mother, daughter and doctor looking at a tablet

3 key habits to change for a connected health system

by Michael Campana

Summary

Three habits to change for efficiency and experience

Time: 5 minute read
Data is the healthcare industry's strongest asset and its biggest challenge. When we think of time spent at a hospital, we think of time spent with doctors – but the reality is that patients spend countless hours with nurses, staff, financial teams and more. Information management is incredibly powerful, and it's up to us to commit to making it a positive experience for patients.
 
86% of mistakes1 made in the healthcare industry are administrative. Preventable medical errors continue to rank as the 3rd highest “killer" in the U.S. – behind heart disease and cancer – claiming the lives of approximately 400,000 people each year.
 
Information management also critically impacts our healthcare system financially. Roughly 25% of all U.S. hospital spending2 consists of administrative costs. It costs nearly $250 billion3 to process 30 billion healthcare transactions each year – 15 billions of which are faxes. This cost burden is passed onto patients, putting both hospitals and patients at risk.

But just like a gym membership won't make you exercise, knowing there's a better way doesn't make someone change how they handle daily tasks – it starts with habit.

Behavior change is tricky. Research shows that habits take an average of two to eight months4 to form, but it's individual to the people and environment. Take, for example, Amazon and Google's recent foray into healthcare. They are trying to create new healthcare environments in which data can flow freely and securely, costs are low and efficiencies are high – a lofty goal and yet they'll likely be extremely successful because they are building from the ground up. They don't have habits.

The reality is that most hospitals and health systems have millions of patients, thousands of staff, and likely dozens of legacy software they're working around on a daily basis. The good news is that the technology is here. With the right help and new habits, there is no reason that you shouldn't be able to facilitate meaningful system-to-system and person-to-person communication.
 
 

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Doctor showinga patient something on a digital tablet

Top 3 habits to change first:

#1 Bad Habit – Faxing

Achieving true interoperability starts with communication you can trust.

  • Understanding the habit. This is a habit simply because it's what we've always done. CMS has said that faxing is more secure than other old methods, so it has been accepted by default as being more secure – years later and the idea of not faxing seems so daunting that we stick with the status quo.

    A recent survey found that more than 4 in 10 healthcare respondents admitted to having read a paper fax intended for someone else. The security of faxing PHI or referrals is a huge risk – of data breaches, or worse, harming patients.
  • Forming a new habit. Eliminating faxes starts with establishing a safe environment that eliminates fear of change or the unknown. Instruction, collateral, communication, encouragement, and ongoing training will help enable people to move toward a new process without the feeling of doing it alone. Even something as seemingly small as direct messaging can make a tremendous impact, but it takes community buy-in and an emotional acceptance before it can form into a habit.
doctor drawing on a tablet with a stylus pen

#2 Bad Habit – Paper

Consumerism is shaping the future of paper in our antiquated healthcare system.

  • Understanding the habit. Healthcare has a lot of patience for paperwork. But when 3 of every ten tests5 are reordered because the results are missing, and patient charts cannot be found during 30% of visits, and healthcare costs are at an all-time high? It's not shocking that patients are becoming intolerant of paper.
  • Forming a new habit. The first step is to identify where the waste is most dominant. You don't have to eliminate paper in one fell swoop, but small changes can make a big impact. Where are you printing and more importantly, why are you printing? If the answer is, “we just kind of do it" then you might want to readdress if there's a better way to communicate in that circumstance.

It's also worth evaluating your community's needs because not all people interact with paper in the same way. Baby boomers versus millennials, for example, will demand very different tools and means of alternate communication – and that goes for staff, patients and physicians.

 

#3 Bad Habit – Siloes

Collaboration is at the heart of healthcare, and it's time to tear down the walls.

  • Understanding the habit. When two systems don't talk to one another, we just say okay because it's the way it's always been. Siloes are everywhere: between specialists and PCPs, providers and community partners, and even interdepartmentally within the four walls of a hospital.

Only 4 in 10 hospitals report that hospital providers are able to send and receive secure electronic messages containing PHI to and from sources outside of the organization or hospital system. The major barrier is incentive, but billions of dollars are wasted, mistakes are being made, and patients are at the most risk of not receiving the care they deserve because information is lost, delayed or incorrect.

  • Forming a new habit. Tearing down siloes is daunting, which is why we'd recommend finding the right partner as your first step. A team who will listen to your needs and the needs of your community, offer services and technology to bridge gaps, connect systems, and will help establish a roadmap to success.

True behavior change starts with your employees and can fundamentally improve patient and staff experience. First step is to simply reframe how we pursue our goals: better understand the technology that's available, establish the right level of consistent motivation, and not be afraid to ask for help. You don't eliminate a bad habit, you replace it – hopefully with a better one.


 

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1https://www.himss.org/jhim/archive/volume-17-number-1-2003
2http://www.commonwealthfund.org/publications/in-the-literature/2014/sep/hospital-administrative-costs
3https://www.himss.org/jhim/archive/volume-17-number-1-2003
4https://jamesclear.com/new-habit
5http://www.techceocouncil.org/clientuploads/reports/A_Healthy_System_Final.pdf
6http://dashboard.healthit.gov/quickstats/pages/FIG-Hospital-Capability-Secure-Electronic-Messaging.php