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Healthcare providers are digitally transforming to improve quality of care

Healthcare executives share that improving the quality of care is driving significant investments in healthcare. The investments are in people skills development/career development and enabling digital technologies that can accelerate workflows and positive outcomes.
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Written by Vala Afshar, Contributing Writer on

I recently co-delivered a keynote at the first ever Salesforce Health Summit in New York City. The health summit was attended by over 150 healthcare executives focused on digital transformation and the improvement of stakeholder experiences. I shared the opening keynote with my colleague Dr. Geeta Nayyar

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Northwell Health - Institute for Nursing 

Dr. Nayyar is a leader in the all-fronts fight for better well-being, helping bridge the divide between clinical medicine, business, and digital health. As Chief Medical Officer at Salesforce, she ensures that data flows seamlessly throughout the healthcare system, empowering clinicians with the insights they need to deliver the high-quality care every patient deserves. As a rheumatologist and a preceptor for the University of Miami Mitchell Wolfson Sr. Department of Community Service (DOCS) program, Dr. Nayyar cares for underserved patients and ensures medical education remains relevant in a rapidly changing world. As a board member at the American Telemedicine Association and the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, Dr. Nayyar helps steer decision-making at some of the nation's most influential medical organizations. In each of these roles, Dr. Nayyar works to curb misinformation at the intersection of healthcare and technology. Her ideas have earned her appearances on CNN and frequent guest spots on several news networks in South Florida. 

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Dr. Geeta Nayyar and Vala Afshar - Salesforce Health Summit NYC July 2022

Paul Fu, Jr., MD, MPH

Before Dr. Nayyar (Dr. G) and I delivered the opening keynote, we were all treated to an inspiring performance by the Northwell Health Nurse Choir. The Nurse Choir was formed in 2020 by Northwell Health when the talented group of front-line nurses gathered virtually for their first appearance on Nurse Heroes Live, a needed reprieve from the battle against COVID-19. These nurses—who hail from different specialties across Northwell's many facilities—have successfully managed to make a name not only for themselves, but for all front-line workers, positively impacting the lives of those touched by their music at a time when the world needs it most.

Dr. G spoke about healthcare providers becoming digital companies. So, what does the hospital as a digital company look like? And how can health systems pull off this transition for success during and long after the COVID-19 pandemic? Dr. G listed six important reasons healthcare providers must become digital: 

  1. Complement existing services with digital patient journeys - Health systems must align their virtual walled garden with their physical counterparts and vice versa. Patients, for instance, benefit when their digital journeys complement their care.
  2. Provide better virtual care - COVID-19 brought relaxed rules on virtual care reimbursement and tighter restrictions on who gets to step foot inside the physical clinic. But health systems require technology to deliver care virtually or inside a patient's home. A hospital at home solution is key to scaling quality care beyond the walls of the traditional healthcare provider's physical capacity. 
  3. Modernize healthcare access centers - When patients are remote, they turn to apps and phone calls for answers. Health systems need to reimagine their access centers to support that behavior. That means implementing the data and technology infrastructure to support digital bookings, insurance verification, patient questions, and even smartphone-enabled bill pay.
  4. Improve population health - Population health extends beyond clinical data. Using analytics and social determinants of health data, health systems can identify which patients are likely to fall off their care plan. That knowledge allows healthcare providers to take action before a misstep occurs.
  5. Reduce per-capita healthcare costs - The key lies in selecting an integrated technology platform that works smoothly across all aspects of the operation. Health systems that drop the ball here will spend a bunch of money integrating their technology down the road.
  6. Fight clinician burnout and infection - Before COVID-19 appeared, clinicians were facing high burnout rates. Long shifts and constant danger threaten to worsen the problem. New tools can help identify employees who are working too often, which enables administrators to give them a break. It's all about being proactive, not reactive.

Dr. G and I also talked about the importance of health executives collaborating with the chief marketing officers (CMOs). Dr. G shared her experience working with Salesforce CMO Sarah Franklin to co-develop our digital health and safety playbook. From 'CMO squared' -- the partnership of the Chief Marketing Officer and the Chief Medical Officer, to a team of epidemiologists and statisticians -- each of us had the expertise, a 'lane,' that was very important to creating a successful Dreamforce," said Dr. Nayyar.  The 'CMO squared' teamwork -- chief marketing officer and chief medical officer -- has led to a strong partnership between Franklin and Nayyar. They have hosted roundtables with other CMOs to develop a health and safety playbook further and support technology solutions and services.

