Challenges in healthcare create opportunities for innovators.

How to drive change in an industry that is traditionally averse to change? How to fix a broken care and delivery model that does not manage people well in the continuum of care? How to cope with razor thins margins at a time when the expense of delivering care is outpacing reimbursement?

These are just some of the challenges identified at the North American Healthcare Forum, a major international event hosted by Enterprise Ireland, and attended by senior leaders from US and Canadian healthcare systems, as well as some of Ireland’s most successful and innovative healthcare solutions providers.

One of the biggest areas of opportunity for the latter was identified as the ongoing shift in focus from the acute setting to the social care setting, with a growing emphasis on the social determinants of health, such as lifestyles and behaviours.

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Budget is a major healthcare challenge

But working within constrained budgets was a recurring theme. For Arden Krystal, CEO of Southlake Regional Health Centre in Canada, where a socialised, single-payer care model exists, one of the biggest challenges is capital.

“We depend very heavily on foundations to fund our capital. Governments take a very limited role in that and it creates a lot of challenges for us in terms of keeping up with things like information technology and newer technologies. We’re always behind (the curve) just replacing things that are literally broken,” she said.

Hospitals in growing communities fare better than those whose communities are performing less well.

Michelle Conger is Chief Strategy Officer at OSF Healthcare in Illinois. Aside from Chicago, the region is not a growing market, she said. Much of its focus, as a result, is on the integration of social services agencies, through a digital platform. One current initiative involves a community of 22,000 people, whose local hospital has closed, leaving residents without access to acute care facilities.

The aim is to improve health outcomes by providing access to OSF hospitals using technology and making better use of community-based programmes.

“In the US, social service agencies and healthcare operate in silos. A lot of times we are all working with the same people but not able to improve their health outcomes because we don’t realise it. Just creating that kind of transparency has had a big effect,” said Conger.

Opportunities for innovation in healthcare

Another challenge is transitions of care, said Brian Donley, CEO of the Cleveland Clinic UK. “Whether it is transitions from hospital to home, from one hospital to another, or from the operating room up to the floor, we see that as a big cost opportunity. Transitions of care costs a lot of money,” he said, pointing out they also lead to concerns about quality and safety. “How we achieve transitions of care better represents an opportunity for innovation,” he said.

Advances in electronic medical records software is a complicated topic, said Michelle Conger. “It gave us access to the data we need – and we built a separate data warehouse that helped us – but I think work has to be done to really help providers work differently because I’m not sure the system has made it more efficient.”

The challenge of highly constrained funding over the past seven years was highlighted by Rob MacIsaac, CEO and President of Hamilton Health Sciences in Canada. “Our strategy is to constrain funding in healthcare and expand capacity in communities,” he said.

“What that has meant for many providers is that we are being challenged to transform the system without having the resources to do that transformation. Innovation is very challenging if you can’t invest in it.”

Exciting innovations

There are however great sparks of innovation happening, he said, including R&D work around remote monitoring, to try and help patients into their home more quickly after treatment and surgery.

“We’ve also done early work in stratification of patient populations, trying to gain insights so we can start to better predict people before they crash, in a way that helps to prevent that. We are starting to do work around understanding what the potential is for us as a learning health system, and the role metrics and analytics can play in that,” he said.

Southlake Regional Health Centre is in a growing region, and so is the recipient of more funding. This has enabled it to invest in its own innovation centre. It has successfully partnered with a number of tech companies and entrepreneurs to develop products and services, which it has gone on to procure.

The aim is to have innovators come in at an earlier stage, “rather than with a fully baked product that may or may not work in a healthcare environment,” said CEO Arden Krystal. “We hope to do our call outs sooner, saying, here’s a couple of big chunky problems we have – companies, come to us and tell us how you think you can work with us and co-design a product that can help us.”

As with many healthcare systems, particularly those with ageing populations, “a lot of our big problems are around the fact that we have way too many patients and not enough space, so we have to find a way to continue to reduce stays, to help people back into the community. So remote monitors are big, but also some process tools to help us communicate faster and move people through our system hospitals. It’s all those kind of non-sexy processes that we sometimes don’t do very well in healthcare. We’re open to all of those as well.”

