In the first quarter of 2018, the healthcare industry set a record for mergers and acquisitions activity, which included several mega-mergers of hospital health systems. Such activity is in line with Deloitte’s prediction that hospital consolidation would increase, resulting in fewer – but larger – health systems.
One challenge of consolidation is that it puts hospital systems under pressure to cut costs. However, some experts are quick to point out there’s also an opportunity for larger systems to deliver care more efficiently and improve clinical effectiveness.
As they absorb the operations of the hospitals they acquire, larger systems can leverage communications technology to achieve better results. Investing in a hybrid deployment of unified communications is one way to streamline operations. In fact, there are several reasons it can keep costs low, while also improving care and efficiency.
Easily integrate acquisitions. Newly acquired satellite and remote hospitals are likely to have their own communications technology in place, which may not be the same as the acquiring health system’s. With a hybrid deployment, hospitals and physicians’ offices can be linked to the main campus via the cloud, without requiring new technology to be installed.
Accommodate unique needs. Across a large system, one-size-fits-all isn’t going to work because each property will have its own communications requirements. For example, hospital radiology and laboratory information systems often have on-site equipment paired with cloud-hosted applications. Meanwhile, a physician’s office in the same system can’t operate without its own contact center solution. Hybrid deployment enables the IT team to support both needs.
Support IoT. Increasingly, sensors and smart devices are becoming a mainstay within healthcare supply chains. With a hybrid deployment, large hospital systems can utilize IoT and benefit from real-time interactions with both sensor-equipped health devices and the supply chain.
Improving clinical effectiveness
If you’re considering a hybrid approach, take the time to fully assess what makes most sense for your growing healthcare system. Keep these points in mind.
Leverage current investments. If you have fixed infrastructure you plan to keep, find a partner who will integrate a cloud solution with your equipment so the entire system is strengthened.
On-site or in the cloud? Conduct a thorough evaluation of which data and applications make the most sense to move to the cloud and which should stay on-site. Consider costs, scalability and connectivity. For instance, cloud data storage is a pay-as-you-go proposition. But, if it’s data your staff needs to access quickly – like large clinical files and electronic health records – choose a data center that is geographically close. For other applications that aren’t so data-driven, use the cloud to save costs.
Flexibility, not headaches. The whole point of moving functions to the cloud is to make your life easier. What will the newly acquired locations require of your IT staff? What will clinical staff need to learn? What changes will impact contact center agents? Is the newly-acquired healthcare system’s culture able to handle not just technical changes, but staff adoption? Meet with all stakeholders to gather input and troubleshoot issues before implementation.
HIPAA compliant and secure. It may go without saying, but it’s too important to not mention it: Any software or hardware you implement must be HIPAA compliant. Look for partners who are certified HIPAA compliant and who offer a Business Associate Agreement.
Transition or long-term solution? While many healthcare systems use hybrid deployment as a transition strategy, it’s important to remember it can also be a long-term solution. You can maintain control of parts of your communications infrastructure and use the cloud for others. If security and backup is essential, a private cloud may be an option for you too. In this way, your data is protected but you still get the benefits of scalability and resiliency.
As your hospital health system consolidates further and adds new properties, be sure to choose a provider that doesn’t box you in. The key to growth is flexibility, and a hybrid deployment provides the elasticity a growing organization requires.