As DeliverHealth acquires Nuance EHR tools, CEO talks simplification
Today, DeliverHealth Solutions, which develops tools to simplify electronic health record, provider-documentation, revenue-cycle and patient-engagement complexities for health systems, completed its acquisition of the health information management and EHR go-live services businesses of Nuance Communications.
"Our leadership team and more than 2,000 skilled employees have worked together for years to improve physician and patient satisfaction while boosting the bottom line as health systems evolve and accelerate their digital transitions," said DeliverHealth CEO Michael Clark, in a statement.
"The daily tasks of healthcare teams can feel overwhelming, and too often burnout is decimating staffs," Clark added. "Our job at DeliverHealth is to simplify the complexities, remove technology barriers to prioritize patients over technology, and act as an extension of healthcare providers so they have more time to focus on patient care."
Healthcare IT News interviewed Clark to dig deeper into the subjects of the complexities involved for physician practices and hospitals during the crazed past 12 months, removing barriers to putting patient care over technology, and how health systems can accelerate digital transformation.
Q: From your point of view, what have the past 12 months been like for medical practices and hospitals trying to recover, adapt and grow with increased complexity in their responsibilities?
A: I saw hospitals and health systems experience the past 12 months in three phases. The first phase was simply the shutdown based on the unknown. Healthcare as we knew it just stopped. Leaders adapted in spite of federal, state and local confusion. Healthcare has always been a local business. During this early phase the COVID-19 impact was sorted out locally, community by community and health system by health system, each creating their own means to emerge from the shutdown.
Boldly, brightly, all came out aggressively by June and July. We called it "get back to work" for the good work of patient care. Interestingly, at this point, personally and professionally, I saw healthcare leaders simply ready and itching to get back to work. The planning, rapid change and collective results to fight the virus liberated our thinking. As an industry, I believe we all realized we could move mountains if needed, so "let's get back to work."
Decisions were made, new investments were completed and new paradigms were created. Our mindset was let's not waste time getting things done. In that came a perseverance with preparation for what's next and the ability to quickly triage and adapt to new normals.
From remote workforces to seemingly overnight system implementations, the pace of new technology adoption this past year far exceeded anything we've ever seen in healthcare. Winners in healthcare quickly pivoted and adapted to these changes.
In September, I witnessed healthcare leadership simply lean in and return back to the basics. Organizations refocused on serving their patients and care teams, supporting both with all-in remote care options and all that goes with that. We continue to adapt, but now must also plan and proactively act on where we are going, what still lies ahead.
Remembering that all care is local, we must continue to act to recognize needs and deliver the best services for our communities. And that's where we are in healthcare today.
"The pandemic has been a catalyst for healthcare leadership to truly view their EHR designs and adapt."
Michael Clark, DeliverHealth
For example, at DeliverHealth, we just completed two large-scale transformation projects of more than 500 people (on-site and remote) and large IT technology conversions that had been stalled or tabled in 2020. Today's must-do mindset will prevail through the spring and summer of this year as healthcare leaders continue to look forward and lead locally.
From a digital health perspective, many of the new applications health systems would have spent months or years evaluating will or have been implemented at a much faster (some may argue reckless) pace. But that was out of need in 2020.
In 2021, leaders are adapting to the decisions made. Are systems integrated and secure? Will urgent changes made to EHRs and other systems stand the test of time? Can a return on investment or operational efficiencies be achieved? And if not, should new systems be replaced?
So, while digital transformation is certainly advancing, it's still premature to call it transformational. It's really more transitional as the people factor that enables and accelerates transformation takes center stage. IT and support functions inside health systems have pivoted incredibly to the telehealth, remote and "not the way we've done this before" very successfully. They never want to go back.
To advance the local healthcare leadership mission we see more third-party, competent and trusted partners being asked to give back and participate. Just within our own organizations, we are being tapped on to bring value outside our typical or traditional paradigms and deliver speed-to-value wins instead of lengthy RFPs and committee meetings. Results now trump process.
