Aligning Automation Strategies With Health IT Goals

By Emily Newton, Editor-in-Chief, Revolutionized
LinkedIn: Emily Newton
X: @ReadRevMag

More medical facility leaders are unveiling health care automation strategies to boost worker productivity, patient outcomes, resource utilization and more. However, these efforts must always support health IT goals.

Tracking Metrics After Health Care Automation Strategies Begin

Many health IT goals made within the last several years account for how progressively fewer patients utilize traditional visit-based models to have their care needs met. Even if someone initially receives in-person care, follow-up appointments may occur through online platforms. Some hospital system decision-makers have explored how health care automation strategies could support this increasingly popular model.

One pilot program experimented with sending automated text messages to recently discharged patients to support their transition from hospital to home. The hope was that the texts would facilitate communications between primary care physicians and their patients without introducing administrative burdens.

Any patient who replied to an automated text to express a concern received a phone call from a nurse, so this was only a partially automated system. However, it saved time and increased effectiveness by eliminating cases where people received follow-up calls but had no issues to report.

Results from the 430-patient trial showed an 83% response rate to initial messages. Nurses needed to make an average of 1.4 additional calls to people daily, based on how they answered the text messages.

Control group members received calls from nurses but no text messages. The results indicated the patients receiving the automated texts were less likely to need acute care within 30 days after hospital discharge than those who did not get the text messages. Those in the text message group were 55% less likely to need hospital readmission in the 30 days after discharge.

Changing the Patient Care Model

Researchers said their work represented a shift toward ongoing patient engagement rather than the typical one-time follow-ups. Success with future efforts could tackle other issues, too. Pharmaceutical waste is an excellent example. It’s a significant environmental pollutant, affecting everything from bird-feeding behaviors to algae. However, follow-up texts and phone calls could remind people to take medication as prescribed and dispose of it responsibly to limit those effects.

Tracking metrics like the researchers did in this case is an excellent way to ensure all automation strategies link to health IT goals. A facility might need to update its platform for virtual care or provide a guide for less tech-savvy users. The IT team would also need to operate according to all applicable laws and regulations about patient data storage and usage.

Setting Health IT Goals to Reduce Manual Interventions

Hospitals and similar facilities are prime candidates for health care automation strategies. For starters, many areas are critical environments. Laboratory airflow must prevent contamination outside of controlled spaces. The same applies to patient isolation rooms, where occupants need fresh air without creating situations that introduce contamination elsewhere.

Automated systems can track and control the minute parameters that keep spaces comfortable, safe and to specifications. Many health IT goals relate to automation, particularly with the industry dealing with labor shortages. Automating environmental statistics means no one needs to manually adjust or monitor things to maintain the necessary conditions.

Improving Operating Room Utilization

In other cases, people create health care automation strategies to boost productivity while grappling with staffing and resource shortages. Such was the case at Missouri’s Saint Luke’s Health System. The organization operates in a highly competitive market and faces growing surgical service demands.

Many surgeons wanted more operating room time beyond their reserved blocks. Simultaneously, people did not utilize their booked times well due to too many highly manual processes. The individuals responsible for operating room scheduling received thousands of phone calls per month, making it challenging to prioritize specific cases once more time became available.

The organization’s leaders set health IT goals associated with an automated, artificial intelligence-powered scheduling system. The tool predicts the likely periods of unused operating room time and then prompts surgeons and their schedulers to release the time earlier than they otherwise might.

This strategy didn’t take long to get the organization closer to its health IT goals. In one month, the system released more than 700 hours of operating time early, with more than 45% utilized.

The hospital system also achieved approximately 80% prime-time utilization in its main operating rooms, reducing the instances of staff members needing to stay late and increasing the usage of available resources. Using the automated artificial intelligence system for scheduling resulted in the facility handling 7% more surgical cases without an increase in the number of rooms available.

The selected technology platform also identifies areas of actionable improvement. That feature allows users to maintain goal-oriented mindsets and act quickly to continue progressing.

The Best Automation Strategies Support Health IT Goals

These examples show how important it is for automation strategies to align directly with health IT-related goals. Leaders are well-positioned to make smart, targeted investments when that happens.