The Digital Revolution in Healthcare Is Underway

The annual Health Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) conference is always a source for innovative thinking on the future of technology—and the 2021 event was no exception. Although attendance at in-person sessions was lower than in previous years due to COVID-19 concerns, a digital component allowed experts to connect and share ideas on what’s next in healthcare.

Many HIMSS sessions emphasized that digital solutions are fueling the next chapter in healthcare. Although lagging behind some industries, healthcare organizations are prioritizing digital adoption in the coming years. Improvements in clinical collaboration and patient care are sure to follow.

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Why a Clinical Collaboration Platform is Essential

The Digital Revolution in Healthcare Is Underway   

Due to the unprecedented global pandemic, 2020 was a transformative year in healthcare. To protect patients and team members from COVID-19, healthcare organizations turned to technology for everything from mobile check-ins and remote screenings to routine care. 

These shifts to digital showed promise, but one survey released at HIMSS 21 revealed that around half of executives say they haven’t progressed past the initial stages of digital adoption. However, nearly the same number cited digital as a top organizational priority, with 80% affirming that they expect increased future investment in digital. 

Notably, nearly 60% of healthcare systems expect to spend $10 million or more annually on digital health in the next five years, according to HIMSS-sponsored research. What areas can benefit from the most digital investment? Here are two to watch:

Patient Engagement

In a study published shortly before HIMSS21, McKinsey & Company reported that the use of patient engagement tools like telehealth has stabilized at 38 times higher than pre-pandemic levels. Reports from HIMSS attendees confirmed that stakeholders’ telehealth responses have been positive, with some health systems estimating that telehealth accounts for 20% to 30% of visits. News of a $19 million federal investment in telehealth to reach rural and underserved communities underscored the continued growth for virtual care.

Although telehealth is a valid option across many disciplines, several HIMSS21 speakers and presenters emphasized its value for mental health care. Without question, the isolation and stress fueled by the pandemic surfaced concerns for many people. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the percentage of U.S. adults with depression and anxiety increased from 36.4% to 41.5% between February 2020 and April 2021. Additionally, the rate of adults indicating an unmet need for mental health care increased from 9.2% to 11.7%.

While stigmas around mental health persist, patient engagement tools can offer patients a convenient way to interact with physicians and make attending regular visits easier. Thanks to telehealth, one health system reported that no-shows dropped from 30% pre-pandemic to 17% in July 2021

Other HIMSS sessions featured case studies on telehealth across varied populations–from rural school children and urban adults to astronauts in space. As telehealth expands, HIMSS speakers noted that virtual care can play a critical role in promoting health equity and improving the patient experience.

Clinical Communication and Collaboration

Another clear trend that emerged at HIMSS21 was the need for improved care team collaboration. While telehealth facilitates connections between patients and providers, healthcare organizations also need to focus on improving connections between care teams. The accelerated pace of care ushered in by telehealth, and other patient-facing innovations isn’t sustainable if health systems still rely on old technology, like pagers, intercoms, whiteboards, and faxes. 

Shifting to a clinical communication solution that uses mobile devices as primary contact was highlighted as a way forward at HIMSS21. Since clinical teams often encompass multiple specialties and facilities, they need a reliable solution that enables fast and reliable communication. Relying on outdated technology and physicians to return pages can slow down clinical decision-making, and cost patients needed care. Communication delays can also cause harmful medical errors and adverse events.

While clinicians are undoubtedly familiar with texting and messaging apps for personal use, these tools don’t provide the security and privacy needed to share patient details.  A robust clinical collaboration solution offers the required security while delivering immediate communication and alerts so that clinicians have the most up-to-date information on patients at their fingertips. 

For nurses, these solutions reduce the time spent tracking down care team members and allow them to spend more time with patients. Nurse burnout and alarm fatigue can decline while job satisfaction goes up. Patient satisfaction may rise as well, which is a win for everyone.

Unlocking Your Digital Healthcare Future 

HIMSS21 validated what many providers already knew: digital transformation is essential for continued success and growth in healthcare. Although HIMSS-sponsored research reveals that half of healthcare organizations are behind the curve, there’s still time to catch up and build forward momentum. 

The ongoing investment in patient engagement tools will open up many new virtual care opportunities that empower providers to reach more patients. For many healthcare systems, implementing a clinical collaboration platform is the essential next step. These solutions supplement electronic health records (EHR) systems and expedite information exchange between care team members.

In today’s complex care delivery environment, organizations need solutions that empower their teams to work together to achieve the best possible patient outcomes. The innovations on the horizon discussed at HIMSS21 foretell a bright future for healthcare—and clinical communication is leading the way. 

Can your healthcare organization benefit from a clinical collaboration upgrade?

Download the eBook Why Every Health System Needs a Clinical Collaboration Platform to propel your organization into the future.

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