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New IT Report Finds Healthcare C-Suite Stressed Out by a Lack of Interoperability

Analysis  |  By Eric Wicklund  
   November 29, 2022

A survey of CHIME executives by digital health company symplr, unveiled during the HLTH conference, indicates executives have adopted new technology at a fast pace, but those new tools and software solutions aren't always compatible.

Health system leaders say they're being swamped by technology solutions that don't integrate with other solutions, and it's costing them a lot of money and stress.

This, in turn, puts more pressure on the enterprise, increasing clinician burnout, complicating patient care, and slowing the pace of healthcare innovation.

Those takeaways can be found in a survey of 132 members of the College of Healthcare Information Management Executives (CHIME), conducted by Michigan-based digital health company symplr and unveiled during the recent HLTH conference in Las Vegas. It paints a picture of an industry that has been embracing new technology at a rapid pace, but hasn't been making sure those new tools and software solutions play well together.

According to the 2022 symplr Compass Survey, about 60% of respondents are using between 50 and 500 point solutions to manage healthcare operations, including roughly a quarter who are using at least 151 point solutions. Meanwhile, 88% say that working with all these IT systems and applications complicates their job.

And that's causing a lot of problems, including lost revenues, workforce stress and burnout and an inability to truly take advantage of innovative technologies to advance clinical care and improve workloads.

The problem has been compounded by the pandemic, which saw healthcare organizations adopt new technologies—particularly digital health and telehealth—at a dizzying pace. Many of these new point solutions were not integrated, leading to siloed platforms and, according to the symplr report "resulting in a decrease in management's confidence in the integrity of their operational infrastructure."

According to the survey, technology integration and interoperability could address a number of pain points for a health system. Almost 41% of those surveyed cited financial pressure as their biggest concern, while another 31% cited staffing challenges and clinician burnout and 22% listed patient privacy and cybersecurity.

Aside from finding cost savings in reduced IT expenses through better integration, executives say a more fluid and integrated technology platform would reduce stress on clinicians, including nurses, who often have to jump from one station or solution to another. Almost a quarter of executives surveyed say enabling their clinician workforce is their top priority when it comes to managing operations, and 84% say a streamlined IT infrastructure is an extremely or moderately important factor in their ability to keep clinicians.

“There’s a lot of concern about the danger of alarm and alert fatigue for nurses, and health systems are under increasing pressure to streamline and simplify clinical communications and processes,” Donna Summers, MSN, RN-BC, the Henry Ford Health System's chief nursing informatics officer, said in the report.

“Clinical collaboration among multidisciplinary teams is essential to improving care quality and creating efficient care delivery with very tight resources, and it is achievable by using the right technologies,” added Michele Strickland, MBA, BSN, RN, Asante's director of informatics and applications.

The symplr survey cited the 2022 Bain & Company KLAS Research report on the state of healthcare IT spending, which noted that healthcare organizations are rethinking their IT strategies and looking to streamline their IT stacks. According to that report, about a quarter of providers say their existing IT infrastructures are keeping them too busy to stay current on new offerings in the market, while a lack of cross-solution interoperability and poor EHR integration are hindering growth.

"Almost 80% of providers say labor shortages, inflation concerns, or specific organizational situations (like M&A or leadership changes) are top catalysts sparking new investments, and 95% of provider organizations expect to make new software investments in the next year despite economic uncertainty," the Bain/KLAS report noted.

All of this boils down to a four-pronged strategy for improving IT operations. According to the symplr report, healthcare organizations should use technology that unifies siloed systems and streamlines administrative tasks, offering efficiencies in:

  1. Financial health, through enterprise tools that identify cost-containment strategies and value and savings opportunities;
  2. Clinical communications, with automated provider processes and improved collaboration tools that enable staff to focus on patient care;
  3. Technology consolidation, through standardized, scalable enterprise solutions that enable health systems to avoid data risks and regulatory penalties while curbing costs; and
  4. Patient-centric care, with new digital health and telehealth platforms that cater to patient preferences and improve the patient-provider dynamic.

 

“To reduce costs without compromising service, we analyzed spending at the cost center level, discovering that we were inefficient across the system and uncovering huge savings opportunities," Kevin Smith, Luminis Health's chief financial officer, said in the report. "By adopting new operating measures, the health system has saved millions of dollars.”

Eric Wicklund is the Innovation and Technology Editor for HealthLeaders.


KEY TAKEAWAYS

A survey of CHIME executives finds that nearly 60% of health systems are using more than 50 point solutions to manage healthcare operations, including almost a quarter who are using more than 150 point solutions.

88% of those surveyed say those disparate IT systems are complicating their jobs, resulting in increased staff stress and burnout, lost opportunities for cost savings, challenges to patient care and less time to focus on innovation.

Healthcare leaders need to adopt an IT strategy that focuses on improving interoperability, reducing siloed solutions and identifying opportunities to streamline operations, improve clinical care and adopt new technologies like digital health and telehealth.


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