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Digital Health’s Transformational Moment: Are You In or Out?

ByBruce Brandes and Andy Shin |May 13, 2020

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, our team will be interviewing experts from across the ecosystem to bring the HLTH community timely facts and updates.

With the hope that the COVID-19 surge may be beginning to transition into a rolling recovery phase, it is time to begin to define what healthcare will look like on the other side of this crisis.

Let’s first align on a few core truths. These of course have been well known by health industry “insiders,” but the crisis revealed them more broadly:

1. Nurses, doctors, and all other care providers are heroes.  We are forever indebted to the bravery and personal sacrifices that these clinicians, much like our military, make on behalf of the communities they serve.  

And yet, the tools our healthcare heroes have at their disposal barely touch the surface of what is possible.

2. Hospitals are the most essential of essential businesses.  In the face of a pandemic, a popular sentiment that we have too many hospital beds is debunked, and every hospital is thought of as “critical access.”  

This means it is even more necessary that we reimagine financial models and create new operational efficiencies to ensure long term viability.

3. Scaled adoption of digital health is a societal imperative. Social distancing, capacity limitations, growing needs of vulnerable populations, ongoing chronic conditions, and the need for in-home care have decisively made the business case for an array of transformational, modern solutions.  

Digital represents the key to arm our clinicians with the transformational tools and advantaged insights worthy of superheroes. Digital represents the answer to supercharge the business of healthcare to align clinical success with financial success and operate with the efficiency of the most successful Fortune 500 companies.

And yet, with so much noise around digital health, how do industry leaders separate the wheat from the chaff? Where do you focus first?

To address the surge, many health systems have scaled adoption of critical digital tools in two-weeks time, a process that may otherwise have taken two years. We know that one of the biggest barriers to wider adoption of digital health tools is to experience it for the first time. Obviating that challenge has resulted in sea-change of consumer and provider expectations for the simplicity and convenience of foundational solutions like telehealth visits, virtual triage, chatbots and remote monitoring.

Looking ahead to optimize recovery and successfully transition to a new normal, prioritization and focus on durable solutions is critical. Newly deployed innovations must be optimized. For example, one of AVIA’s health system members is filling available openings in virtual visits through an automated outreach program to about 3,500 patients that reminds them to measure and report their temperatures twice daily.

Many other digital capabilities essential to the future of healthcare delivery will range from accelerating reactivation surgical and ambulatory services, addressing behavioral health, cash management and financial modeling, clinician burnout, consumerism, etc.

This is digital health’s long-anticipated transformational moment. Whether you are a provider or solution company, the question is: “Are you IN or are you OUT?”

Sure, everyone will say they are IN, but what does that really mean?  There will be winners and losers as we move into different phases of this crisis.  How do you adapt to ensure you end up on the right side of history?

Can a hospital or health system invest in digital to better serve a community that relies on it for care and innovation while, at the same time, addressing its own organizational financial crisis?

Here are the related key questions for which hospitals and health systems need focus and clarity:

  • What digital capabilities are needed to support our organizational strategic initiatives?
  • How can we internally align and assess where we stand and benchmark with our peers?
  • How do we prioritize what to do now, later, or not at all?
  • How do we build a business case for investment and what are the metrics we should use to measure value?
  • Where can we better leverage the digital tools we already own?
  • How can we understand the context for solution landscapes and compare relevant products?
  • How can we de-risk product selection and accelerate a scaled deployment?

To help answer these questions and catalyze awareness, assessment, and adoption of impactful digital solutions, AVIA and the American Hospital Association have launched a new tool, the AHA Digital Pulse, free for all AHA members to learn, internally assess, and compare digital capability benchmarks with peers. There are two Pulses available right now: one on digital readiness and response to COVID-19; and another on what capabilities are needed for the Digital Front Door to enable more streamlined and efficient access to care. 

The AHA Digital Pulse is hosted on the industry’s platform for digital transformation, AVIA Connect. This platform enables providers to not only assess their digital capabilities, but also share best practices and experiences at a time when quick access to insights is so urgently needed.

Together, we will effectively and efficiently navigate through this crisis and emerge with an accelerated, improved journey to realize the future of health.

About Bruce Brandes and Andy Shin: 

Bruce Brandes is the General Manager, Digital & Partner Network at AVIA. AVIA is the nation's leading digital transformation partner for healthcare organizations. Andy Shin is the Chief Operating Officer for the American Hospital Association’s Center for Health Innovation. The AHA Center for Health Innovation is leading hospital and health system transformation and accelerating innovation at scale.