It has been a while since my travels and meetings have given me an “ah-ha” moment. Nearly the entire month of January was filled with the doldrums of the same old same old. But after a month of lots and lots of healthcare delivery leader interactions, a long-overdue “ah-ha” finally hit me:
High tech healthcare solutions MUST lead to increased high touch healthcare delivery.
No matter how good the tech is, you can’t let it disconnect humans. You can, however, choose technology solutions that empower you and your teams to better care for patients. This only happens when high tech solutions improve high touch care.
Unfortunately, most of today’s top technology solutions don’t do that at all, and that’s a big problem.
“High tech healthcare solutions MUST lead to increased high touch healthcare delivery.”
High Tech Without High Touch
Healthcare technology in nearly every flavor and form is pervasive. If something doesn’t exist, it’s well on its way due to the amazing outpouring of venture capital dollars into anything health tech-related. I am not just talking about wearable devices or new diagnostic equipment. I’m talking about the technology “stuff” that is out there to improve the patient care continuum for every provider, patient, and business office.
Even with all this innovation though, the most highly cited reason for physician burnout is having to manage all that “stuff” and one of the greatest sources of patient dissatisfaction is how technology gets more of the physician's attention than the patient! Add to this that the revenue cycle continues to become more complex, and all that “stuff” that is supposed to make the business office more efficient essentially seems to be having the opposite effect.
Obviously, something’s going wrong.
As with most new technology that promises to automate, orchestrate and facilitate everything seamlessly, we seemed to have been lured into a situation that I call “driverless healthcare.” This “stuff” is so capable and so integrated and automated that you just turn it on and let it go. Take a nap. Read a book. Sit back and relax while the technology takes you to the improved healthcare delivery destination! Referrals will just get there and the patient will show up – like a magic patient teleporter! Click submit, and the patient with all their information will just be sent to the receiving provider. Voila! Automagically!
But the reality is that digitization requires a competent human if it’s going to deliver on its promise. High tech must enable and inspire high touch. There’s no app for that.
Prioritizing High Touch In High Tech
Despite the inclination to believe in the acceleration of productivity through healthcare technology, we must not forget the role of the human interface, the role of high touch in high tech. In fact, high tech healthcare necessitates high touch for any of it to be successful and deliver on the promise that exists. We must resist the temptation to sit back and enjoy the ride while the technology fails to realize that the patient being served is an actual person with questions, fears, and concerns.
“High tech healthcare necessitates high touch for any of it to be successful.”
High touch in health tech means maximizing the tools to achieve your goals. This requires human buy-in before confidence is established; the “big why” and the “what’s in it for me” is answered by humans to humans. We must take the time to understand the nuances of our care delivery settings and work together to use the tech to increase our availability so that we can increase our touch.
This is why I love what Blockit does in the care coordination space and love what it (by design) doesn’t do. Blockit’s most fundamental reason for being is to increase time so that healthcare providers can increase touch. We carve out considerable overhead and complexity related to legacy referral processes so that you have the time to invest in your patients’ next steps and provide them a successful transition. On the receiving end, we reduce even more overhead and complexity and equip our providers with critical information so that they have newfound time to better engage with their patients.
This inherent goal of ours can be, and often is, easily missed in the spirit of all the integrated, facilitated, automated “stuff” that Blockit does to improve the care continuum. Add a nice bump in revenue to the equation and boy is it easy to forget the most key ingredient to make it even better: maximizing high touch in the care continuum.
High touch is needed in the implementation of technology so that everyone understands the goals and how the technology can help attain them. It’s needed in establishing the value for the individual, not just the masses. High touch helps introduce patients to the technology as an enabler of their improved care and not a barrier. It helps in monitoring the technology impact (good and bad) and acting on the findings to cultivate more good and address the bad. High touch provides flexibility that allows for creativity instead of allowing tech to stifle innovation. Most of all, high touch can help healthcare professionals recognize the value of the time gained from high tech and empower them to use that time to invest in the people they work with and the patients they serve.
I am more certain than ever that the failure of health tech is because we have failed to recognize that health tech requires high touch. Prioritizing high touch within our high tech endeavors will ensure that the tech actually delivers on its promises and improve patient care.
Dave Gregorio is the Chief Customer Officer at Blockit and the author of the Purpose Quotient®, a nationally recognized framework for Organizational Development. A 30 year healthcare industry professional with a passion for people, Dave is the founder of the Heroes to Healthcare mission and CEO of ImPowerQ Associates LLC.