The healthcare industry is facing many unique challenges, thanks to years of mergers and acquisitions. That type of growth has left many healthcare systems with aging technology, redundant systems and siloed operations — leading to security vulnerabilities and overall decreased efficiencies. 

Now, issues like rising inflation and economic uncertainty, supply chain bottlenecks and caregiver burnout further threaten their wellbeing. As a result, many healthcare organizations are making tough decisions on where to invest and what to cut, often significantly reducing budgets just to keep their businesses afloat. 

Despite these issues, some leading experts say that prioritizing IT investments and modernization is critical to evolving to meet the needs of patients today — and thriving as a future-ready institution.

“Getting the patient-care experience right is the next big opportunity in healthcare,” said Trent Sanders, Vice President of Healthcare at Kyndryl. “The only way we can solve the problems our patients face is to understand their individual experiences with our health systems. And technology is at the heart of each of these experiences.”

Ahead of HIMSS 2023, the global health information technology event held April 17-21, 2023, Sanders weighs in on how IT modernization can add value to healthcare.

What expectations do patients have of the current health system?

Modern mobile-first patients seek more than sporadic and transactional relationships with healthcare providers. They expect a seamless experience with instant access to clinicians, as well as health data. Today, health systems are branching out into unconventional services and forging partnerships with new categories of stakeholders through virtual care, Hospitals-at-Home and retail clinics. Unlike a decade ago, advanced digital technologies offer more avenues for the system to meet patients’ growing expectations.

How are hospitals taking on this challenge when they are facing high burnout rates?

Burnout is a lot more complex than what meets the eye. It has impacted not only clinicians and caregivers on the frontline but the health system in its entirety. Hospitals across the U.S. are knee-deep in financial losses, job cuts and a waning community identity. C-suite leaders are on the brink of throwing in the towel to either get acquired or sign a deal with large conglomerates to handle their businesses, both of which will impact their people and jobs. To me, all these are signs of a system that is burning out.

In such scenarios, we’re seeing organizations resort to quick fixes, such as AI and automation, in hopes it will help them break this vicious cycle. However, most organizations apply these technologies in siloed business functions, which diminishes the benefits they will reap or even exaggerates existing issues. 

How should healthcare providers think about AI and automation?

Our overarching goal is to improve patients’ care journeys end to end. A crucial step in this direction is to look at this journey with an enterprise-wide vision and map out all the digital touchpoints they will encounter.

Health systems often find themselves at a crossroads when it comes to automation: they can either treat it as a stopgap measure to fix issues in standalone business functions (such as HR, emergency, clinical) or apply it to priority shared services, as part of a broader IT transformation plan, to ensure maximum return on their investment. By taking the latter route, we know health systems are better positioned to improve customer and employee experiences, across all those crucial digital touchpoints, helping to increase revenue and reduce operational expenses.

So, what can help organizations in the long run? At Kyndryl, we prioritize three shared service areas — IT, Revenue Cycle and Supply Chain — to improve net patient revenue using what we call the ‘Golden Concepts.’ They are:

  1. IT: Better infrastructure services, application services and clinical experience 
  2. Revenue Cycle: Enhancing the front, middle and back ends of operation
  3. Supply Chain: Improving Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) relationships, purchased services and pharmacy
How can healthcare providers achieve institutional sustainability?

Over the past few decades, organizations have been bearing the burden of old and outdated legacy systems that they have inherited from growth through mergers and acquisitions. This has led to rising costs and a need for IT modernization. In fact, PwC research shows that we are in the middle of a five-year, $1 trillion revenue shift away from traditional healthcare payers and providers. By 2030, the sector is expected to be driven by new orchestrators, integrators and platform and solutions players in the health ecosystem.

While investing in IT modernization requires a thoughtful strategy, it can pay off in other ways, too. For example, when funds are saved from one digital transformation project, that savings can be channeled into a new initiative. Of course, none of this is easy. But at a time when enterprises walk the tightrope of changing regulations, security threats and growing patient and clinician needs, even incremental improvements to net patient revenues add up to a better chance at institutional sustainability.

Attending HIMSS? Request a meeting with experts onsite and attend these sessions hosted by Kyndryl executives:

April 18 at 1:00 PM CT: Leveraging Cloud to Improve Patient and Provider Experience hosted by Beverly Bell, RN, BS, MHA, CPHIMS, FHIMSS, CPC, Sr. Partner, Healthcare and Life Science, Kyndryl US and Jimmy DeLurgio, Global Senior Solutions Architect for EHR Amazon Web Services (Pre-registration required)

April 19 at 7:15 AM CT: Unlocking the Cloud Transformation Journey for Healthcare hosted by Bob Tomlin, Director, Business Development Partner for Kyndryl Health and Life Sciences and Marty Loughlin, Director, Channel Sales, Microsoft Healthcare and Life Sciences (Pre-registration required)

April 19 at 4:00 PM CT: Optimizing IT/RCM/Supply Chain to fuel re-investment and transformation hosted by Trent Sanders, VP, Kyndryl US Healthcare Lead and James Burke, Partner, Healthcare ISG

April 20 at 9:30 AM CT: Becoming a Cyber Resilient Healthcare organization hosted by Michael Restivo, US Sales VP, Security and Resiliency at Kyndryl

Trent Sanders, Vice President of Healthcare
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