May 30, 2023
How Application Optimization Can Improve Healthcare
Maximize value throughout the clinical workflow by integrating disparate tools and systems.
Application optimization enables healthcare organizations to move beyond the basics of tools and platforms to achieve more advanced implementations. It can enable organizations to use application data to generate insights and information that improve care. Optimization could mean consolidating disparate applications into a single system or workflow that reduces friction, simplifies training and lowers costs. Or it might involve integrating multiple applications so they produce new types of data that yield additional improvements.
At a very high level, optimization involves eliminating redundancies, streamlining workflows and increasing interoperability so that applications work together in a cohesive, orchestrated system. To understand why that’s necessary, it can help to look back at where many healthcare organizations started.
In years past, many organizations adopted solutions to obtain specific capabilities, which often resulted in integration challenges. To address these challenges, many organizations then moved to fully integrated solutions. Currently, the trend is to adopt best-of-breed platforms and use application programming interfaces to unlock their power in concert with other tools — for example, clinical communication and collaboration tools can enhance the core functions of Epic electronic health records (EHRs).
Optimization efforts should aim to maximize value at every step of the clinical workflow in EHRs and the broader digital platforms that connect to them. APIs are critical to optimization, ensuring that systems speak each other’s native languages to accomplish tasks and reduce friction. When this happens, each tool becomes more effective than it would be on its own.
Build on Application Foundations to Create High-Value Capabilities
Organizations typically implement EHRs with specific activities in mind, such as moving from paper charts to electronic documentation or adopting computerized physician order entry for lab tests, images and medications. As organizations integrate and achieve strong adoption of basic functions, they should start thinking about how to pursue more advanced uses. In the process, it’s important to note that optimization can be both broad (“How can we use EHR-generated insights to align with Quintuple Aim objectives?”) and specific (“How can we adapt EHR workflows to reduce full catheterization rates?”).
Fully leveraging each application’s potential is essential for rationalization, or minimizing the number of tools in the environment. This starts with an inventory: evaluating applications in terms of capability and workflows and then assigning responsibility for those workflows to specific owners within the organization. That, in turn, makes it easier to optimize workflows effectively.
Assess and Orchestrate Application Workflows and Capabilities
Optimization doesn’t necessarily mean consolidating as much as possible. In some cases, there may be good reasons to maintain multiple systems. Optimization would, however, ensure that applications are streamlined and deployed strategically. For example, a hospital may have acquired numerous EHRs over time. Optimization analysis might determine that it would be best to move all primary workflows into Epic while retaining smaller EHR systems for archives.
Overall, applications need orchestration: a holistic assessment from operational, administrative and technological perspectives to figure out the best way to bridge workflows and capabilities to clinical care. This process also helps to identify opportunities to automate data points and data ingestion. Some organizations use ServiceNow to drive optimization because of its powerful orchestration and automation capabilities — for instance, putting policies and processes in place in a way that is repeatable and scalable.
Data analytics and artificial intelligence also can help organizations derive more value from applications. Often, there are opportunities to use applications to increase the speed and quality of decision-making. For instance, analytics can help organizations assess clinical workflows to identify opportunities to reduce overlap or extend improvements across the organization.
Optimization Provides Guidance as New Solutions Are Adopted
Call center solutions are an excellent use case for optimization. Organizations often can simplify registration and scheduling processes and drive efficiency through self-service capabilities and proactive notifications. Unified clinical communication and collaboration platforms are another area where we often see potential for improvement. For example, providers can improve workflows and reduce silos by integrating multiple nurse call and medical middleware instances into devices.
As organizations continue to embrace new platforms and Software as a Service, interoperability will become even more critical. Getting this aspect of optimization right will be necessary as organizations seek to increase the visibility, accessibility and usability of data while also protecting sensitive information.
Mike Larsen, a healthcare technology strategist at CDW. He is an accomplished IT leader with over 20 years in the healthcare industry covering inpatient and outpatient service lines.
Lee Pierce, a Healthcare Strategist for CDW.
Matt Sickles, an executive healthcare strategist at CDW Healthcare with over 30 years of experience in leading-edge information security- and technology-related fields.
Tom Stafford, a healthcare technology strategist director for CDW.
Eli Tarlow, a healthcare technology strategist director for CDW.