The US healthcare system is dealing with a peculiar phenomenon. The providers face tough challenges in delivering quality care due to the ever-increasing administrative workload. Besides, with the growing calls for value-based incentives and risk-based contracting, even the minutest of patient details are now noted as care teams work on new strategies to enhance the overall care experience. The data is increasing in heaps and bounds and documenting patient details through legacy systems has become an overwhelming task. There is simply too much of information available to manage easily!
Where does the problem lie?
The healthcare providers are now encouraged to deliver patient-centric care more than ever before, and this has put them at the forefront of intense patient documentation among other things. The increased burden of cataloging information of every episode affects the patient-physician time. Take an example of a physician who has to scroll through thousands of patients’ records within the limited time he has. The time taken in going through such large amount of data could have been used better- perhaps treating one more patient, or observing the network’s performance- but the physician ends up getting buried under redundant, huge piles of records and files.
The technology, initially meant to assist physicians in providing patient-centric care, ends up eating most of their time. Within the limited hours, the physician can either interact with the patient or look into the computer. Statistically, physicians spend almost half of their time on EHRs and desk work. Care managers, too, spend their time on redundant and manually-intensive work such as writing letters, hunting for crucial documents, sending emails, and so on. Besides, manually gathering insights from disparate sources can result in care teams missing out on critical information such as underlying risks, looming care gaps, and growth opportunities in the network. By not utilizing the resources in hand optimally, the organizations may unknowingly add to the physician burnout which can have adverse effects on the entire system.
The Need for Clinical Workflows
As providers are the flag bearers of the care we receive, the focus should be on easing this process for them. In a world where time is money, providers can do wonders if only they have access to critical information right on time. For instance, rather than running through static files, we should utilize the power of machine learning to create intelligent workflows, based on filters on measures, performance, risk scores, or disease categories. Additionally, the providers should be assisted with creating care programs that bridge patient transitions, along with regularly reviewing the coordination and continuity of care along the continuum.
Improved clinical workflows can go a long way in enriching the overall care experience. If all the clinical information integrated with the claims file for a network are stored on a unified healthcare data platform, the time to retrieve data can be cut down by hours! The providers can have access to timely, updated information- plus, it could be easily accessible on the fly. And this could be extended to simplify administrative tasks as well. One of the direct advantages is the reduction in the waiting time for appointments. Once the physicians are freed from the time-consuming manual work, they can interact with more patients. Also, since the clinical information for every patient is combined with the population-level claims information, the impact of care plans on every patient can be tracked regularly. This point-of-care information can help in reducing length of stay, ED visits, readmissions- and generate superior outcomes for the network.
How can automation make the life easy for the care teams?
In no way, automation or artificial intelligence can ever replace what physicians do, but automation can be leveraged by the care teams in multiple ways. By automatically prioritizing the patients based on risk-scores, post-acute care, and other things, the care managers can modify the ongoing care programs to address the dynamic and ever-shifting needs. The patients could be assigned to the best care teams based on geographical proximity, availability of the care managers, and other factors. Timely alerts and reminders for check-ups, if automated, can also ease off the workload on the physicians and the care managers substantially by reducing the number of hours spent in sending emails and making phone calls. For the care teams, this means that they can stratify the population based on their specific requirements- within minutes. They can also incorporate patient preferences and personal goals with clinical and behavioral care outcomes to create a specific care program every time.
The Road Ahead
Times have changed, and sustainable quality improvement is as necessary as it is difficult. It requires engaged physicians; it requires data; and it requires a collaborative effort to embrace data-driven initiatives. The technology that can make all of this true and productive is all available today- all it takes is creating that avenue for innovation. If the transitioning healthcare requires providers to keep patients as the ‘north star,’ it also requires dynamic and empowered care teams that can uphold the end goal of superior quality. And it’s not a far-fetched dream- it’s all about equipping our providers with the right tools, the right information, and the right resources!
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