Digital Transformation in Healthcare

Priorities in healthcare
software spending on connectivity.

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Dr. Christine Gall, Head of Healthcare Marketing, T-Mobile for Business

Digital transformation

The rise of digital transformation in healthcare software spending on connectivity.

IDC Health Insights performed a survey¹ in 2022 across 300 U.S. healthcare provider organizations to understand strategic priorities and investment patterns related to a range of topics. These included digital healthcare transformation, IT infrastructure modernization, consumer engagement and others.

Overall, the survey participants confirmed an increase in software and healthcare IT spending from 2022 to 2023.

Infographic showing the top seven areas of software spending from highest to lowest.

Five of these healthcare IT trends—virtual care, hospital-at-home, digital patient engagement, digital front door, and care coordination—require robust digital connectivity.

In 2021, the American Telemedicine Association (ATA)'s CEO's Advisory Group on Using Telehealth to Eliminate Disparities and Inequities developed a framework² for addressing health disparities within the context of telehealth. The framework forms a pyramid, with connectivity at the apex.

Virtual care. Virtual care allows patients to visit their healthcare provider without having to travel to a clinic or hospital. Virtual visits leverage devices like smartphones, tablets, and computers, along with apps that support secure, agile connections.

In healthcare, one of the greatest benefits of virtual care relates to the patient experience. A 2021 study evaluated telehealth for oncology patients during the COVID-19 pandemic.³ The findings suggested that while the "three-month all-cause or cancer-specific emergency department visits and hospitalizations, as well as treatment delays, were not significantly different from traditional care … there were substantial savings in travel time with virtual care, with an average of 211.4 minutes saved per patient over a three-month interval."

A 2020 study⁴ found telehealth decreased costs to healthcare systems in the short to medium term (6 months to 3 years) in 53% of cost-minimization studies, cost-effectiveness studies (50%), and cost-utility studies (32%).

Hospital-at-home. The American Hospital Association (AHA) reports that "hospital-at-home enables some patients who need acute-level care to receive care in their homes, rather than in a hospital. This care delivery model has been shown to reduce costs, improve outcomes and enhance the patient experience."⁵

Hospital-at-home services can be customized based on the needs and capacity of the hospital and its patient population. Some programs are run out of emergency departments, while others depend upon community paramedics or specialty clinics to refer patients into the program.

The AHA indicates that although execution of hospital-at-home services can vary, they share many similarities. For example, hospital-at-home care "is well-suited for medium acuity patients who need hospital-level care but are considered stable enough to be safely monitored from their homes."⁶

Healthcare services that can be provided by hospitals in the home setting include diagnostics such as electrocardiograms, echocardiograms, and x-rays, treatments like oxygen therapies, IV medication delivery, phlebotomy, and services like respiratory therapy and skilled nursing.

Digital patient engagement/care coordination. According to HIMSS⁷, the ideal digital patient engagement platform "will enable multi-language, multi-channel outreach (including SMS) as well as two-way communication that drives action."

This high-end connectivity solution should be highly personalized and fully integrated with the electronic health record and other monitoring technology. With the goal to replace numerous manual communications, such as visit scheduling, patient education, referral and appointment management, remote monitoring support calls, and other routine operational functions.

Digital patient engagement can play a critical role in care coordination. As Health IT News⁸ notes, "Healthcare providers also should leverage telehealth to facilitate the patient journey. Far too often, patients are left to their own devices when it comes to coordinating follow-up care."

Digital front door. A digital front door is viewed as a healthcare strategy to leverage commonly used technology to improve the patient experience. In a 2022 webinar hosted⁹ by Becker's Hospital Review, Mutaz Shegewi, research director of IDC Insights, defined a digital front door as "all the touchpoints where providers can digitally interact with patients to drive better access, engagement and experiences across the service continuum."

The digital front door is designed to replace or assist with traditional manual or in-person tasks, such as appointment scheduling. While healthcare providers know adopting digital front door solutions will come with hurdles—collecting accurate data, scheduling complexities, and altering the payment process—there is a willingness to adopt tech as it removes communication barriers.¹⁰

Challenges and priorities

Connectivity by any other name.

The IDC Survey highlighted hospitals and health systems in the U.S. facing a variety of challenges, including staff shortages, decreasing profit margins, competition from new and emerging care models, increased consumerism, and cyberthreats.

A substantial number of these organizations are investing in digital connectivity, with their top five most important strategic business goals cited as the following:

  • Quality improvement
  • Increasing technology capacity and scale
  • Improved patient safety
  • Medical equity, diversity, and cultural competency
  • Improved access to care

Furthermore, 78% of hospitals and health systems surveyed reported they planned to increase their overall organization-wide IT spending. The top three areas of budget increase will be dedicated to clinical documentation and workflow, digital patient engagement and experience, and IT operations and system infrastructure.

For more insights focusing on the benefits of digital connectivity in healthcare from Dr. Christine Gall, please visit T-Mobile for Business – Healthcare.

About the author:

Dr. Christine Gall.

Dr. Christine Gall, Head of Healthcare Marketing

Dr. Gall has been a healthcare leader for over 30 years. As a nurse, she has practiced in inpatient, outpatient, and homecare settings, allowing unique insights into the continuum of care. Dr. Gall has designed and implemented multiple clinical programs aimed at addressing gaps in services and care for underserved patients.

Prior to joining T-Mobile, Dr. Gall consulted with local government to support their pandemic emergency response. In her role at T-Mobile, Dr. Gall leads the product marketing strategy for healthcare, collaborating with healthcare leaders and clinicians to create telehealth and mobility solutions that address the greatest challenges of the day. She believes that T-Mobile's powerful 5G network is key to addressing health disparities and barriers to access that impact population health.

Dr. Gall's academic credentials include a Bachelor of Science Degree from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, a Master of Science Degree in Healthcare Management from the Lubar School of Business Administration at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, and a Doctorate Degree in Public Health Leadership from the University of Illinois Chicago. Her Dissertation, funded by the State of Ohio, was on the topic of Mass Casualty Pandemics. Dr. Gall is a Six Sigma Green Belt and has a Certification in Business Analytics from the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania.

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