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Deloitte's Life Sciences & Health Care Blog

Smart health care: Left hand, meet right hand

I know from experience that being diagnosed with a serious illness is scary and upsetting. Adding frustration to the situation is learning that one (or more) of your health care providers—the clinical left and right hands, so to speak—may not be aware of what the other “hand” is doing – even though they are supposed to be teaming to treat your illness.

Because a patient’s care providers often work in separate locations (hospitals, physician offices, independent labs), health records frequently reside in different formats and on disparate systems. Combine this with the growing number of inpatient health care services being pushed to the home and outpatient ambulatory facilities, and it’s no wonder that clinicians collaborating across an episode of care may have difficulty coordinating appointments and procedures, sharing test results, and involving the patient in his or her treatment plan. In short, given these challenges, providers may be working hard, but not necessarily working smart.

With quality, outcomes, and value the watchwords for 21st-century health care, all providers should be looking for ways to deliver “smart” care, both inside and outside hospital walls. What exactly does smart health care look like? It looks like a fine-tuned and well-orchestrated symphony with everyone working from the same sheet of music, playing their part at the right time to create a harmonious melody. It includes:

  • Delivering appropriate treatments at the appropriate time, in the appropriate place, for the appropriate patient.
  • Using technology to more accurately diagnose and treat illness.
  • Creating a seamless experience along the care delivery chain knows where everyone know what everyone else is doing.
  • Storing patient information in one place that is accessible to all care providers.
  • Keeping patients informed and involved in their treatment plan.
  • Improving efficiency while decreasing waste

How do we get there? In the not-too-distant future, digital technologies integrated into traditional health care services will likely optimize right-hand, left-hand clinical interactions in both inpatient and outpatient settings, and advance the potential to deliver smart health care. To learn what this future may look like, the Deloitte Center for Health Solutions recently conducted a crowdsourcing simulation with 33 experts from across the globe. Participants included health care CXOs, physician and nurse leaders, public policy leaders, technologists, and futurists. Their charge was to come up with specific use cases for the design of “smart” digital hospitals globally in 10 years (a period that offers hospital leaders and boards time to prepare). The crowdsourcing simulation developed use cases in five categories:

  • Redefined care delivery: Emerging features including centralized digital centers to enable decision-making, continuous clinical monitoring, targeted treatments (such as 3-D printing for surgeries), and the use of smaller, portable devices will characterize acute care hospitals.
  • Digital patient experience: Digital and artificial intelligence (AI) technologies can help enable on-demand interaction and seamless processes to improve patient experience.
  • Enhanced talent development: Robotic process automation (RPA) and AI can allow caregivers to spend more time providing care and less time documenting it; as well as help enhance their development and learning.
  • Operational efficiencies through technology: Digital supply chains, automation, robotics, and next-generation interoperability will likely drive operations management and back-office efficiencies.
  • Healing and well-being designs: The well-being of patients and staff members–with an emphasis on the importance of experience in healing–will likely be important in future hospital designs.

Most of these use case concepts already are in play. Looking to the future, health care executives should be planning now to integrate digital technology into newly built facilities and retrofit it into older ones. A well-crafted strategy can lay the foundation for investments in smart care delivery, talent, data management, and cyber-security.

Author bio

Dr. Cooper is the Global Health Care Sector Leader and the US National Inclusion Leader for Deloitte. She is a Deloitte Consulting LLP principal and most recently served as the Federal Health Sector leader for Deloitte in the United States. Previously, Terri served as lead client service partner for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the U.S. Life Sciences R&D practice leader. She has more than two decades of experience in the life sciences and health care industry and has provided a broad range of strategic advisory services. She holds a Joint Honors BS Degree in Chemistry/Pharmacology and a PhD in Pharmacology from the University of London.