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David Claxton, Senior Business Development Director

Many health systems find themselves stuck in the innovator’s dilemma—they want to bring innovations into their organization but also recognize that doing so disrupts their current operations.

To add another layer to this dilemma, health systems have been forced to reduce budgets to offset losses incurred during the COVID-19 pandemic—and investments in innovation can often take a backseat to day-to-day operations.

However, the right digital health platform can be just the innovation to help your health system address and overcome its financial challenges. Understanding the hidden costs of digital health and how to increase provider adoption of new technology can ensure your investment meets your organization’s goals to innovate and improve patient care without being a hit to your bottom line.

Hidden costs of digital health

Resource requirements
Often, health systems try to account for the required resources needed to implement and maintain software. They may look at licensing costs or the pricing structure for a particular piece of software and try to estimate what’s needed to implement it successfully. However, until implementation, you won’t realize the true cost of your resources. 

Going beyond the initial implementation, there are ongoing efforts to maintain applications that systems have a hard time accurately predicting —and they all add up fairly quickly. Without a digital health data aggregation platform, it’s easy to get trapped in a costly cycle of consistently duplicating your efforts.

Xealth operates as a layer of abstraction from IT and IS. So, health systems can quickly implement a digital health program or new app without a heavy lift from often resource restrained IT and IS teams.

Additionally, when implementing new technology or software, the speed needed to get it up and running is an often overlooked cost. The longer it takes to implement, the less innovative it is. Say you are in the process of implementing cutting-edge software; if it takes a year and a half or longer to implement it, it’s no longer cutting-edge. So, not only were resources deployed to set this technology up but it’s also lost some of its value now that it’s no longer “new.”

Further, the longer it takes to implement a digital program, the less time is spent actually testing and measuring its success in the real world.

Provider and patient education
Health systems risk low adoption rates without the proper provider and patient education on a specific technology or solution. If no one uses the technology or is even aware that it exists, any costs allocated toward implementation and the cost of the digital therapeutic are a loss.

It’s essential to determine who will use and engage with the technology and how to educate them appropriately. Identifying how to make it as simple as possible for patients and providers will yield the best results and mitigate the risk of low adoption.

Avoiding low adoption rates: How to improve provider engagement with new technology

Embed new technology directly into existing workflows
Embedding digital health tools directly within a workflow is essential. It must be present where the providers are; in the EHR. You cannot ask them to exit the EHR and open another program or website to use these tools because they don’t have time. Clinicians are strapped, and everybody is feeling burnout.

Eliminate clicks wherever possible
Reducing the number of clicks through automation and allocation will help improve clinicians’ adoption. For example, we automate 95% of all content and applications we send to patients. This high level of automation allows clinicians to work at the top of their licenses and focus on their patients. If it’s not automated, determine if another healthcare staff member other than a provider can handle this task. 

Solicit regular feedback
Collecting feedback to understand what is and is not working and making adjustments based on those responses will create a better user experience for clinicians—from an ordering and monitoring standpoint. 

Measure success
Defining success is essential to any digital intervention. Understand what success looks like and continuously measure if the tool is producing the expected results. If it’s not, make adjustments and if those adjustments do not work, retire the solution.

Combat hidden costs with an effective digital health strategy for patients

Implement these digital health strategy best practices to avoid the hidden cost of low patient adoption.

  1. Engage with patients outside of the traditional “four walls” of an exam room
    After COVID-19 transformed what it means to provide and receive care, it’s more important now than ever to engage with patients outside of traditional medical settings. 
  2. Create a unique experience for patients
    One patient may need a reminder for their colonoscopy, and another may be an expecting mother who would benefit from a maternity application to provide additional education—no two patients’ journeys are the same, so their digital health experiences shouldn’t be, either. 
  3. Make digital health easy
    Traditionally, healthcare has been notoriously hard to interact with, and with the rise of consumerism, patients want a tailored, seamless experience. If they don’t get it from your health system, they’ll quickly jump to another who offers better or easier care.

Digital health use case: Tobacco cessation clinic

Duke University Health System has a world renowned tobacco cessation clinic and was looking for ways to spread awareness to its patients about what the program has to offer and how it can help them quit smoking. 

Prior to Xealth, they relied on clinicians remembering to inform the patient or hoping that the provider saw the silent best practice alert (BPA) in the EHR. The silent BPA was within the EHR, but did not explicitly alert the clinician to recommend the smoking cessation clinic to the patient. 

Duke was looking for a better way to inform patients about the clinic and let them independently decide if they were interested in attending.

The solution
Before a patient came in for a regularly scheduled visit, if they were a documented tobacco user in the EHR, they automatically received a video from the tobacco cessation clinic explaining what it was and how it worked. Then, the video prompted a simple yes or no question: would you like to receive a call to get more information? Patients could quickly and easily request this call without exiting the application.

The results
Based on that intervention, there has been a significant increase in patients (over one thousand to date) who scheduled and attended a visit. In addition, those who received the video and indicated they would like to learn more were 20% more likely to attend the visit than those who scheduled via the previous techniques. 

The system estimated an $8,200 lifetime cost avoidance for patients who scheduled and attended their first visit.

Overcome and avoid the financial impact of poor implementation

A robust digital health integration platform can help you avoid hidden costs and find success in your digital health investment. 

It’s possible to accelerate your digital strategy and innovate within your organization while still staying within budget and creating better experiences and outcomes for clinicians and patients. 

No matter where you are in your digital health journey, Xealth can help.

Want to see what Xealth can do for your health system? Request a demo.

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