Q&A: Achieving the Triple Aim through digital transformation

Healthcare organizations across the United States are working hard to better the patient experience, improve the health of the populations they serve and reduce the per capita costs of care.
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Laura Wallace, Microsoft’s vice president of U.S. Health & Life Sciences, discusses how the digital transformation is helping healthcare organizations achieve the Triple Aim.

In what ways do you see care teams empowered by technology today?

Care teams today must know more, do more and manage more patients, more cases and more complexity than ever before. And they have to work together while they’re on the move in a fast-paced, often chaotic environment. This means that, to perform as a team at the top of their licenses, they have to be in continuous communication with each other and have to be able to quickly and easily consult or summon the expertise in the moment it’s needed. They can’t do that without digitally transforming teamwork by digitizing it with a conversational collaboration platform.

One example is Adventist Health System based in Orlando, Florida. Their clinical and non-clinical staff are using presence and instant messaging within their 45 hospital campuses across 10 states so that ad hoc digital conversations can happen throughout the day wherever the care team members are, without interrupting the flow of work. They’re also using Skype for Business to break down barriers between outpatient care teams and behavioral health and neurology care teams. For instance, using Skype for Business on their devices with front-facing cameras in the ER, they can conduct remote neurology and neurosurgery consults for suspected strokes and for stroke observations.

Another example is Advocate Health Care in Chicago, which has created High Reliability Leader SharePoint rounding dashboards throughout their facilities for the purpose of reducing errors in care and healthcare-associated infections. The dashboards are visible everywhere so everyone can see how they’re doing in comparison to each other. This allows for constant process improvement.

A third example is Dartmouth-Hitchcock’s ImagineCare program, which leverages Microsoft technologies to focus on patient wellness and chronic disease management. Using wearables, remote monitoring devices and cloud technology, daily vitals are captured and transferred in real time to the ImagineCare team 24/7. Nurses on the team are alerted if something in the data stands out and are prompted to contact the patient. They’re proactively reaching out to patients, often before the patient even realizes that they need to come in for care instead of waiting for patients to get sick and then come to them.

What are the biggest trends and areas of growth that you’re seeing in the U.S.?

The biggest trend that’s been around for a while is achieving the Triple Aim – but now we’re seeing health systems leverage personal technologies in new ways to engage patients to play an active and accountable role in helping them achieve it together. We’re seeing many providers focus on moving beyond patient portals toward texting, virtual care, remote health monitoring, mobile apps and wearables that enable clinicians to interact with their patients during the 5,000 hours or so between office visits. They’ve found that patients are not really using the portals so they’re focusing on new ways of engaging patients. Patient engagement solutions we’re seeing include automated interactions, so, for example, a patient leaves the doctor’s office and then gets a text message thanking him or her for going to the appointment and encouraging the patient to log into the patient portal or use an app. It’s about creating automated follow-up solutions that work best for the patient, rather than a “one size portal fits all,” especially considering the fact that, for many, their cell phone is the only connected device they have.

The reality is that a large portion of patients that stand to benefit the most from digital transformation solutions live in underserved areas and unhealthy counties, where access to care providers, limited broadband, inconvenience and cost are massive barriers to better care and population health. As a result, it’s our goal to work collaboratively with the industry and our partners to design and deliver digital transformation solutions in ways that remove these barriers.

Everyone is talking about the cloud. In the U.S., how is the health industry embracing this change?

Historically, the healthcare industry has lagged behind in digital transformation, but I’m definitely seeing more of the industry embracing the cloud. Each healthcare organization is at a different point in their journey to the cloud, though. For some who are just getting their feet wet, it might be revolutionary for them to put their email or instant messaging in the cloud. Others are taking bigger steps – using the cloud to save lives and completely redesign clinical processes.

Finally let’s talk about cybersecurity and compliance. What role does Microsoft have in delivering these?

For us, security really is job one. We spend over $1 billion a year on security-related research and development. We run a digital crimes unit. We have a cyber-defense operation center on a worldwide scale. We don’t think of ourselves just as a cloud and services company; we are a cybersecurity company. Security is the foundation of everything we do. In relation to the healthcare industry, we understand the concerns about security. The healthcare industry is a prime target for cyberattacks. That’s largely because medical identity theft is one of the easiest ways for hackers to make money by reselling patient data or holding electronic health records hostage through ransomware attacks. Health organizations that have the most vulnerable systems stand to gain the most benefit from moving to a trusted cloud provider like Microsoft because they can leverage Microsoft’s expertise, experience and research. The secure environment we can provide in our trusted cloud surpasses what healthcare providers could build for themselves. Microsoft also understands the importance of being compliant with privacy regulations. Our customers tell us we’ve helped them overcome barriers to moving to the cloud because they can trust that when we say we meet or exceed the required HIPAA privacy and security safeguards, we are. We’ve done that by certifying Microsoft’s Office 365 and Azure hyper-scale cloud computing platform with HITRUST and achieving the highest HITRUST score obtainable, a Level 5 rating for both Office 365 and Azure. We continue to invest in all the relevant certifications because we know how critical this is to the healthcare industry – to both our healthcare customers and to healthcare consumers.

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