Staying healthy is an investment. As the global private healthcare market surges towards US$7.4 trillion by 2027, for Kerry Stratton, Global Director, Healthcare Solutions at InterSystems, the next frontier of digital healthcare needs not just patients and doctors, but also the business on board.
He shares with Hospital Management Asia how empty beds are driving innovative business models, how to extend patient care outside hospital walls, and why the most resilient hospitals will be those agile enough to change.
Empty beds driving innovation
Travel restrictions and postponement of non-essential procedures meant that many hospitals across ASEAN experienced record low bed occupancy during the pandemic’s peak. With a decline in medical tourism – accounting for around 40% of healthcare revenue across major ASEAN nations – hospital leaders are occupied with a new question: How to drive care, and profitability, without filling wards?
As markets – and COVID patients – slowly recover, disruption is a long-term symptom, and hospitals need to be prepared for change. And that means change from the top.
“It took many private hospitals some time for clinical leaders to convince management that it was worth investing in EMR systems,” says Stratton. “COVID has made business leaders much more aware of technology, like the ability to aggregate data and gain quick and effective insights into changing trends. Now it’s the CEOs saying, ‘This is valuable information. How can we use it to make better decisions’?”
Healthy data, healthy business
For hospital managers at the helm, a smooth EMR system and access to data across all departments is a critical compass in keeping the ship on course. “The more information you capture, the better the analytics are, the better the insights, and the better the decisions business leaders can make,” observes Stratton.
InterSystems’ IRIS for Health platform, the first designed to extract value from healthcare data, provides hospitals with a fast route to clean or “healthy data”, collated from different systems, to make decisions at speed.
It’s not all about the numbers, however. A data-driven and innovative business model can also help improve patient experience.
Technology and the human element
“Patients don’t want to have to repeat themselves, giving the same details to different departments. They just want to identify themselves once and go through the whole experience easily,” says Stratton. “Systems intelligent enough to provide clinicians with the patient’s past history will streamline care, and reduce stress.”
In a data-driven era, it is important to remember the human element. “What we found out through COVID and telemedicine is you’ve got to be careful that the clinician is not just using the computer. Systems should capture information easily and help the clinician focus on the patient.”
For Stratton, that is the art behind the science, and the interplay between the two will boost the most valuable business asset of all, patient trust, and build loyalty.
Evolving business models
In an increasingly virtual world, how do you create quality patient care – and a profitable business model – outside the traditional hospital? Stratton sets the scene.
“You’ve built a profitable organisation and then, all of a sudden, patients can’t come into your healthcare facility. So, you’ve got to ask, how can we adapt? How can we start providing care to patients outside of the hospital? How can you share patient information?”
In Indonesia, an InterSystems partner hospital “completely realigned itself during COVID”, he says. Both COVID treatments and elective surgeries were able to continue, co-habiting, but separated, without risk of transmission. “I was talking to the CEO of that hospital last night. They said they wouldn’t have been able to do that without an EMR system.”
Stratton also describes the rise of pop-up clinics in Bangkok. “Hospitals wanted to continue treating their patients but didn’t want them to come to the outpatient departments where there was a fear of cross-infection. Providing connectivity to outside clinics was key to that.”
Telemedicine and wearable devices
Healthcare is now, more than ever, a service, and Stratton believes that “proactive telemedicine” will serve as a differentiator, both for patients and for hospital CEOs looking to provide a better service.
“Beyond offering telemedicine, we have been working with healthcare providers to deliver more proactive virtual care,” he explains. “By integrating artificial intelligence, for example, you can predict potential health issues, alert doctors and patients, and schedule an online consultation.”
Patients are also becoming more autonomous and carrying their healthcare with them: often on wearable devices. For Stratton, this is the next stage in healthy connectivity.
“Getting data from a patient’s watch or a device in their home, that connectivity is what telcos and device manufacturers have been struggling with for the last two or three years,” he says. “InterSystems offers the ability to capture that information, either in the cloud, or into a device directly.”
To complete its wearable offerings, InterSystems is partnering with consumer technology companies. “Apple is working with us as a supplier of EMR systems,” he says. “We’re developing a methodology that allows consumer data to be readily accessible within an EMR.”
A health and business asset
Connectivity is not just a healthcare asset, it’s a business asset. Patient behaviour is changing: consumers are becoming more health-conscious, resulting in greater demand for and more spending on health services.
The more accessible a private hospital is, and the more services it can provide, the more attractive it will be to patients – even if they rarely venture inside the hospital walls. InterSystems is working on different services to upgrade patient experience and autonomy, such as a patient portal which allows people to view their own health records.
Digitally innovating a hospital’s business model will streamline processes and drive patient loyalty, even if beds are empty, says Stratton. “It communicates that the hospital is still looking after you, that you still have access to care and well-being services. That’s a very good reason to stay with those hospitals.”
It will be healthcare providers that learn from 2020 to become data-driven and agile that will respond effectively to future challenges. “Healthy data means happy patients, and a healthy business,” Stratton concludes.