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How technology is shaping the future of healthcare

In A Leadership Perspective, Baylor Scott & White Health leaders share insights on healthcare industry trends, current issues and best practices.

A growing number of health systems are harnessing the power of technology to better serve patients, moving the industry toward a future of delivering care where, when and how consumers prefer it.

Two of Baylor Scott & White Health’s experts on digital innovation — Matt Chambers, chief information officer, and Nick Reddy, chief digital officer — offer insight into how technology is shaping the future of healthcare.

Q: Why does healthcare lag behind other industries in technology adoption?

Chambers: Historically, for a myriad of reasons, healthcare has lagged other industries in technology investment — both in terms of total dollars invested and as a percent of revenue. As a result, the healthcare technology marketplace is full of suboptimal choices. Most of the foundational transformation and maturity we’re facing in healthcare today has been experienced by other industries decades ago.

However, over the past decade, healthcare has roared to the front of the pack for technology investment and adoption. Value-based care, consumerization and disruptive technologies have exponentially increased the technology investment in the industry.

Reddy: As an industry, we have significant opportunity to leapfrog others in technology adoption and maturation. In the near future, solutions like precision medicine and cognitive capabilities will really position healthcare as a beacon of progress for other industries.

“Explore."

Q: What are some strides made in the past year in technology adoption that are enhancing the patient experience — both at Baylor Scott & White and in the industry in general?

Chambers: There has been a concerted effort to really drive transparency and convenience for patients. At Baylor Scott & White, we provide patients with secure access to their medical records and give them the ability to request prescription refills, pay bills and get answers to health questions online. We’ve learned one of the most important features to our patients is the ability to easily communicate with us.

We’re also expanding services through our technology platforms, such as the ability to book appointments, receive virtual health services, manage chronic conditions and more — that we believe will make healthcare more accessible for our patients.

Q: The downtown Austin clinic serves as the “innovation hub” and technology beta tester for Baylor Scott & White. Why is this important?

Reddy: We’re very fortunate to have progressive health system leaders who have allowed us to pilot innovative solutions and gain a better understanding of consumer choices at Baylor Scott & White Clinic – Austin Downtown.

Over the past 18 months, Austin has been a hub for us to really think differently and push the envelope for what is possible in healthcare. We have launched about a dozen or so unique elements in Austin, and some of them have been wildly successful. Examples include:

  • A large touch screen in an exam room that allows patients and clinicians to look the patient’s clinical information and engage in meaningful health discussions.
  • We were inspired by the airline industry’s convenient online check-in process and tried to bring the art of possible to our clinics. Patients can fill out forms and check in digitally from home, so when they come in for an appointment, they can see the provider sooner.

Q: What does it mean to “consumerize” healthcare? How have changing consumer expectations played a role?

Chambers: Consumerization to us is about empowering our consumers to actively engage in their own healthcare. We’re excited about this trend because more engaged consumers translates to healthier communities.

Our responsibility is to really understand consumer needs and fulfill them in a manner of their choice. Consumerization usually has a few critical elements — clarity, simplicity, self-service, real-time and anywhere capabilities (which usually translates to digital).

We have an enormous opportunity to leverage contemporary technology and the strength of our health system to help consumers with their healthcare needs.

Reddy: Consumers are usually very clear about their preferences. If they don’t like it or if there is a more convenient option, then they won’t use it. If they love it or it saves them time and money, then they will continue to use it, as giants like Uber, Apple and Amazon have all shown us. We expend a lot of effort studying the market, understanding preference and testing consumer choices prior to deploying healthcare digital services.

Q: How has the electronic health record made healthcare more convenient for patients?

Chambers: As an industry, we’ve spent the better part of the last two decades laying the critical foundation of electronic health records. This is a massively important investment for the future of the industry. It’s not only the key to generating a longitudinal record for the benefits of the patients and clinicians, but also an enabler for all technological innovation we want to bring to our patients — analytics, cognitive, contemporary care models and consumerization.

Fundamentally, the electronic health record allows transparency and interoperability for patients so they can improve their health consistently. This is analogous to having roads and freeways; it’s hard to get across the country without them. Electronic health records are similar; it’s hard to improve healthcare without them.

This has been a long, hard transition for the industry, but a necessary step.

Q: How will technology empower the next big shift in how Baylor Scott & White functions and/or how the consumer interacts with us?

Reddy: We are not far away from “digital” being the preferred and the most used channel of interaction by our consumers. Today, this is a channel where our consumers engage for basics like booking an appointment, messaging clinicians, refilling prescriptions and viewing test results.

We see this evolving exponentially into two specific areas:

  • We see more of our services being offered through an integrated digital ecosystem, encompassing virtual health, wellness, billing and benefits, therapeutics and other areas still to be envisioned.
  • As we work to drive personalization through the digital platforms, this will give our customers a differentiated and distinctive experience. Cognitive technology has the potential to help us identify and treat chronic illness in a way not previously possible. We are excited to bring to bear some of this technology that can continue moving healthcare forward.

About the author

Matthew Chambers
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Matthew Chambers is chief information officer (CIO) for Baylor Scott & White Health. Chambers manages the complex information technology (IT) infrastructure, programs, security and department staff of the organization.

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How technology is shaping the future of healthcare