But challenges often present opportunities to do things differently. To find out more about current healthcare problems—and possible solutions—we put out an open call to industry experts asking: What are some of the top problems related to healthcare and hospital management? (Because management performance is our domain.) Below are some of the responses we received, along with some insights we’ve gained after partnering with healthcare organizations over the years to improve their operations. In no way is this intended to be an article on how to solve healthcare problems, but rather a way to contribute more voices to the conversation in an effort to make things better.
True crises used to be few and far between, but the past year has presented a perpetual state of crisis—a scenario that has posed an incredible challenge for healthcare organizations. According to Terry Zysk, CEO of LiveProcess, public health emergencies like COVID-19 require situation management: using real-time data analysis to understand how an event is unfolding, and reacting to it accordingly. It’s the only way that critical healthcare resources can be delivered to the right people at the right time during emergencies and natural disasters. A major problem with hospital management systems is they don’t provide access to the kind of real-time metrics that could improve response times and outcomes—for example, how many beds are available at a facility at any given time or the location of critical supplies. A number of software products can help gather real-time metrics, including situation management-specific platforms like LiveProcess.
ClearPoint is another option that takes a more holistic view of situation management, positioning it in relation to strategy. This software has been used by many organizations to automatically track and report on healthcare metrics associated with COVID-19, including number of cases, response rates, quantity of resources, etc. You can use that data to respond appropriately to crises and make sure those decisions continue to support your overall strategy.
Communication among and within healthcare institutions—and even with other external stakeholders—continues to be a challenge. Studies have shown that hospitals waste $12 billion per year thanks to poor communication, often due to aging technologies, silos between departments, and other issues. Poor internal communication has even been linked with the quality of patient care, underscoring the importance of having an effective communication program.
Particularly during a pandemic, there is a need to communicate with both internal and external audiences about things like safety precautions, test availability, PPE supplies, etc. But even in “normal” times, organizations need better ways to share data and information across teams to empower and engage employees, promote collaboration, and drive strategic initiatives.
ClearPoint makes communication and knowledge-sharing simpler and more organized. It provides transparency around your organization’s direction and mission, and encourages all employees to take ownership of projects, increasing employee engagement. It can also help you communicate with outside stakeholders using external dashboards that convey crucial information, similar to the one for a municipality shown below.
Another major challenge identified by more than one healthcare provider is the lack of interoperability across health technology systems. Susan G. Bornstein, MD, MPH points out that, without a national healthcare database in place, “medical providers in one office or healthcare system are precluded from seeing a patient's information in another system, to the detriment of the patient. For example, a patient may forget some of their medication allergies, what tests they had performed, exactly what surgery was done when, who they saw for what—all of which is critical information for rendering the current episode of care.”
Kristy Dalechek of Haven Healthcare Advocates agrees that interoperability issues make it harder to identify patients’ medical problems and their solutions. “Electronic health records were supposed to be the answer, but our healthcare system is even more fragmented now. Even if all of your doctors and specialists are in the same network and use the same EHR, they may not have your entire health record and history.”
Interoperability challenges are seen by many as an obstacle to improving the quality of healthcare and lowering costs. Some have proposed that new technologies like machine learning and blockchain could potentially be helpful, though their practical applications have yet to be determined.
Imagine having to sort through hundreds of pages of test data at a time, or tens of thousands of data points to find key information. These scenarios play out regularly for hospital workers and administrators, clinicians, and public health officials. Whether that information is generated by medical devices or lab tests, or used for patient care or administrative purposes, data overload is undeniably a problem across all types of healthcare organizations.
Clearly there are advantages to having an abundance of data, but it can quickly become overwhelming. Since most data is available in electronic form, technology can help. Healthcare organizations should look for advanced solutions that support:
If you’re looking for a solution that makes sense of your organization’s data in relation to performance improvement, check out ClearPoint. But if you’re in need of a tech solution to address other data challenges—like managing patient information, for example—you might be better off searching for software that addresses those technology issues in healthcare more specifically.
Another challenge mentioned by multiple respondents was data security. Between 2009 and 2020, 70% of the U.S. population was affected by healthcare data breaches—a trend that isn’t likely to go away.
Compared to other industries, the healthcare industry is relatively unprepared for cyber attacks. Raymond Dacillo, Director of Operations at C-Care Health Services, says that “due to limited funding and budgetary constraints, many healthcare providers have become increasingly easy targets for attackers, who exploit their vulnerabilities.” The recent growth of digital health initiatives—like telehealth doctor visits during the pandemic—has been a major contributor to increasing breaches. As more healthcare functions continue to move online, it’s essential to ensure these processes are protected.
Dacillo believes the healthcare industry needs government funding to strengthen their IT resources. But there are also a number of best practices healthcare organizations can implement now that will help them more effectively secure valuable healthcare data, such as educating healthcare staff, restricting access to data and applications, implementing data usage controls, and more. (You can read about some essential data security practices here.)
No doubt there are more healthcare problems (and hopefully solutions!) than the ones we’ve mentioned here. If there’s a way we can help your organization solve a health care problem related to strategy planning, reporting, or project management, we encourage you to get in touch. We’d love to help you experience greater success when it comes to planning, managing, and reaching your goals!