Guest Column | January 28, 2016

Embracing Chasm-Crossing Technologies To Connect Providers

Adaptive Learning Technology Is Gaining Ground: IT Solutions Providers Can Capitalize On The Trend

By Amy Perry, senior product marketing manager, OpenText

In his 1991 book Crossing the Chasm, author Geoffrey Moore explored the challenge of selling high-tech products to mainstream customers and moving technology adoption from “early adopters” to the “early majority.” Healthcare has its own technology chasm, as evidenced by the notoriously slow adoption of advanced technologies across the healthcare spectrum.

In hospitals, for example, clinicians have been slow to replace beeper pagers with more advanced communication tools that leverage smartphones and Wi-Fi. Many physicians refuse to give up dictation — or even handwriting — for documenting patient encounters, despite the availability of electronic medical record systems (EMRs) that offer sophisticated point and click utilities, point-of-care decision-support tools, and ready access to online medical libraries.

Faxing is another “older” technology that continues to thrive in healthcare. A 2015 IDC Analyst Group survey found faxing remained a predominant communication method for over 80 percent of providers for patient information exchange. Despite the availability of newer, more efficient solutions to share patient health information, the popularity of faxing persists.

Upgrading technology can be expensive, but the primary reason providers continue to fax, dictate, and carry beepers is arguably fear of changing longstanding workflows. However, emerging compensation models may force providers to cross the technology chasm and embrace solutions that promote the more efficient delivery of care.

The Impact Of New Provider Compensation Models
Thanks to the Affordable Care Act and new care delivery models, provider reimbursement is increasingly tied to quality outcomes and cost-effective care. Providers recognize that in order to achieve quality and cost objectives, patient care must be well-coordinated. Coordinated care accelerates the delivery of care, reduces wasteful duplicate testing, and minimizes the risks and costs associated with missed or delayed diagnosis, medication errors, and hospital readmissions.

In order to effectively and efficiently coordinate care, providers need access to a patient’s complete health record, including details on medications, previous test results, and medical history. Initiatives such as the U.S. government’s Meaningful Use program and the Direct Project promote the fast and secure exchange of clinical patient information, though many organizations have been slow to adopt newer, more efficient technologies to electronically transport health data. In many cases, perceived high implementation costs are to blame. More commonly providers are unwilling to disrupt existing workflows in favor of new processes.

Overcoming Roadblocks To Technology Adoption
Despite cost and workflow concerns, most healthcare organizations recognize new technologies often yield significant benefits. To advance their overall technology objectives, administrators oftentimes develop workarounds to overcome various roadblocks. Consider, for example, a practice that is implementing an EMR, but has a physician unwilling or unable to document at the point of care. In order to achieve the organization’s overarching goal for paperless charts, the practice might utilize a scribe to document in the EMR on the physician’s behalf.

Similarly, many organizations want to replace faxing with newer, more efficient methods of document sharing. They are unable to totally eliminate faxing, however, because some healthcare stakeholders are unable to securely send or receive patient information by any other method. To make document sharing more efficient, a more progressive provider might replace older-style fax machines with electronic faxing technologies that offer EMR integration and paperless workflows, as well as OCR and barcoding technologies to automatically route documents to the proper destination. Though electronic faxing solutions may be considered less efficient than others, more advanced electronic data sharing methods, they do satisfy a provider’s need to securely exchange documents with other caregivers.

Chasm-Crossing Technologies For Secure Data Exchange
Direct messaging is an increasingly popular alternative for the secure exchange of clinical patient information. Direct is fast and efficient, and provides strong security and protection of patient health information. It can improve care coordination — and the delivery of quality and cost-effective care — by enabling efficient and secure communication.

Yet the success of Direct depends on widespread adoption within a community. Healthcare organizations that adopt Direct can only send Direct messages to providers that have also implemented Direct. Otherwise, they must resort to fax.

Managing two separate messaging methods is, of course, inefficient and time consuming, and may lead some providers to abandon the use of Direct due to productivity concerns. Widespread adoption of Direct will struggle without solutions that facilitate a single workflow and bridge the current technology chasm between early adopters and the mainstream providers that are hesitant to move to newer technologies.

For example, most EMRs have incorporated basic faxing capabilities into workflows, allowing a provider to quickly fax a chart note, test result, or other document to another organization. To advance the use of Direct, providers need technologies that work in the background to route documents via Direct if possible, or, by fax if receiving providers have no known Direct address. Such solutions preserve existing provider workflows without requiring alternate methods for Direct messaging. As with other outdated processes that remain popular in healthcare, providers gain a workaround that leverages secure and efficient messaging in support of their organizations’ overall care coordination goals while moving in the desired direction.

Like most sectors, healthcare will likely never totally eliminate the chasm separating early technology adopters from everyone else, though the need for better care coordination may fuel wider technology adoption. In the meantime, providers who are dedicated to meeting their financial and clinical goals should consider chasm-crossing solutions that narrow existing technology gaps.