Rural healthcare is on a journey of transformation in how it does business. Limited resources, staff and patient access to specialized care are forcing providers to adopt new solutions — or risk stagnating.
Digital solutions have emerged as a powerful way to increase access to care and fill the labor gap, with technology and automation helping to increase efficiency and profitability. But maximizing those benefits can be difficult, especially if your organization hasn't already built a strong foundation.
To successfully transform your organization while remaining financially sound, you need to have a strategy for how you can work with the right systems at the right time.
Building your technology foundation
Usually, rural healthcare providers turn to investing in new facilities as a means for increasing access and driving financial strength. But technology is quickly becoming a more necessary — and cost effective — capital investment if you want to keep your organization viable in the future.
To get the most benefit from your digital solutions, focus on foundational technologies. Foundational technologies lay the groundwork for a full view of the business of healthcare, specifically clinical activity, the resulting financial costs and the interface with the patient.
These tools can have the greatest impact on how you manage operations and people across your organization. And when used together, they help you apply technology to covering labor shortages, improving efficiency and increasing profitability.
Your foundation should consist of three key systems: an electronic medical record (EMR), an ERP and a CRM.
- EMR: EMRs are a digital version of a patient's medical history, including diagnoses, medications, allergies, lab results and other relevant information. It allows healthcare providers to access and update patient information easily and securely.
- ERP: An ERP helps organizations manage day-to-day tasks involved in key areas, such as accounting and supply chain. It gives a fuller view of your operations and a more automated process for converting your clinical activities into billable events.
- CRM: These systems are typically associated with helping businesses communicate with customers and increase sales. However, those same capabilities can help you streamline communications for appointment availability and billing, helping your organization process claims efficiently and increase access for both current and potential patients.
Most organizations are already using an EMR, and many more have adopted an ERP. But adding a CRM to those solutions creates a fuller picture of the care you provide, as well as the finances and the communication behind that care.
And with all three systems as your foundation, you can use tech to further growth by:
Finding a full-time equivalent
As labor shortages persist, rural healthcare providers need to take a critical look at how they optimize both clinical and support staff.
One option is to use automation as a full-time equivalent. For example, with a fully integrated accounting system, your back office can eliminate lengthy, manual processes. That optimization helps fill staffing gaps and allows your people to focus more on value-added work, such as improving your revenue cycle management.
Improving inventory and supply chain management
Automated inventory and supply chain management can help your organization manage inventory more efficiently.
Software options such as Concur make the purchasing process easier by helping you find the best price for your supplies and ordering them automatically. They can also integrate with your financial system to book any purchase as an expense in your chart of accounts.
Ultimately, they help you improve the availability of medical supplies and equipment while reducing cost.
How you communicate about availability with both staff and patients can lead to greater financial stability and increased access to care.
With staff, making telehealth or virtual consultations available provides a more convenient way to address openings in their schedule.
For patients, electronic scheduling and appointment reminders can help organizations manage their appointments more efficiently. These technologies allow patients to schedule appointments online and receive reminders via email or text message.
If you operate multiple locations, you can also offer real-time communication about availability so that patients have a full understanding of when and where they can access care.
Upgrading your webpage
In the digital age, your organization’s webpage is your new front door. That’s why it’s crucial to integrate activities and relevant information there for patients.
Offering billing, appointment scheduling and general care information on your website helps patients access care while easing the burden on front- and back-office staff. It also streamlines the billing process, leading to a steadier revenue flow and allowing you to invest in expanding your reach with options like telehealth and mobile screening clinics.
Building your digital strategy
Once you understand how you want to use technology to grow your organization, you need a digital strategy to make it possible.
To build an effective digital strategy, your organization should:
- Maintain a realistic timeline: Too often, organizations get caught up in the rapid pace of emerging tech. A good strategy serves your organization by looking three to five years ahead and selecting solutions based on those long-term goals.
- Take a holistic approach: Instead of letting tools stay siloed in different departments, consider how they impact your overall organization. This approach helps identify opportunities for integration and can even help eliminate duplicative software or applications, saving you operational costs.
- Get guidance: Your organization may not have an individual with the knowledge and experience to be able to develop your roadmap. Consider using an outside digital strategist to help you create a plan that fits your organization’s challenges and goals.
How Wipfli can help
Need a partner for your transformation?
Our team is ready to work with you in creating a digital strategy to help your organization grow. We help you navigate software selection, implementation and change management. And once your systems are in place, we continue to support you with guidance on optimization and updates.
Contact us today to explore how we can help your organization do more with technology.
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