Three things hospitals and health systems need to do in 2016 and why

This is the time of year we all start making resolutions and predictions for the new year ahead. One of my fellow executives here at Microsoft asked me to respond to the following question: "If I could recommend 3 actions for health organizations to undertake in 2016, what would they be, and why?" Of course it is hard to come up with a list of just three things to do. Anyone who works in healthcare knows that the list is much longer than just three things. But, I thought I would share three things that are top of mind for me.

1. Put as much emphasis on improving and modernizing communication and collaboration in clinical workflow as you have on the electronic health record. Healthcare is all about communication and collaboration. Most medical errors happen when communication breaks down. Yet, compared to other industries, healthcare lags behind in the use of contemporary mobile solutions to address communication and collaboration needs. There are amazing solutions available today that are widely used in other industries to manage synchronous and asynchronous communication using text, voice, video, and web conferencing technologies across all devices. There are even cloud-based solutions to help migrate your old PBX infrastructure to a cloud services model. No more excuses. It's time to get modern. 


2. Include digital natives and patients/consumers in your planning departments and board room discussions. I can’t tell you how many hospital and health system board retreats or “healthcare of the future” planning events I’ve attended over the years. Notably absent are people under the age of 40 (and especially clinicians and staff below the age of 30). I find that patients and consumers are also seldom at the table. Our future healthcare delivery systems of are being imagined by people who only know what they know, and often by people who have little experience with digital technologies. It makes no sense for those tasked with envisioning healthcare of the future, to be exclusively relics from the past. You'd be surprised what you might learn by including some tech-savvy twenty or thirty-somethings on your committees.


3. Embrace the cloud. If you've been holding back, this is the year to join the party. Information technology isn’t a core competency of hospitals or healthcare delivery systems, nor should it be. Your core competency is patient care. Off-load IT projects and solutions that are not core to your business (patient care) so precious IT resources can be directed to initiatives that truly will impact the quality of care and will transform patient care and the patient experience. Also, since you cannot improve what you can't measure, start investing in advanced analytics, machine learning, machine vision, and artificial intelligence technologies now so you'll be ready for a healthcare future that will depend on these capabilities. You've spent a ton on money on an EHR. You are capturing all kinds of data now. So, do something with it that matters.

If I was going to add just one other recommendation to the list, I would implore you push hard on your EHR/HIS vendors(s) to certify their systems and solutions on today's newest operating system platforms. Not only do these modern OS platforms offer superior privacy, security, compliance and management capabilities for your enterprise, but they also provide a far better user experience for your clinicians and employees across all device types. Your doctors, nurses, other clinicians and staff deserve devices and applications that are every bit as good and easy to use as what they experience in their personal lives. Don't put up with vendors who make excuses just because they can. Band together with your professional colleagues and let your voices be heard.

Although it's a little early to say this, I send my very best wishes for a happy and healthy New Year!

Bill Crounse, MD Senior Director, Worldwide Health Microsoft