“Digital transformation” is a buzz word in many industries, and for many leaders, it is their #1 concern!

Healthcare is one of the industries that is bound to digitally transform. Let’s start with the story of fax machines and the coronavirus. Many workers were sitting at their offices during the pandemic, waiting patiently for information to come in. When it finally did, it was often in a huge stack of blurry faxes with some key information missing. With desperation setting in, the goal was to trace cases and quarantine patients in a timely manner before the outbreak could get worse. With large amounts of test results sent from labs to public health departments and clinics, fax machines found themselves front and center in the healthcare information highway.

The issue with data during the pandemic boiled down to small labs’ lack of pre-pandemic investment in modern digital technology, leading to a bottleneck on healthcare information. The fax machine was causing information to be incomplete, or late, when it was crucial that information be sent fast to health departments. Healthcare data was moving slower than the virus itself!

Implementing Digital Transformation

The pandemic makes it clearer than ever that healthcare needs to digitally transform. So, what can organizations do? According to McKinsey & Company, culture and mind-set, organizational structure, and governance all play key roles in the implementation of a digital strategy plan and eventual digital culture shift in the healthcare industry. Often, such sweeping change requires buy-in from all levels of the company and can take time to implement.

That said, many organizations have found success by implementing small changes to office tasks.  The simple switch from an analog fax line to a cloud fax system has helped to digitize documents, increase security, and improve workflow processes. Direct Secure Messaging (DSM) is a similar technology that allows for the secure communication transport of sensitive information over the internet. Many healthcare organizations are finding DSM allows them to send information as easily as they do an email, while keeping the content encrypted until only the intended recipient can decrypt it. Another way to improve digital transformation through the use of software is using Electronic Health Records (EHRs) to share information. Physical documents can be scanned into a network folder and uploaded into the EHR or can be directly scanned into an EHR using a scanner that has an EHR integration.

The key when thinking about Direct Secure Messaging, cloud fax, and EHR information sharing is they all play a role in the larger movement towards interoperability. Interoperability in healthcare refers to the ability of different IT systems to communicate and exchange usable data. Currently, most healthcare companies lack a usable data exchange, and that has led to a lower standard of patient care, poor health outcomes, and higher costs. The goal of interoperability is to achieve coordinated care for each patient, allowing data to flow freely between healthcare providers while maintaining the security needed for patient information.

While hospitals, clinics, and pharmaceutical companies are making strides toward digital transformation through these small changes in hardware and software upgrades that lead to interoperability, there are large leaps in digital transformation occurring due to government regulation.

Government Regulation

One government regulation we are all most familiar with is HIPAA, but there are other regulations that come into play. For instance, in 2009, the government enacted the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health ) HITECH Act to help promote the adoption and meaningful use of health information technology. HITECH gave eligible professionals monetary incentives to use an EHR, greatly expanded the enforcement and security surrounding protected health information, and mandates public notification of security breaches. There is a newer regulation coming into play in 2021. The Interoperability and Patient Access final rule (CMS-9115-F) establishes policies that improve patient access to their health information and improves interoperability. The goal is to reduce the time and money spent on administrative processes. Payers, providers, and patients of healthcare organizations will be able to have effective health information exchange (another way to say interoperability).

Here, we have a demonstrated history of the government nudging healthcare to digitally transform. Therefore, one can expect more healthcare technology regulation in the future. Even if there is no further regulation from the government, the modern individual is expecting faster response times, greater access to critical information, and a high amount of security on their personal information.

Where to Start?

While no single technology can digitally transform a healthcare company, one simple place to start is with office technology. Investing in technology that provides healthcare with Direct Secure Messaging, scan to EHR (electronic health records), and cloud fax capabilities will lead to increasing digital transformation and interoperability trends for organizations. Replacing outdated technology with secure, digitally connected hardware and software can be a catalyst in organizational change. Before the next global health crisis, we will be one step closer to having secure access to patient information across all organizations.

If you are looking to perform digital transformation or improve interoperability, Request an assessment or talk to your local representative.