As the healthcare sector continues to face headwinds impacting the cost of care, clinician burnout, patient experience and more, leaders are responding with innovative care models and technologies that have potential as scalable solutions.
Leading national medical group Envision Healthcare is particularly focused on how innovation can empower its 25,000 clinicians’ efforts to deliver high-quality patient care alongside its hospital and outpatient partners. HealthLeaders sat down with Rich Sanders, vice president of innovation at Envision, to discuss COVID-19’s role in accelerating innovation in the healthcare sector, the way Envision is leveraging new technologies to deliver value-based care, and the most important measure to consider when determining the success of each implementation.
How would you define innovation in healthcare? What makes it so important to the future of care delivery?
Innovation in healthcare is really a focus on new care models that deliver clinical value and positive outcomes to patients. Exploring new technologies is certainly a part of that, but innovation in healthcare shouldn’t be driven solely by technology. Rather, the essence of innovation is whenever a clinician applies a technology to improve the delivery of safe, clinically-appropriate and compassionate patient care.
The COVID-19 pandemic accelerated the way we implement new methods to improve patients’ access to care. What did that timeframe look like for Envision, and were there any key learnings or takeaways?
Envision found itself, like many others, needing to adapt rapidly to an ever-evolving situation, both for care delivery and team member support. The pandemic impacted everyone, but geographic hotspots and emerging knowledge created an opportunity to evaluate how we viewed the care delivery paradigm and responded to unique needs in a highly variable situation.
The conditions demanded we look at data and processes differently. While this is a best practice for any organization to do on routine, the pandemic catalyzed that process. Oftentimes, answers were found by asking more questions and discovering how we could leverage clinical expertise across geographies, which led us to utilize technology as part of the solution. We took up the mantra of Right Care, Right Place, Right Time.
Thanks to that work, we are now better positioned to apply technology to care delivery. The success of that application as we move out of the pandemic toward a new future will always be measured by how we align with our clinicians and ensure that technological enablement matches their workflow. Innovative care methods should improve clinicians’ ability to deliver exceptional patient care, and it’s our responsibility to ensure that technology never impedes that function.
What kind of influence do you see value-based care having on emerging innovations? How do the two inform one another?
Applying new technologies, such as virtual health platforms and AI-enabled radiology, to our existing care models will certainly propel our efforts in value-based care. However, a value-based delivery system doesn’t have to mean that technology is necessarily at the point of care. More often, we need to apply our clinical knowledge, better understand our data on the back end and empower clinical decision making. These kinds of innovations are subtle—they may not be recognizable to the patient during a visit, but they will make a difference in outcomes.
The nature of innovation is to be curious and evolve. This matches up well with the pursuit of value-based care, which demands a level of curiosity, persistence and patience to move beyond the traditional fee-for-service model. Innovation in this space naturally leads us to questions that align with the Quadruple Aim of lowering cost, improving health outcomes and improving both patient and clinician experience. Innovations that don’t align with the tenets of the Quadruple Aim won’t succeed in scalability in the healthcare ecosystem and certainly wouldn’t be adopted by Envision.
As a leading national medical group, how else is Envision implementing tech or innovative care models to support clinicians’ delivery of high-quality care?
We are proud of the work we did during the pandemic to shift hundreds of thousands of visits to virtual health. While those numbers have reduced during the last year or so as we transition out of that period, virtual health has a definite home in our care delivery models as both a primary patient visit and an escalation pathway.
For example, one of the exciting services we have today is working directly with our partners in EMS to deliver a virtual health consult for low-acuity patients directly with one of our board-certified emergency physicians. This application has already helped thousands of patients receive more timely care in a more convenient setting, which is often their home. This improves patients’ access to care and their care experience while aligning with our goal of providing the right care, in the right place, at the right time.
We are also using advanced machine learning and artificial intelligence to help our radiologists prioritize cases and be alerted early to potentially high-risk findings. The application of these technologies has helped us manage workflows better and improve patient outcomes. It is also very satisfying to our clinicians to know that they have the latest tools to assist them in their clinical decision making and communication of critical results.
Envision Healthcare is a leading national medical group that delivers care to more than 30 million patients each year. See how Envision supports partners across the nation by exploring their solutions.