In today’s healthcare marketplace, some ambiguity exists about what “digital health” actually means. We use it as shorthand for applications and solutions, but we don’t clarify what it is. There’s so much “swirl” and many different points of view.

Let’s try to simplify this. Digital health solutions should help improve patient care and outcomes. What does that mean from a provider’s perspective? Basically, any healthcare technology tool should position providers for one overarching objective: to operate at the top of their license.

That’s the goal for every clinician in your system. After all, every individual clinician has unique, specialized training and limited capacity to deliver care. Enabling providers to work at the top of their abilities facilitates more patient visits and improved outcomes. Providers focus only on those challenges that require their expert attention—not on mundane tasks that are ancillary to patient care.

This approach provides simplicity. With “digital health” getting affixed to every healthcare technology solution, it clarifies the provider perspective. It emphasizes the main objective for every digital health solution: giving providers more time for patient care.

Battling Burnout

The mindset of allowing providers to operate at the top of their license addresses the problem of clinician burnout, which jeopardizes the entire healthcare industry. Burnout was a challenge before Covid-19, but the pandemic intensified the problem. Staff shortages have brought us to a breaking point. Clinicians throughout the provider team now routinely handle tasks that are outside their training portfolio, stressing healthcare staff to a breaking point.

At the same time, technology is overwhelming providers. They’re increasingly frustrated with the many digital tools they must learn and utilize. Many of these technology solutions are inadequate, yet we continue to accrue more “digital debt” that adds to clinicians’ cognitive burden. Instead of liberating clinicians to do what they do best, these tech tools often bog them down and slow their ability to provide patient care. The result is an increase in day-to-day distraction and a decrease in job satisfaction.

To be clear, technology tools can undoubtedly help solve these problems. But they must be the right tools, and their implementation must be coordinated within a deliberate strategy to support physicians and clinical staff.

Digital health solutions should streamline tasks rather than add administrative work that aggravates the problems. Every digital health solution should focus on empowering clinicians. This is the key to unburdening them and reducing burnout.

The Right Digital Health Tools

With the right technology tools, it’s possible to take a lot of these distractions—the cognitive burden that takes time from patient care—and remove them from the clinician’s life. But how do we do that? We can start by examining patient engagement and how to enhance and utilize patient care plans in a constructive fashion.

One way healthcare systems can free up providers is by implementing digital health tools that coordinate patient care plans. In the current healthcare dynamic, this work typically gets assigned to clinical staff with little additional bandwidth and zero time for more administrative tasks. By automating and personalizing work related to patient care plans, digital health tools can lighten the load.

The goal is to give patients the necessary tools to engage with their care in a direct way. The patient care plan gets streamlined for better coordination and education that should enhance patient engagement. The patient gets access to information they can trust via devices they already possess and know how to use. This positions them to enjoy a successful health journey.

Digital health leaders talk a lot about patient engagement as a means of improving health outcomes. This type of patient engagement helps relieve clinical staff of having to personally educate patients and caregivers and provides more opportunity for a patient’s family and friends to be meaningfully involved. It also can reduce the time clinical staff spends on care plan coordination.

By unburdening clinicians of the day-to-day distractions, we give them the capacity to provide better care. This is what it means to operate at the top of your license.

The Provider-Organization Perspective

The pandemic exposed just how lean our healthcare system is. Little excess capacity exists in the system, especially as hospitals seek to optimize costs and increasingly share greater risk in patients’ health outcomes. Often, hospitals seek to optimize their mix of services, scrambling to match demand with their clinical supply. The nursing shortage and burnout in clinicians have, understandably, exacerbated that situation.

What we see is provider organizations simply reacting to market conditions. They’re not being strategic, and it’s hard for them to approach the market proactively. They’re not steering the ship—they’re just riding the wave wherever it takes them.

There are tremendous opportunities for digital health leaders to flip the script in this regard. Technology tools can help address the burnout and staff shortage in healthcare. If they can remove routine daily tasks from a sizable number of clinical staff members, they can help them operate at scale—or at the top of their license.

Achieving this goal provides an added benefit—it’s also a way to lead with preeminence. If you can demonstrate better outcomes as a health organization, it’s because your providers are given the capacity to operate at the top of their license. They’re solving the big problems—the hard problems—not the simple ones. As an organization, if you want to lead in the marketplace, you must be able to demonstrate that. That’s where digital health tools have the capacity to transform the way we provide care to patients at scale.


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