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Health Summit Leadership Hosts: Dr. Fatima Paruk, Chief Health Officer at Salesforce, James Lakes and Brett Gubenko

Here are 10 key takeaways from provider institutions that participated at the Salesforce Health Summit 2022. The lessons speak at a high level about the driving factors that shape the technology investment thesis in healthcare. Dr. G and I heard from so many amazing healthcare executives as they shared their digital transformation journey -- lessons learned and considered best practices. 

  1. Delivering consistent patient experience is a high priority in healthcare. A high-touch model with a personalized single point of contact. Investments include patient portals, mobile apps, and smart workflows, with a single source of true patient data, enabled by CRM. 
  2. Call center investments are improving the overall patient experience by providing visibility into all patient activities. Chatbot technologies, coupled with customer data platform (CDP), patient journey maps via marketing automation technologies and CRM-powered data visualization technologies are accelerating the speed to value and personalized care. 
  3. Smarter and faster workflows are used to better design for movement with application integration and better interoperability practices. Data silos were consistently referenced as challenges faced by all in healthcare. Electronic Health Records (EHR) integration was noted as a major obstacle facing most providers. 
  4. EHR is for a system of record as CRM is for a system of engagement. Providers shared success stories of integrating CRM and EHR platforms to exchange the relevant patient information needed to improve the overall experience. A need for more modern EHR integration tools was noted. EHR is designed for documenting for billing purposes instead of workflow-friendly models. A CIMO reminded us that technology leaders must know the platform's purpose: EHR is for care, CRM is for service. 
  5. Stakeholder consensus building is key to accelerating change management and the adoption of new technologies. Many of the executives spoke about the importance of mapping their technology investment thesis to their institution's desired healthcare outcomes to build consensus and acquire the necessary budgets and resources for their digital transformation initiatives. 
  6. Flow optimization based on the clinical outcomes-based priority model is a key driver of technology investments. How can we reduce friction along the patient journey to improve our speed to value? Workflow optimization is a high priority. To improve the flow of care, the proper connections, integrations, and distribution of insights and actions must be designed into the process.   
  7. Experience is what matters most, not the technology. The healthcare executives spoke about optimizing the stakeholder experiences (patients, doctors, nurses, administrators, communities) enabled by a modern technology stack. Success was mapped to culture, people, processes, and technology - the order matters. 
  8. Trust is a core value and enabler for change. Trust as a guiding principle improves the flow of value and the overall experiences. The flow must be frictionless and designed for constant movement that is personalized. The goal is to create enough visibility and bi-directional engagement so that providers can focus on healthcare prevention measures and not just treatment. A provider executive shared the 5 elements to consider in your transformation: trusted relationships, alignment, human-centered, platform mindset, and continuous innovation. 
  9. Innovation and transformation are hard work. All of the executives spoke about the importance of investing in their employees. The right talent with the best tools can certainly improve the quality of care. The changing expectations of patients drive digital transformations. Consumerism is a major driver in healthcare needing to adapt and change to a digital-first engagement model. As noted before, it's not about the technology, it's about the time experience. Orchestration vs choreography - governance is key. How to deploy and operationalize is the hard work, not the technology. 
  10. Digital transformation is a team sport. The importance of investing and collaborating with employees and business partners was strongly emphasized throughout the health summit. One executive noted the importance of including your cross-functional teams in the exploration process. The time to value accelerating factors included the following factors. 1. Know the jobs to be done, 2. Data analysis is a key capability - data analysts play a pivotal role in process reinvention and innovation opportunities, 3. Hire and retain the right talent, and 4. Build fast, fail fast (learn from your mistakes and be transparent when it comes to ownership and accountability).    

The Salesforce Health Summit reminded all of us that we are in an experience-led, trusted economy, where the quality of the experiences that we provide matters more than ever. 

This article was co-authored by Dr. Geeta Nayyar, senior vice president and chief medical officer at Salesforce. 

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