Becker’s Health IT and Rev Cycle Conference, Recapped

Our Four “Greatest Hits” from Becker’s Health IT & Rev Cycle Conference

What does Joshua Douglas, Bridge Connector’s Chief Technology Officer, have in common with Peyton Manning, Hillary Clinton, and Kevin O’Leary aka Mr. Wonderful from NBC’s Shark Tank? They each took the stage at various points during the Becker’s Fifth Annual Health IT and Revenue Cycle Conference, held October 9-12 in Chicago. Douglas was joined by Justin DeWitte, Graham Healthcare Group CEO, leading an Innovation Theater session, and several other Bridge Connector staff were also in attendance.

They joined over 4,000 other attendees who convened this year to learn about topics such as cybersecurity, telehealth, mobile health, predictive analytics, EHR issues, and of course revenue cycle optimization, as the name of the conference suggests.

Of special interest to Bridge Connector were sessions following four different themes we’ve identified below, to bring you the “greatest hits” of Becker’s Health IT 2019.

1. The consumerization and engagement shift

A primary tenet in our own Bridge Connector session was how data integration can help to elevate the patient experience. Titled “Next-Level Patient Care: The Right People Receiving Real-Time Data,” the session highlighted DeWitte’s experiences with integration for Graham Healthcare, one of the largest post-acute providers in the country.

“A broad theme with what we’re seeing in the industry is the inability to integrate anything inside of the EMR,” said DeWitte. “This is a barrier for clinicians everywhere, but our solution to this at Graham was to pull our EMR data out of HomeCare HomeBase, into Salesforce. So our clinicians no longer have these data barriers. They have the data where they need it, at the point of care.”

He went on to explain that in the hospice world, the modality of patients is cause for everything they do at Graham, but that home health can be particularly challenging because of missing notifications when patients are being admitted at the hospital. By integrating PatientPing, a nurse alert system, Graham is now able to know when their patients show up at other facilities, so they can then reach out proactively and intervene.

“To deliver next-level care, we have to operate from a more holistic view of our patients,” DeWitte said. “Being able to know what’s happening, to be able to incorporate that data with other healthcare providers to drive outreach and other decision-making on our platform, we are able to achieve that patient-centric focus that the industry is striving toward.”

Bridge Connector and Graham were not alone identifying this industry-wide shift: healthcare is increasingly viewing the patient as a consumer, and the industry must deliver on heightened customer expectations while better engaging patients throughout their care journeys.

Other sessions such as “Emerging Technologies & Strategies to Improve Patient Engagement,” brought specific solutions to the table, including how telehealth can factor into hospital systems’ engagement strategies, or “The Future of Revenue Cycle: The Patients as Payers and Engaged Consumers” which addressed the reality that healthcare costs have shifted more to patients in recent years. With that comes an increased demand for pricing transparency which supports the recent policy updates that say interoperability efforts in the U.S. must now focus on improving individuals’ ability to control their own health information, so they can “shop for and coordinate their own care.”

“Improving Patient Satisfaction and Service Quality Through Healthcare IT” was another session that directly tied into how we can must better utilize healthcare IT innovations to achieve these means — how to put our data to work, in other words, because physicians have enough items that demand their time and attention.

2. All about analytics

If there is a common denominator that most clearly ties Becker’s health IT and revenue cycle management subject matter, it’s data analytics. And for an additional theme at this year’s conference, it was “all about the analytics.”

In the same manner that data must be processed, organized, or presented within a larger context to turn it into useful information, health IT software, platforms, or tools must be administered within an organization to capture information that can eventually be turned into analytics. And only then can an organization use that information to effectively improve their business decisions and practices.

How to make data insights more accessible and make them more useful for providers was a common theme, and particularly how to leverage artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning to accomplish these means.

One solution utilizing AI technology, for example, is chatbots. When you visit a website and are greeted with a “virtual assistant” pop-up window that asks, “Is there something I can help you with today?” you are likely interfacing with a chatbot. For patients with high-risk conditions like hypertension or diabetes which require continuous care and monitoring, this sort of chatbot technology facilitates conversations between patients and their care teams, automating interactions and gathering data that can improve both clinical and financial outcomes.

Also, in the current hospital landscape which features larger systems as a result from mergers and acquisitions, AI can help predict how many and what types of patients are going to require care, and what types of providers will be needed to treat them. AI-driven notification systems, sometimes referred to as “smart alerts” or “smart routing,” can allow hospital administrators to make workforce decisions ahead of time, which assists with schedule flexibility that workers increasingly desire.

3. Security: Critical Times Call for Improved Practices

As anyone who reads the general news, or certainly health IT-specific news can attest, health organizations’ electronic data has been under increased attack in recent years. In fact, healthcare data breaches are reportedly occurring at the rate of once per day in the U.S.

As of September 2019, already more than 35 million individuals have had their health care records compromised within the year, which was more than the previous three years combined. Most of these attacks are committed via phishing scams that are conducted via email, which puts healthcare organizations of every size at risk.

There were several sessions that provided an overview of recent best practices in health IT cybersecurity, as well as assessing the cost-effectiveness of some of these newer strategies.

For example, there has been the movement to integrate security earlier into the software development life cycle (SDLC), known as DevSecOps, rather than relegating security practices as a bolt-on afterthought. In fact, in a survey of IT professionals, around 40% of them were running automated security tests throughout the entire SDLC, as opposed to the traditional “waterfall” method, where these automated security tests run just prior to production, with no other testing.

According to Becker’s panelists, security integration and automation are more difficult than they sound. But for those who seek to prove the ROI of these efforts to get executive buy-in, organizations that do DevSecOps right are two times more likely to exceed profitability, and 144% more likely to resolve flaws quickly.

Additionally, for those organizations that have moved their DevOps to the cloud, they are able to deploy code 46% faster, and they are able to reduce costs 56% more effectively.

4. HIT Progress Report and Call to Action

Nobody likes a trend report more than health IT (HIT) nerds, and Becker’s did not disappoint with its many opportunities to receive this information, in addition to a strong call to action from keynote speaker, Edward Marx, Chief Information Officer of Cleveland Clinic. During his address, he called for organizations to stop piece-mealing incremental HIT solutions and instead think of implementing technology as their “mission.”

Marx shared a personal experience in which digital health had twice saved his life. He credited data from his smartwatch, Bluetooth blood pressure and heart monitors for his physician being able to regulate his medications daily, which got him running again just six months after he had suffered a heart attack while competing in a duathlon. And he also credits testing which used artificial intelligence (AI) technology with his early detection of prostate cancer, greatly improving his treatment outcomes and life expectancy.

“I was already an evangelist for digital tools and digital transformation, but now it’s my mission,” Marx said, and that implementing digital technology should be thought of as a “moral responsibility” for all healthcare organizations.

This theme was repeated during another keynote by Shafiq Rab, M.D. and CIO of Rush University Medical Center. He shared a similar concern for revenue cycle teams, that they should move away from “incremental changes” that are “largely redundant” in nature. Health IT should rather be used to transform revenue cycle operations, he suggested, by “building relationships both with external partners and across your entire healthcare organization.”

And with similar advice to Graham Healthcare’s Justin DeWitte, Rab added that providers need to receive “alerts that are true actionable insights, things that (they) can actually act upon.”

“This isn’t about revenue cycle; it’s not about AI or machine learning,” Rab said. “It’s about actionable insights: the right information at the right time for the right person in the right format at the right time, so that your time is not wasted.”

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