By Mary Kilmer and Erica Willey, Oracle
Every hospital and healthcare facility has a different way of operating, right?
In the past, this was certainly the case. Every healthcare provider had its own operations, its own ways of working, and its own technology. Systems were bought for their great functionality but customized to support the provider's old way of doing business. More was better as new technologies were brought in to perform a single task but had to be managed and integrated.
If you worked on an IT project for a 400-bed facility, it wasn’t unusual to find 400 different pieces of technology bolted together.
But today, with healthcare in the United States undergoing tremendous cost pressures, organizations are realizing that the old ways of working are too expensive and inefficient. Standardization is the goal, because a standardized, leading process is repeatable, efficient and more cost-effective.
There’s a lot of uncertainty around healthcare reform at the moment. But no matter what happens in Washington, the change will mainly impact the way that insurers—and we, as patients—will pay for healthcare. One thing that won’t change is that everybody wants to pay less, while achieving better clinical outcomes.
That’s leading to a fundamental shift in the way that providers deliver care.
Today, the industry is moving away from the fee-for-service model and towards value-based care. Value-based care encourages providers to look at the overall wellness of patient populations; reimbursements are based on the success of outcomes. For example, if a patient visits the hospital for a particular issue, and is re-admitted within 28 days for the same ailment, the provider gets reimbursed at a lower rate. In some cases, they might not get reimbursed at all.
This is driving providers to change the way they think about patient care. They are focusing more on outpatient care to reduce overall costs and improve the quality of outcomes. This new way of thinking is driving the industry to consolidate, creating shared services and affiliations amongst providers—which in turn is creating a stronger healthcare ecosystem.
It’s also forcing providers to look at ways to drive down administrative costs and make business more efficient.
If the goal is to make healthcare more affordable for everyone, then it doesn’t make sense for each provider to have expensive, heavily customized IT systems. Finance, HR, supply chain, and a host of other support services can be migrated to modern best practices, taking advantage of standardized software in the cloud.
Healthcare providers are seeking to move away from the sprawling technical infrastructures they’ve relied on in the past, which are expensive to maintain and take a long time to upgrade. Instead, they’re looking for systems that are nimble and provide faster time to innovation and value.
Cloud services with embedded leading processes for finance, HR, supply chain, grants and other operational services provide a technology platform to support more effective and efficient service delivery. It frees up strategic resources so that providers can focus on patient safety and improved outcomes.
In a heavily regulated industry like healthcare, where new compliance requirements are a constant issue, customized systems create long lags between the time a new regulation is issued and the time that the provider can modify its infrastructure to comply. The beauty of the cloud is that it offers the agility providers need to stay on top of the latest requirements and processes. This is because cloud systems are updated regularly by the vendor. Healthcare providers can uptake the new functionality as soon as it’s available, rather than undertaking a lengthy, expensive upgrade project.
Of course, healthcare providers need a cloud provider that is constantly working to stay up to date on all the latest regulations and changes—one with its “finger on the pulse” of what’s happening in Washington.
Providers should also look for a vendor that specializes in data—gathering it, analyzing it, and presenting a holistic view that administrators can use to make better decisions. Analytics should be real-time and personalized to each level and role in the organization, in order to provide real insight. Predictive analysis provides a clearer pathway toward success. The ability to integrate with clinical vendors and electronic medical records is also key to more seamless, better-orchestrated operations.
With the right cloud provider in place—one with an established record, that understands the unique challenges of the healthcare industry, and that offers world-class security—providers can be ready for whatever changes are coming next.