The Technology Wave: Key Competencies to Ride the Wave Successfully

Originally posted March 4, 2019 / Elizabeth Adams

Healthcare News Media is on fire with rich information on Artificial Intelligence (AI), i.e., machine learning, as the wave of the future, to enhance the patient experience, optimize the healthcare delivery system and achieve successful healthcare outcomes.  

According to Robert Adams, a leading-edge Healthcare Business Systems Analyst who supports large integrated health systems, “The healthcare industry has been steadfast in pursuing three specific goals:

*Improving the patient experience

*Decreasing the cost of care

*Improving population health

As technology advances and policies evolve, healthcare providers are increasingly looking for ways to achieve these goals. Healthcare has traditionally been driven by a fee-for-service, volume-based model which rewarded health systems and providers for seeing and serving patients. With the Affordable Care Act and shift to value-based care, quality not just quantity has taken center stage. The aging population is another impetus for shifting to a value-based care system. Each day, 10,000 people enroll in Medicare, and with this “silver tsunami” comes more aging Americans with chronic illness.”  Understanding what healthcare technology can offer, and how to integrate this new technology into the healthcare delivery system is also critical to long term healthcare viability and sustainability. 

There are buzzwords flying such as “digital transformation, wearables, and predictive analytics.” If you’re a nurse or healthcare leader with more than 10 years under your belt, these terms may sound confusing and quite overwhelming.  Furthermore, to advance our new reality, there are healthcare organizations who are piloting robots to manage certain elements of the traditional nursing task in their organizations. Texas Health Resources has partnered with Diligent Robotics to pilot ‘Moxie’, a robot who utilizes artificial intelligence to complete her assigned responsibilities, and yes, she has a gender.  Moxie can be seen on the nursing units delivering supplies for new patient admissions, couriering lab samples and carrying out heavy linen bags as part of cleaning rooms.

The idea is to off load some of the task-oriented procedures to allow more nursing specific time at the bedside with patients.  The team at Texas Health Resources refer to Moxie with affection, noting she is a valued team member.  According to Texas Health Dallas, Dr. Cole Edmonson is quoted as saying “We want to learn where nursing intersects with socially and artificially intelligent robotics in the daily processes of caring for patients and families, really investigating how this kind of technology can help nurses focus more on the direct needs of our patients by alleviating the more routine, non-clinical duties of caregivers.” 

We were introduced to wearable technology when “fitbits” hit the market, designed to partner with the consumer in tracking heart rate, oxygen saturation and activity level.  Now, there is a whole new market of wearables that are designed to aid in prevention of illness and even detect disease before it happens.  These are powerful tools that are engineered to work in many settings including your home and mine.   According to Elysium Health, these new devices have advanced at record speed, for example one aids in the diagnosis of Parkinson’s Disease, while another helps the blind navigate busy streets.  They are gathering data and sending it virtually to healthcare providers who can interpret and manage consumer healthcare in partnership with the patient, real time. 

One new wearable is iTBra, developed by Cyrcadia Health and it uses technology to detect breast cancer.  The device is worn in the bra and monitors circadian metabolic changes in heat that correlate to accelerated cell activity common in breast cancer.  

As technology advances and generates data, healthcare organizations must learn how to gather, interpret and utilize the data in an operational meaningful way to drive outcomes and strategically plan for the future of healthcare; mind you not for next year, but 5 years from now.  Additionally, in terms of financial capital expenditures it’s important for healthcare leaders to understand the value of technology, and cost implications for their organizations long term.   

With consideration to Human Engineering Factors, how will we prepare the leaders of today for the AI of the future? As daunting as it may sound to add to our repertoire of skills, integrating AI into a leadership portfolio will be critical to success in this new wave of healthcare technology.

Drawing from an extensive review of leading technology companies who have jumped off the high dive into healthcare and are riding the wave quite successfully, the following are key survival competencies healthcare leaders should consider adopting or borrowing:

*Change Leadership and Agility Skills

*Principles of Information Technology

*Systems Interoperability Capabilities

*Digital Media and Visualization

*Predictive Data Analytics

*Risk Management Security and Information Assurance

*Resiliency

*Complex Systems Thinking (Critical & Analytical)

*Human Engineering Concepts

*Emotional Intelligence

We are now starting to see direct targeted marketing of healthcare informatics degree programs aimed at healthcare leaders.  Many of the programs offer post masters certificates designed to supplement the healthcare leader’s knowledge, skill and acquisition into artificial intelligence.  We are also seeing major technology executives jumping ship to join large health systems and they are leveraging their expertise to help transform the healthcare delivery systems of the future; working with clinicians and providers to advance their competencies as a team. 

Healthcare organizations that invest in technology competency frameworks that support people, processes, systems, and structures will provide a platform for leaders to be successful in adopting, and integrating the technology of the future to advance healthcare.  Through creative partnerships, healthcare organizations can design professional development and cross training programs linking technology, business, financial and data analytics teams to support the traditional healthcare leaders’ transition into the workplace; as an integral part of new hire onboarding and skill development. Additionally, organizations may choose to target healthcare leaders with established informatics competencies, as Amazon has hired healthcare executives to leverage their expertise in the business and logistics marketplace. 

For personal professional development, I recommend attending healthcare informatics conferences where you can start to learn the lingo, and partner with individuals who are engaged in healthcare technology.  Join a meetup or professional networking group in healthcare informatics or a diverse healthcare market.  Jumping in and investing 4-6 hours per week reading blogs, tweets and Becker’s IT Review is a great start at developing competencies for this new wave of the future. 

Before you know it, you will soon realize that “Agile and Scrum” for example, are techy terms for what we have done in healthcare for years.  The key is being ready and willing to adapt, and partner with others to borrow skills that add to your portfolio.  Healthcare is evolving and with every wave of change, we must be ready to jump in and get your feet wet. Happy Surfing! 

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