New Health Economy Expectations Mandate Efficiency

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The various terms used to describe the epochal shift in healthcare – population-driven healthcare, value-based healthcare, consumer-directed healthcare, to name just a few – have one thing in common: everybody's expectations about more efficient care are higher.

Policy initiatives under the Affordable Care Act, such as higher out-of-pocket costs to consumers, as well as the emergence of mobile, social and cloud technologies, are compelling consumers and payers to demand more efficiency in the underpinnings of the healthcare market. For provider organizations that are unprepared, there are many pain points. For those that are prepared, new avenues of possibility for streamlining their operations are emerging.

"You have to figure out where the business opportunity is, and the technology can support it," Gartner Research Director Jeff Cribbs says. "There is such a thing as technology opportunity as well, and you have to hold those things in both hands."

While efficiency and cost effectiveness may work hand in glove, there are differences. While the art and science of granular cost accounting is still in its infancy in healthcare, technologies that assist the tracking of assets such as clinician time or equipment are making quick headway.

One of the vendors offering asset tracking is Boston-based Kyruus, founded in 2010, and backed by $38.8 million in funding over five rounds, according to CrunchBase. The company offers analytics to make scheduling and patient access to the correct clinician more efficient than the often haphazard patterns of referral that lead to some clinicians being overbooked and others idle.

Also See: Hospital Turns Analytics Focus to IT Performance

Kyruus marketing Director Kent Siri says the company considers health systems as its major stakeholders, which is especially pertinent as system consolidation continues to accelerate. Systems able to retain customer loyalty through more efficient scheduling and quicker patient access will enjoy a competitive advantage, as well as an ability to coordinate care more efficiently, he adds.

Kyruus's tools are intended to streamline health system referral coordinators' efforts to match patients with the right providers and schedule timely appointments. "These are people who are adept at understanding what patients' needs are from a clinical standpoint first,” Siri says.

The approach is bearing fruit in the market – Kyruus counts among its customers systems such as Providence Health & Services, Steward Health, and Partners HealthCare, and in July 2015 signed deals with Keck Medicine of the University of Southern California and Cincinnati-based Mercy Health.

A team of former Cisco executives also are tackling health system efficiency with a unique twist on real-time locating system technology. Their company, Emanate Wireless, is on the cusp of releasing RTLS technology that features rechargeable tags that run in line with the tracked device on AC power. This design, which features tag batteries that run about five months on a charge and have a 10-year total lifespan, is meant to eliminate the constant hunt for depleted tag batteries. The technology also enables health system staff to analyze when valuable equipment is actually in use as opposed to perhaps being unused in a patient room, a situation in which current RTLS systems can only estimate a unit is in use, often wrongly, because of its location.

Using a combination of Wi-Fi and Bluetooth technologies and a cloud infrastructure, the Emanate platform enables users to not only analyze usage of a tagged piece of equipment by various time units such as hours, days, or shifts, it also allows quick location via a smartphone app. For example, if a technician is sent into a storage area containing six similar assets, there is no need to hunt for serial numbers to ascertain which one is the right one. The Emanate smartphone-based management app communicates with the tags to pinpoint the correct one.

While the Emanate technology is new – Dan Cusick, the company's vice president of customer development, estimates it will enter beta in about four weeks with its first production release in January 2016 – the company has enjoyed what Cusick calls a "business relationship" with the Cleveland Clinic from the outset. The relationship has enabled Emanate's designers to comprehensively address the issues around such technology, he says.

Others to watch:

*Arsenal Health: A graduate of athenahealth's More Disruption Please accelerator, Arsenal's Smart Scheduling technology leverages patient, clinical, and administrative data to predict no-shows and late cancellations using advanced machine learning algorithms. Smart Scheduling can automatically identify high-risk patients and insert additional open slots to help improve same-day/next-day appointment access and increase schedule density.

*SwiftPayMD: The mobile charge capture platform, developed and launched in 2012 by Norcross, Ga.-based Iconic Data, captures billing data verbally from providers at any point of care via their mobile device and instantaneously delivers this information for posting to payers. The company says provider organizations and medical billing companies that use SwiftPayMD are able to use its business intelligence tools to better manage the revenue cycle and eliminate costly and inefficient paper-based charge capture processes.

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