What Will Make the Healthcare Industry Embrace Technology?

by Alexandrea Roman on July 22, 2015 and last updated on June 21, 2016

Among all the different industries in the business landscape, the healthcare industry is known to be one of the slowest to adopt technology for management purposes. Results of an old 2005 survey by the CDC revealed that “less than a third of the nation’s hospital emergency and outpatient departments use electronic medical records, and even fewer doctors’ offices do.” Fast forward a decade later, and things haven’t changed much. The numbers increased, but the rate of adoption growth remained more or less the same especially when it comes to new technologies.

Why is this so? According to a Forbes article written by Robert Paul, executive director and CEO of The Permanente Medical Group, there are five reasons for this interesting statistic, namely:

  • A lot of new technologies fail to address the real needs of the industry. — There are so many health apps and gadgets available in the market today, but they offer mostly data, not long-term solutions. Doctors are looking for technologies that deliver significant results.
  • Doctors follow a fee-for-service payment model. — Doctors are paid for the number of services rendered, not for the quality of such services. It’s understandable why they are hesitant to adopt technologies that may result in fewer patient visits.
  • More and more patients demand for their medical information. — Technologies make sharing data easier, but they also come with their own share of security risks. Because of these, doctors are hesitant to share data with patients through electronic means, even if the demand for such has risen.
  • Some technologies slow down doctors. — Not all technologies are user-friendly. In situations where quick decisions can spell the difference between life and death, doctors prefer to go with methods they are used to in order to save precious time.
  • Many doctors see technology as impersonal. — Treating patients is a highly personal and intimate matter, and this concept goes against some technologies wherein the loss of human touch is prevalent. Doctors still prefer to communicate with patients in a one-on-one and face-to-face environment.

All of these serve as barriers that prevent the healthcare industry from fully integrating technology with its business management. Also, let’s not forget another important consideration — compliance. In the United States, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) is a law that mandates the protection of the confidentiality and security of health records, among other things. Healthcare institutions would have to ensure that any new technologies they adopt can adhere to HIPAA; otherwise, they would be breaking the law.

It’s a big challenge for software companies to provide the healthcare industry with beneficial, usable, and secure technologies that can easily be monetized. But at the same time, doctors — and other medical professionals as well — should also go out of their comfort zone and try their hand at going digital. When the general public from which patients come has already embraced the use of apps and mobile devices, there is no reason for the healthcare industry to lag behind.

However, a successful technological transformation in such a huge industry isn’t possible without the initiative of business leaders and the guidance of good governance. For hospitals and other medical organizations to change, boards themselves should be leading the change. And for this to happen, directors should have the necessary competencies, particularly technology competency.

Equipping boards with technology competency begins with directors who are open to innovation. They don’t have to be IT experts, but they need to be receptive to new technologies in order to steer their organizations in the right direction. The bad news is that not all directors have this mindset. But the good news is that conferences like the Texas Healthcare Trustees’ 2015 Healthcare Governance Conference strive to make directors in the healthcare industry reconsider their stance through proper information dissemination. In fact, one of the key topics of the THT Healthcare Governance Conference is “governance best practices to drive transformation.” Directors seeking guidance on how to transform their organizations through technology while remaining compliant will benefit from attending conferences of this nature.

Another way of equipping boards with technology competency is by making directors use digital tools for business purposes. Some skills can only be gained through hands-on experience, and this one is no exception. Even directors who are resistant to technology are likely to change their minds when they see and feel firsthand how the right digital tools can make management simpler and easier.

A good tool to start with is a board portal solution, a type of software used to streamline board meeting processes. As it covers only board meetings, it doesn’t encompass over other branches of management to be too overwhelming to use, but its reach is extensive enough to give directors a sense of how technology can change processes for the better.

In the end, it’s not about what directors are comfortable with that’s important — it’s what’s best for the organization that should take precedence over anything. Still, the use of technology doesn’t have to feel like an obligation. Whether it’s used for business or leisure, technology exists to make life better, and it should be seen that way.

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About Alexandrea Roman

Alexandrea is a social media specialist and blogger for Convene.

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