheduling a CAT scan, completing your consents. We want all that into a single access so you don't need patients going to different areas.”

Educating patients about technology

Long term sustainability of tech adoption is dependent on how comfortable a patient is with the digital approach. For instance, Shah emphasizes that the reason telehealth has seen continued increased adoption is because it has reached a “comfort level from a provider and a patient perspective.” And increasing this level of comfort towards new processes or technologies comes with its own need to ensure that patients are educated about it. 

Shah shares, “When you're implementing a technology solution in a health system, you do so much training for your providers. And yet when it comes to patients, we often assume they can just log in and use it. Actually everyone needs training. I think that's a really compelling point that we often don't talk about. I think it's so important - easy access to learning, easy access to knowledge articles, a way to ask questions - you're giving them that openness.”

For RWJBarnabas, one of the solutions was to have PFA committees across all the sites, including a central one for their Epic implementation for patient experience. “We actually got real patient feedback on how to improve what we're going to roll out with. Even making it easy - ‘oh I don't like the text on this side, it's easier on this side for our patient,’ or ‘if you don't click the forgot password here, I want this to show up.’ We were doing those simple things to help improve that experience and as a system, because of what we did and the organizational involvement, we've had over 40% of MyChart usage in the first two years and we're not even all live yet. It speaks a lot to keeping the patient the center point of attention. Equally, you're keeping your provider and staff the center point of attention.” 

Supporting health consumerism

There is a growing demand for healthcare consumerism where patients are treated as a customer, the same way as any other industry would. Shah shares that during his journey from MHA to MBA to understand healthcare from the perspective of a business, he realized “a patient is equivalent to a customer. A customer has so many options. They are not just going to your healthcare organization, they have so many options. So why are they important to you? Why are you important to them?” 

Answering that question entails keeping the customer, aka the patient, at the core to increasingly drive the expansion and streamlining of care by leveraging innovation. For Dr. Ashis Barad, Chief Digital & Information Officer at Allegheny Health Network, understanding that a patient is a consumer not only shifts focus to engaging with an individual before they are even in the system but also democratizes healthcare access.  

Dr. Barad shares, “The connotation of a patient is ‘sick’ and has an established relationship [with the healthcare system]. A patient is someone that’s already in the system and you’re in a reactive approach to that person - they come in with a complaint or an issue and you’re reacting to that issue. Whereas a “consumer” to me is moving upstream and being with them well ahead of them ever being in the health system … Where the health system will guide and navigate and orchestrate their ‘health’ early on to keep them well.” From the consumerism standpoint, the goal is to democratize care and access to the best healthcare services available, as would be for a consumer of any other industry. 

Providers across North America continue to emphasize understanding the needs of their patients and embracing technology that can improve patient care. For most, it is a consistent investment in learning, collaboration with frontline care teams, tech adoption and optimization, and creating a culture of innovation and change. To hear more insights from these healthcare leaders and others who are breaking through digital transformation and healthcare barriers, tune into The Digital Patient Podcast, rated one of the top 30 Best Digital Health Podcasts by FeedSpot, here.

Innovation for Patient-Centered Care: Strategies and Lessons Learned from Healthcare Leaders

Posted by:
Suneha Dutta
on
April 12, 2023

In the past couple of years, the healthcare sector has undergone significant transformation, with a renewed focus on innovation across operations, structure, and collaboration. From our conversations with healthcare leaders across organizations in North America, one key unifying factor has emerged - best outcomes are achieved when we keep patient at the center of strategy and innovation. And that benefits not just the patients, but also clinical teams.

As Dr. Margaret Lozovatsky, Chief Health Informatics Officer at Novant Health, says in the Digital Patient Podcast, “All clinicians are driven by providing quality and safe patient care. So when I think about strategies of how to ensure that we have a good relationship with the clinicians and that we’re able to help them - that’s the strategy - it's to tie it back to the patient. That’s what we are all in it for.” Dr. Lozovatsky also emphasizes that with the increasing stress on clinicians, the need to take some of the burdens away from them with technology is becoming crucial. Instead of getting caught up in the next new thing, the role of innovation is to “connect it back to the clinical spaces and what do those clinicians need to be able to provide care to our patients,” says Dr. Lozovatsky.

This holistic strategy to innovation has proven to lead to long term sustainability and success. Donna Roach, Chief Information Officer at the University of Utah Health, shares how “for our digital roadmap, we created an experience ‘swimlane’. And it is about the total experience … we look at patient, employee, physician, clinician experience. The vision of our digital strategy is that if you do something and focus on just one level of the experience … I may achieve something short term, but it will have no longevity because eventually it starts to break down.”

So what does it mean to have a patient-centered approach to innovation?

With the potential to streamline processes and make the delivery of care more efficient, convenient, and cost-effective, digital health innovation can play a key role in improving patient care. And those pioneering digital health are the stewards of ensuring tech and patient experience come together. 

Key tenets for patient-centered innovation

Brian Dobosh, Vice President of Digital Health Systems at RWJBarnabas Health, views his role as a mix between technology and patient experience. He shares, “Technology is rapidly changing … The reevaluation never stops. How do we take that tech, if it's worthwhile, and improve the care, patient experience, and provider experience? It's not one or the other.” And for Dobosh, there are three areas of priority when it comes to considering new technology projects:

  1. Digital Experience - “Can be both from a patient or provider experience perspective. So much of the tech we use touches both. Did the patient who checked in through MyChart hit too many stops? Did the physician connected to the telehealth have audio or video problems? So we're trying to think of ways to make that digital experience/interactions  more meaningful, less cumbersome, and less noticeable.” 
  2. Digital Engagement - “That is about how our customers are connecting to us. Are they getting reminders about their health, do they have the ability to connect with someone through any of our front doors to ask medical questions or schedule appointments … How are we putting the right mechanism to interact with them and keep them engaged.”
  3. Digital Health Equity - “It's how we let the underserved communities not get left behind by digital technologies. Whether they don’t have the knowledge, skills, or resources to interact with these [digital health] products … We’re trying to focus on ways that we could help to bridge that gap and fix that scenario. But that is by far a huge and the hardest part.” 

