How Memorial Health leads in digital innovation
In the rapidly changing healthcare sector, where hospitals grapple with workforce shortages and staff burnout, the role of digital health technologies becomes increasingly vital. Jeff Sturman, the Chief Digital Officer of Memorial Health, shares his insights on how Memorial Health is implementing technology to improve patient experience while also keeping employees and healthcare providers happy.
From leveraging data and tools to optimize patient flow across their six hospitals to introducing virtual nursing and advanced AI algorithms for patient monitoring, Memorial Health is redefining what it means to deliver patient-centered care.
Q: In light of the ongoing challenges in healthcare, such as labor shortages, patient flow inefficiencies, and tight financial margins, how is Memorial Health adapting its strategy? Specifically, can you elaborate on the role of digital tools and data analysis in enhancing efficiency and productivity within your organization?
A: So we’re really looking at digital tools as a strategy more than ever before and thinking about data differently than we have before.
We’re all dealing with labor shortages, we’re all dealing with patient flow efficiency, we’re all dealing with, you know, margins being a percent or point here or there at best. So we have to get smarter about how we do things. From a productivity standpoint, we are absolutely looking at tools to help us get more efficient.
Care Coordination Center
So we’ve set up a command center. We call it our care coordination center, and in it we layer a lot of digital functionality. We have started to use it for a few functions – like transferring patients from one hospital to another. We have six hospitals under our wing, and we used to want them to compete with each other. By doing that, we duplicate services across those hospitals. Now, we’re looking at service lines to not be duplicative.
Instead, we’re looking to decant our emergency department, so patients get to the right place of treatment as quickly as possible.
And you can only do that with data and with tools. And so the command center is really the central hub in which will facilitate this ability to get patients to the right location, to the right provider, with the easiest way possible. It’s good for providers, good for patients. It gets them in and out of hospitals, and then shortens their overall length of stay.
You’re probably not going to want to stay in the hospital an extra day if you don’t have to. And so we need to get patients through this kind of very arduous cycle of healthcare a little bit faster. So we’re on this journey of easing the patient experience. And so the command center is really an avenue to help facilitate that.”
Also, in the command center, we’re extending up virtual nursing. We’re really looking into how can we use virtual technology in the hospital to view and really communicate with our patients, while not burdening the staff on the floors.
We’re also looking at, for example, to cut down on patient falls, we’re doing that with some technology from Epic – Epic Monitor. But we’re going to layer in some new technology that is the same technology we’re using for virtual nursing to use for patient falls and some other use cases. We’re going to look at AI algorithms so we can predict or at least have an analysis of when a patient is going to deteriorate or when they might do something they shouldn’t do.
I’ve been working on [the command center] for the last year and a half, so a lot of these workflows and processes haven’t been put in place, but the actual physical space is being built out right now.
Measuring patient experience at a consumer standard
We’re really thinking about taking consumer experience to the next level. We’ve [got to] stop thinking patients are going to always just come to us, and let’s treat patients where they want to be treated.
We want to make it easy for them. So we need to get tools into their hands so we can offer more self-service capability, like online appointments. Also, the ability to communicate with providers. For some reason, we still in this country have a very low percentage of volume in which we can automatically do these things.
We are really impressing upon our community to advantage of the tools that we put out there. But it’s not as simple as just turning it on, we have to create the processes within our physicians. Memorial has been physician-focused for a long time. But can you be physician-focused, while also being patient or consumer focused? You don’t have to pick one, I think you can be both. And I think that’s what we need to be thinking about what’s good for the consumer, not just good for the provider.
Sometimes [providers] make decisions about what’s going to be best for their workday, and sometimes that doesn’t translate to what’s best for a patient. So we are giving them tools around ambient listening around automated, automatic documentation. So yes, we can make their lives easier, which will translate to a better patient-physician interaction, where we’re actually talking to each other as opposed to a physician having to have their head down in the EHR while the patient is talking.
We’re focused on omni channel capability. So talk, text, chat, chatbot self-service again. Leveraging Epic’s MyChart has been huge, and a huge area of opportunity for us. We’ve now really eclipsed that 65% activation rate for all patients across our geography, which is terrific.
Now that activation is high, we’re really focused on utilization. So how are patients using my chart on a daily basis? It’s not a tool just for making an appointment – but messaging, prescription refills, talking to a provider, or education, whatever you might need.”
The evolving role of healthcare technology leaders
I always say, if you think about digital health innovation from an IT or technology standpoint, you’re probably going to lose. Just like when you implement epic, if you think this is an IT project, you’re definitely going to lose.
You need to think about it from a process improvement perspective. You need to think about it from an operations and business standpoint. If you think about it in that respect, you’re going to gain capability and become better at taking care of ourselves as employees, which also then means taking care of patients better.