The Drivers of Digitisation in Healthcare Delivery

Dennis Adonis

As a healthcare provider, you’re no doubt looking for the best ways to implement innovative processes into your operations, to reduce administration and improve patient care, while struggling with the realities of limited budgets and staff reluctance to change what they know.

Healthcare delivery is undergoing sustained transformation - from facility design, recording keeping and administration, staff and clinician training, to bedside monitoring systems. Beyond automation and information flow inside the hospital, the changes are also flowing into patient journey management – from streamlining admission, to homecare, where homes are becoming the equivalent of satellite care units where nurses can monitor people around the clock.

Some of the major benefits being realised from these digital transformation initiatives include:

  • Building a sustainable capacity for ongoing innovation;
  • Eliminating silos of information to facilitate a complete picture of patient health needs;
  • Improving clinical efficiency through leading-edge digital platforms;
  • Facilitating collaboration between independent health providers to deliver an integrated approach to patient care;
  • Improving operational productivity by automating clinical and administrative processes; and
  • Leveraging technology to improve safety for staff and patients and visitors.

Humber River Hospital - a digital first approach to healthcare delivery

A look inside North America’s first all-digital hospitals - Humber River Hospital in northwest Toronto, shows what the future of healthcare looks like for providers who can marshal the resources to effectively embrace digital transformation.

Purpose built to accommodate the patient journey electronically, the hospital is neatly divided into colour coded admission areas, which patients can easily find online to streamline their check-in process.

Inside invokes scenes from science fiction, with robots sorting medication, and automated guided vehicles delivering lunch trays. Pneumatic tubes carry blood samples from patient floors to the laboratory, delivered again by machines, bypassing the need for human intervention.

GPS enabled devices offer real time location for staff and patients, giving a full picture of where everyone is at any given time, and cutting down the need for noisy overhead PA systems. In the event of any emergency, staff can be directly notified without causing unnecessary alarm, doctors can be notified of the locations of their next appointments, and families are able to track the progress of loved ones from theatre to recovery.

In a central dispatch area, a dedicated team of information technology specialists and engineers watch over the entire system, observing the feeds from video monitors and computer screens for any disruptions. Emergency communications can be activated, and any system breakdowns can be spotted and responded to from a single control room.

Roadblocks to innovation

Transformation challenges are significant though. Funding, of course is usually the primary impediment – in Australia, for example, which is significantly lagging in digitization efforts, PwC estimate the average capital outlay at AU$125,000 per bed to fully embrace the possibilities of streamlined administration technologies.

Adding complexity is the scale of these projects, which are typically large, risky and difficult to implement, and shifting the attitudes of staff, to gain acceptance to using new technologies and processes. The rewards are evident though. PwC go on to estimate, for example, that the benefits of implementing EMRs could equate to savings of approximately AU$1.76 billion a year.

SaaS – bridging the technology capability gap.

For many healthcare providers, the answers to overcoming these roadblocks are increasingly being found in the cloud, where the global adoption in healthcare services is expected to grow from $3.73 billion in 2015, to nearly $9.5 billion by 2020.

In the next edition of our healthcare series, we'll take a deeper dive look at the applications of SaaS technologies in healthcare, and the role effective communications in streamlining a wide range of operational processes, including:

  • Shift-fulfillment;
  • Patient journey management;
  • Hospital maintenance;
  • Transportation communications;
  • Administration and finance;
  • Theater optimization;
  • IT service management; and
  • Ongoing staff communications

Stay tuned!