Any innovation that enables medical professionals to work “at top of licence” will be welcomed, said David Longworth, interim CEO of Lahey Hospital and Medical Centre in Massachusetts.

Ensuring doctors and nurses are not bogged down in routine tasks or paperwork, for example, will ease problems of burn out.

“If I had a blank canvas in relation to solutions in healthcare I would look at the way patients move through the system and at who is delivering the care, having people operate at the top of their licence,” said Lahey’s Longworth.

“I would also invest in transitions of care, leveraging technologies and applications to help foster seamless transitions of care, care giver engagement and patient engagement. I think we have just scratched the surface in how we can apply technology to not just individual patients, but populations of patients.”

Digitisation of medical technology is critical for connectivity and integration of healthcare data across the continuum of care. However, digitally enabled medical technology is only part of the solution. The use of patient engagement to motivate patients to access, use and adhere to digital services and tools to manage their health and wellbeing is critical for 100% utilisation of the digital healthcare ecosystem.

Increasing role of patient engagement

Investment in advanced medical technology gives healthcare professionals and patients access to digital services and tools that support the patient journey across the care continuum, as well as fulfilling treatment goals. Healthcare professionals are making clinical decisions based on insights from healthcare data, leading to improved outcomes for patients. Patients are also playing an active role in their own care delivery by investing in their own care and setting their self-care management goals.

At this juncture, where healthcare delivery is undergoing a major digital transformation, there is an urgent need to make medical technology more patient-centric. To achieve this, there is a need to design a successful engagement strategy.

Channels of patient engagement for healthcare organisations

Patient engagement in a value-based care ecosystem revolves around a need to communicate with patients at every stage of their healthcare journey. To achieve this, healthcare providers are investing in key patient engagement services and tools such as remote health monitoring, chronic disease management, compliance programmes, patient education programmes and wellness support. Furthermore, they are involved in the effective use of traditional as well as digital channels to allow incoming, chronic and transitioning patients to seek preventive and reactive intervention. The focus is on delivery of personalised and dynamic care recommendations to every patient irrespective of care settings. In addition, they are introducing initiatives to optimise population health management efforts through member specific guidance and value-based healthcare relationships. Healthcare providers are also looking to foster behavioural trends that encourages proactive self-care among patients.

The ultimate aim of patient engagement is the attainment of high patient satisfaction and healthcare providers are increasingly looking at non-clinical factors to drive patient experience. With the rise of smart hospitals there is a focus to enhance patient wellbeing during their hospital stay and drive outcomes in three major areas–operational efficiency, clinical excellence, and patient-centricity.  We see hospitals investing in business process automation of workflows as well as improving overall hospital design to drive patient satisfaction through areas such as smart patient rooms and services.

Summary

A healthcare provider ecosystem that uses smart technology to facilitate seamless communication between clinical and non-clinical systems, and that uses digitally enabled medical technology to generate actionable insights will drive patient engagement, in turn creating endless possibilities for outcomes-based care.

Download our free white paper to learn how data-driven and customer-centric innovation will affect sustainable healthcare.

Join Enterprise Ireland, the national export agency, for an exciting opportunity to connect with senior executives from leading North America healthcare groups and Ireland’s most innovative medical technology companies at the inaugural North America Healthcare Forum.

This two-day event connects Irish companies and senior executives in healthcare systems and hospitals throughout the United States & Canada, including:

  • Adventist Health, Florida
  • Hamilton Health Sciences, Ontario
  • Lahey Health, Massachusetts
  • Northwell Health, New York
  • OSF Healthcare, Illinois
  • Partners’ Health, Massachusetts
  • Sick Kids Hospital, Toronto
  • Southlake Regional Hospital, Ontario
Why attend?
  • Network with more than 30 C-Level Executives from North American hospital groups, collectively responsible for more than 30 million patients
  • Hear healthcare decision-makers discuss the major clinical, operational and regulatory challenges affecting hospitals in the United States and Canada, and the opportunities they are creating for innovation and technology
  • Learn from subject matter experts in areas including healthcare investment, reimbursement and route-to-market strategy.