How technology can play a key support role for clinicians

Providers ramp up the use of a wide range of IT, whether it’s esoteric artificial intelligence or support systems that ensure that deep personal needs are met.

Technology can be a burden to clinicians, but some healthcare organizations are focusing the potential of information and tools to support them in their day-to-day tasks.

Whether it involves the use of advanced computing and artificial intelligence, or applications that enable easier sharing of expressions of gratitude for care, technology can play a role in improving clinicians’ experience, said presenters Wednesday in Episode 4 of the HDM KLASroom.

AI’s potential

Artificial intelligence exemplifies both the challenge and promise of technology that is increasing its footprint in healthcare. The eventual promise is for AI to play more of a role in predictive models that can help clinicians make better decisions, said Jennifer Hickenlooper, insights director for KLAS Research.

AI is top of mind with more players in the healthcare industry, but there’s growing interest in using it to help answer vexing problems, said John Halamka, MD, president of the Mayo Clinic Platform. “No one is waking up in the morning saying, ‘I need an AI algorithm.’ They are saying I have a pain point and I need a solution.” Because of this, healthcare organizations are more interested in end-to-end solutions incorporating AI rather than individual solutions, he said.

AI offers the potential to use vast amounts of data to help focus care for patients, said Christer Johnson, chief analytics officer for Healthfirst. AI can help tie together information, timing of care and content of evidence to improve care, he said. “All that needs to be personalized for an individual,” Johnson said. “AI can help take learnings from an entire population and then … drill it down to the individual patient,” serving a “cohort of one.”

AI can play important roles without prescribing care, Johnson said. For example, when AI was used to sift through data about when best to connect with diabetic patients for follow-up conversations, a study found that “the most optimal point to call was within one week after they’ve seen a specialist. The patient was 800 percent more likely to change if it happened then,” he said. The current challenge is “to leverage AI in a way that doctors want to consume it.”

Virtual care comes of age

In the past two years during the COVID-19 pandemic, virtual care has also proven to be invaluable in helping clinicians deal with various challenges – these include shortages of personal protective equipment, staffing shortages, and growing and more complex caseloads.

The use of virtual health proved significant at Intermountain Healthcare, which used the technology to extend patient care and observation at eight of its smaller rural hospitals, said Amy Rosa, system vice president and chief nursing information officer for the Salt Lake City-based delivery system.

The technology, from Caregility, was deployed across the facilities within four weeks, said Wendy Diebert, the company’s senior vice president of clinical solutions.

The benefits won clinical support very quickly, despite initial concern about care being impersonal at a distance. That’s because it enabled those watching patients to see how it extended their reach into patient care, enhanced communication with patients and their families, and built supportive relationships.

The secure virtual-care technology also enabled one observer at a central facility to monitor as many as 12 patients. “This takes a huge burden off of our nursing leadership, especially in rural areas,” Rosa said.

Virtual care can handle 80 to 90 percent of routine nursing typically done in direct patient care settings, Diebert contends. “We need to look at this to see how it can help support nurses now that there’s a nursing shortage overall.”

Supporting care teams

Other organizations are intentionally looking for ways to meet the personal needs of caregivers, using technology as an enabler for these important internal areas of personal satisfaction to be met.

For example, Northwell Health has increased its commitment to improving relationships with its care team, and connecting that improved experience with a deeper mission to provide a high level of person-oriented care for its patients.

The organization, which has 78,000 employees, was recently named as one of the nation’s Best 100 companies to work for by Fortune magazine, its second such designation. That commitment to employees comes from the CEO and is emphasized throughout the organization, said Sven Gierlinger, Northwell’s chief experience officer.

Personalization for patients is a key driver of customer satisfaction, said Gierlinger. “We can create meaningful interactions,” he added. First impressions are important because, “if you don’t do that well, then it creates distrust.”

At Sparrow Care Network, there is a focus on care for caregivers, said Michael Zaroukian, the system’s vice president and chief medical information officer. “We need to create virtuous cycles of appreciation,” he contended. Too often, the focus is on things that have gone wrong, but morale is supported and clinicians empowered “by reflecting on what’s been good and then how to make it even better.” Sparrow uses a patient-driven healthcare employee recognition platform from Wambi to ensure that these deep inner needs for caregivers are met through what Zaroukian calls “gratitude moments.”

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