New digital-focused models of care are increasingly becoming the norm in medicine. To keep up, leaders are revamping organizational strategies—a tall order in a sector often resistant to change.
“Healthcare is the only industry, the only industrialized sector of the economy, that over the past 20 years has experienced negative productivity growth,” said Jared Antczak, chief digital officer at Sioux Falls, South Dakota-based Sanford Health. “We added more people rather than … [making] them more productive and [making] them more efficient.”
At Modern Healthcare’s annual Leadership Symposium, stakeholders shared their thoughts about the necessary shifts they see for the industry, including normalizing at-home services and treating patients more holistically.
Antczak sees a difference between digitization and digital transformation. Digitization moves existing processes to a digital platform, he said, while digital transformation forces leaders to reconsider care delivery as a whole.
Last year, Sanford Health received $350 million to establish a virtual care center to increase access for patients in rural and underserved areas in the Midwest. The idea is to create an ecosystem that includes e-visits, triage and remote patient monitoring.
The center is also an opportunity to build a long-term relationship with potential patients as consumers.
“I think it’s safe to say healthcare has not been historically a very consumer-centric industry,” Antczak said. “If we’re just focused on patients [on-site], then we’re coming way too late to the game.”
Dr. David Lubarsky, CEO at UC Davis Health in Sacramento, California, said patients are increasingly expecting 24/7 access to services, similar to the customer support they receive from retail titans like Amazon. He said the best way to achieve this could be through a chatbot providing information to patients for self-care and possibly self-treatment.
Virtual care, including hospital-at-home, can be a tool to move services out into the community and help patients avoid the emergency department, said Dr. Bruce Leff, professor of medicine and director of the Center for Transformative Geriatric Research at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. It’s also a lower-cost option, compared with operating an inpatient hospital bed, he said.