Improving patient access

A patient’s healthcare journey is complex and nuanced, and often the experience can be fragmented and disjointed. Patients need care that consistently engages and informs them, and allows both providers and patients to stay connected to achieve the most efficient road to recovery. How patients access healthcare services, including telehealth options, online educational resources, recommendations, and tracking health metrics, such as recovery progress and medication usage, is key to patient-centered healthtech innovation.

According to Harshal Shah, Director of Digital Health at RWJBarnabas Health, uplifting patient access first and foremost relies on providers understanding a patient’s journey. The question for him is “How do we distinguish ourselves, that we are a core, essential, patient-centric model that's going to be right for you? So understanding when the patient starts their journey … understanding what they are actually going to search for if they want a primary care provider … How do you give them the opportunity to ask those questions? How do you interact enough with the patient to understand the patient? Across the board, we need to focus on all inclusive care. We need to focus on that 360 model.”

Shah emphasizes the value of utilizing available data, such as from wearable technology, in this form of inclusive care. “We need to understand the patients, their day-to-day, what they are eating, whether they would like to tell us as a healthcare provider, or we find out from wearable tech … and utilize that data for meaningful conversations,” he suggests.

An integrated digital front-door strategy

Digital technologies integrated as part of an organization's front-door strategy can provide tools and support for a highly coordinated and standardized patient experience across all stages of life.

Shah and his team at RWJBarnabas are focused on improving access for patients across New Jersey by creating a single front door for all services through a unified portal or app, for across different communities in the patient population. He shares, “We as a system are focused on access to our diversified patients across New Jersey. But we have to understand two things. If we roll out a big bang of a product, maybe we miss a lot of access for patients that need it. Our system has come from multiple portals. So our main focus right now is to make a single access front door for all services that are needed … whether it be telehealth, results, e-visits, scheduling with a provider, getting a referral, scheduling a CAT scan, completing your consents. We want all that into a single access so you don't need patients going to different areas.”

Educating patients about technology

Long term sustainability of tech adoption is dependent on how comfortable a patient is with the digital approach. For instance, Shah emphasizes that the reason telehealth has seen continued increased adoption is because it has reached a “comfort level from a provider and a patient perspective.” And increasing this level of comfort towards new processes or technologies comes with its own need to ensure that patients are educated about it. 

Shah shares, “When you're implementing a technology solution in a health system, you do so much training for your providers. And yet when it comes to patients, we often assume they can just log in and use it. Actually everyone needs training. I think that's a really compelling point that we often don't talk about. I think it's so important - easy access to learning, easy access to knowledge articles, a way to ask questions - you're giving them that openness.”

For RWJBarnabas, one of the solutions was to have PFA committees across all the sites, including a central one for their Epic implementation for patient experience. “We actually got real patient feedback on how to improve what we're going to roll out with. Even making it easy - ‘oh I don't like the text on this side, it's easier on this side for our patient,’ or ‘if you don't click the forgot password here, I want this to show up.’ We were doing those simple things to help improve that experience and as a system, because of what we did and the organizational involvement, we've had over 40% of MyChart usage in the first two years and we're not even all live yet. It speaks a lot to keeping the patient the center point of attention. Equally, you're keeping your provider and staff the center point of attention.” 

Supporting health consumerism

There is a growing demand for healthcare consumerism where patients are treated as a customer, the same way as any other industry would. Shah shares that during his journey from MHA to MBA to understand healthcare from the perspective of a business, he realized “a patient is equivalent to a customer. A customer has so many options. They are not just going to your healthcare organization, they have so many options. So why are they important to you? Why are you important to them?” 

Answering that question entails keeping the customer, aka the patient, at the core to increasingly drive the expansion and streamlining of care by leveraging innovation. For Dr. Ashis Barad, Chief Digital & Information Officer at Allegheny Health Network, understanding that a patient is a consumer not only shifts focus to engaging with an individual before they are even in the system but also democratizes healthcare access.  

Dr. Barad shares, “The connotation of a patient is ‘sick’ and has an established relationship [with the healthcare system]. A patient is someone that’s already in the system and you’re in a reactive approach to that person - they come in with a complaint or an issue and you’re reacting to that issue. Whereas a “consumer” to me is moving upstream and being with them well ahead of them ever being in the health system … Where the health system will guide and navigate and orchestrate their ‘health’ early on to keep them well.” From the consumerism standpoint, the goal is to democratize care and access to the best healthcare services available, as would be for a consumer of any other industry. 

Providers across North America continue to emphasize understanding the needs of their patients and embracing technology that can improve patient care. For most, it is a consistent investment in learning, collaboration with frontline care teams, tech adoption and optimization, and creating a culture of innovation and change. To hear more insights from these healthcare leaders and others who are breaking through digital transformation and healthcare barriers, tune into The Digital Patient Podcast, rated one of the top 30 Best Digital Health Podcasts by FeedSpot, here.

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