Lastly, for obvious reasons, patients need to become more comfortable and confident with telehealth and digital engagement. They are looking for healthcare to deliver the omnichannel experience with better online patient services, in addition to EHR and portal support.
In fact, we're working with one of the nation's largest health systems right now on shepherding patients through the COVID-19 vaccination process. The urgent need to support patients through every step of the care journey will continue. Digital transformation, coupled with knowledgeable healthcare experts, will pave the path.
Q: How can healthcare provider organizations simplify the complexities of providing care and remove technology barriers to prioritize patients over technology?
A: The digitalization of health records was accelerated with meaningful use in the United States. Worldwide, other nations haven't adapted to such an aggressive mandate, because they focus more on readiness and willingness versus inherent complexity. Care will be delivered at the highest level of quality, and the systems may or may not get in the way.
That said, the simplification of the complexities here in the United States (real or perceived) is accomplished by removing barriers of:
- Institutional set-up, standardization/customization conflicts.
- Focus on workflow. How do we get all physicians and the care team working at the top of their license?
- Introspection and reflection with true intellectual honesty to bring recognition and action to large, enterprise-level deployments like an EHR, where important implementation and training steps were "de-scoped" for time or financial reasons.
To your prior question, the pandemic has been a catalyst for healthcare leadership to truly view their EHR designs and adapt. Moreover, the EHRs have weighed in and invested heavily alongside their customers to partner and solve real-time challenges. Through all this, I believe hospitals and health systems will actually come out better, and with stronger relationships with their EHR partners than ever would have happened naturally.
Yet physician frustration and burnout remains at an all-time high. Study after study finds that physicians spend more time on administrative tasks than ever before. Thirty-one percent of physicians say too much paperwork and rising patient documentation demands are to blame. Value-based care adds to this pressure through changing payer documentation requirements and new quality metrics.
In essence, the pressure on clinical documentation and, in particular, the physician and care team's workflow has never been greater, yet exponentially harder to deliver in a substantively more remote ecosystem. Organizations will and must continue to test, try, adapt and evolve to get it to "their right."
That's where DeliverHealth comes in. Our mission is to simplify how healthcare connects with technology. Our goals are to remove productivity burdens, drive out costs and capture the appropriate revenue for our customers. Our immediate focus is on clinical documentation and the EHR.
For example, EHRs are the de facto standard for clinical documentation today, but they are complex. We use data inherent within our applications to drive better documentation workflows. Whether clinicians use the EHR, transcription, speech, scribes or a combination to document, we simplify and redesign the process and the physician experience.
Q: How can health systems accelerate their digital transformation?
A: Digital is actually "transitional," not "transformational." It's a journey, not an event. I think it comes down to people and focus. Businesses are people, not technology. Digital transition will not be easier on the workforce that was formerly within the four walls, but is now remote.
Change certainly came slower prior to COVID-19. Now the desire/need/demand for change is exponentially higher, which mandates strategic partners like DeliverHealth to be more helpful and productive change agents. With all the distractions and renewed focus healthcare leadership must have, they need trusted partners to support digital transitions.
Whether staff augmentation, design and build, or creating a collaborative managed service that's in the best interest of the institution, its service and knowledge. This past year made all of us much more receptive to rapid change. From a leadership perspective, this same mindset must continue forward to support true digital transformation in healthcare.
For internal teams and departmental staff, support is needed now more than ever: smarter workflows, more efficient systems and knowledgeable experts to help.
Finally, patients will demand that healthcare providers continue 2020's forward trajectory through more personalized digital interactions and a totally redesigned customer service experience. I think this is actually the greatest opportunity to lighten the burden on physicians and care teams in this new telehealth normal.
We must find better, more productive and efficient ways and means to improve the patient experience. In doing so, the physician wins, the care team wins and the patient wins.
Other industries have demonstrated a consumer-first digital transition. There are very clear lessons to be applied. It is not putting a man on the moon. It takes people and focus on the unique local issues, challenges and community dynamics.
It involves participation by thought leaders on the business of healthcare so that physicians, care teams, hospitals and health systems do what they do best and want to focus on – taking care of patients.