Technology Pushing Outpatient Healthcare into the Future

webinar1The Ambulatory M&A Advisor recently hosted a webinar that centered around technology and the effect that if has had on the urgent care market and overall healthcare industry in general.  The round table discussion took a look at emerging models like telehealth, the pros and cons of recent software and technology models, and where technology could help further evolve healthcare in the future.

Karen Thomas, President of Advanced Telehealth Solutions says that the industry has seen a lot of technology changes in the past years.

“Primarily, we are starting to see an up shift in adoption.  We are starting to see a lot more interest in telehealth related to the business model.  Within the triple aim philosophy, it is up to us to meet the guidelines of improving the patient experience, health of the population, and reducing our per capita costs,” Thomas says.

“Obviously, that is going to be intensified by our aging population, increased longevity in illnesses.  What we are seeing, is people being able to do more with less.  They are being able to adopt technology, and become a lot savvier in their purchases.  They are looking to see how they can make a business model out of the purchase of that technology.  We are seeing a lot more uses in regards to televisits for physicians in relation to normal visits.”

Thomas says that pharmacies as well are looking ahead to use technology in order to improve medication compliance.  Thomas says they are working with automated programs to ensure that the patients come back for their medication renewals, thus improving medication compliance.

Manoj Kumar, CEO of Hometown Urgent Care says that if one looks at the healthcare system, it has used technology in a very limited way to engage with consumers and patients with how the system has guided healthcare.

“The last few year have shown some great change.  I feel at the macro levels, behaviors are changing and there is a huge element of expectation on information.  There is lots of information available to consumers and they are now making their decisions based on that; that is one shift.  The second shift is that the power to innovate has shifted from a few players to consumers with apps that have come onto the medical scene.  There are tremendous new applications and new point of care testing that are coming up.  Third, we are seeing a larger section of the population that is getting used to the technology,” Kumar says.

“With all of these things in play, on a healthcare provider side of it,  and also the patient side, things are changing which are affecting our business.  On a provider level, of course Electronic Medical Records have helped.  They have helped connect the different interconnecting systems.  We can perform better prescription management which has us seeing abusers in the system getting reduced.  We are also seeing reductions of repeated procedures and tests being conducted.  Those are helping to bring more efficiencies in the system.”

The biggest impact that Kumar has seen is in data, which he thinks is available much faster and is more meaningful.

“Because of data availability we are seeing the engagement of the practice, how we are engaging with providers, staff and trends.  They can now see what their outcomes and results are now, at a much faster rate.  I think overall, the practices have become much more connected to what is happening with their outcomes,” Kumar says.

He makes reference to three circles of transparency that technology has created in the industry in recent years.

“When we drive our practice we draw three circles of transparency.  One circle is how we use technology to manage a practice and engage providers, and engage staff.  That is the one circle where we see technology as bringing more meaningful data.  The second circle that we draw is with our payors.  We are seeing that our payors are guiding data transparency to help drive the data involved with the providers,” Kumar says.

Kumar says the third circle is with consumer transparency.  With consumers, he says the access of data has affected the results of how they receive their care.

“If we look at our society, we drive our choices based on data.  We are seeing an era where now provider ratings are easy to find and we see consumers making their decisions based on that.  I think the next thing that is coming is price transparency.  We are seeing some apps coming up, but that will be a huge push, and a huge demand because the needs of the consumers,” Kumar says.

Thomas says healthcare providers  have a situation where one and one possibly add up to three.

“You have got patients that are more tech savvy and they are starting to download more of their data.  On the other hand, they seem to working closer with the physicians because the physicians want them to be more engaged.  With that together, I think we are starting to be able to move that needle.  We have got the internet, people more tech savvy, and we are all working closer together to reach the same health goals,” she says.

Richard Park, MD, CEO of City MD Urgent Care elected to speak towards how technology not only affects the patients but the providers as well.  As a provider of healthcare, Park says that this entire technology change has really influenced the way that providers invest their dollars and invest their time.

“Technology is really, really difficult, and really, really expensive; and it does not leave a lot of room for error.  As an illustration of that, if you put the wrong EMR in, to change EMR systems is tremendously difficult and tremendously expensive.  So, as a provider you have to double down and triple down on IT infrastructure, and that can be very challenging for a small to mid-size provider.  As a provider, you have got to work with EMRs, care coordination, referral management…there is a host of areas that you need to be prepared to invest in, and invest in wisely,” Park says.

“With a lot of these data architecting and data architect systems; you make a mistake and it’s hard to go back.  It’s hard to roll back an EMR system, a data warehouse, the way you collect data, and the accuracy and integrity of your data.  What we are learning is to do it right the first time.”

For a recording of the complete webinar and more in depth information on the topic, please visit this link.

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