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Non-Acute Care Providers: Accelerating Technology Accelerates Ability to Care – and Generate Revenue

Rikki Jennings (BSN, RN, CPN), Chief Nursing Informatics Officer, Zebra Technologies

The pandemic changed everything. It accelerated the digital transformation of well, just about everything. While healthcare may have been on its way to embracing technology, today it’s clearly going digital. And that includes non-acute care providers. In fact, any non-acute care providers who are laggards making technology routine in their care processes will likely also lag when it comes to their growth and profits post-pandemic.

Digital transformation uses technology to modernize and improve patient care and includes anything from automating tasks to improving communication between providers and patients. Providing better outcomes for patients and providers is something every, and any, type of health care provider should strive to achieve. By 2023, it is estimated that digital transformation will touch every aspect of healthcare1.

As the pandemic becomes a blip in the rear-view mirror and evolves into an endemic, expect non-acute care providers–from ambulatory surgery centers, long-term care providers, post-acute provider and more – to embrace technology at an accelerated pace. Non-acute care providers have a lot of lost time, care and money to make up for after literal years of procedures put-off or cancelled as the pandemic challenged us all, even when it came to healthcare. The faster non-acute care providers can turn patients and procedure rooms, the more care they can provide and revenue they can generate.

Healthcare investments continue to point in the direction of technology and digital transformation. According to the HIMSS Future of Healthcare Report, 80% of healthcare providers plan to increase investment in technology and digital solutions over the next five years.

Healthcare transforming into “Techcare”

Non-acute care providers are posed to ride this impending healthcare technology wave. McKinsey says these new digital models and entrants, and their non-acute, technology-enabled, and multichannel offerings can offer a different vision of care delivery.

Consumer adoption of telehealth has skyrocketed, from 11% of U.S. consumers using telehealth in 2019 to nearly half (46%) now using telehealth to replace canceled healthcare visits. Pre-COVID-19, the total annual revenues of U.S. telehealth players were an estimated $3 billion. With the acceleration of consumer and provider adoption and the extension of telehealth beyond virtual urgent care, up to $250 billion of current U.S. healthcare spend could be virtualized.

These indications suggest that the market may be shifting toward a model of innovative tech-enabled care, one that unlocks value by integrating digital and non-acute settings into a comprehensive, coordinated, and lower-cost offering.

While functional care coordination is currently still at the early stages, the potential of technology and other alternative settings raises the question of the role of existing acute-focused providers in a more integrated and digital world2.

Tech improves workflow efficiency and patient safety in non-acute spaces. Consider materials management, for example. Consumables make up as much as 30% of the cost of delivering a service in ambulatory surgery centers. A small improvement in the management of these items can return significant savings. Tech like barcoding, scanning and RFID technology solutions can lead to significant improvements3.

Caring for those who care

Obviously, technology benefits patients in all healthcare settings with more efficient processes and more accessible care, but what about the frontline? What do the clinicians and nurses have to say? Two-thirds of clinicians who participated in Zebra’s latest Healthcare Vision Study confirmed they’re fatigued, burned out, and overextended during their shifts. If you ask them to see more patients or manage omnichannel care without doing something to simplify both responsibilities, they may quit. More importantly, they may not be inclined to take a job elsewhere – whether that’s a retail clinic or even a remote telehealth job – if they feel it’s going to be more of the same.  

One-third of U.S. registered nurses (RNs) said in a recent McKinsey survey that they intend to leave their current direct patient care roles. What’s worse is that only 29% of these RNs expect to move into a similar role with another employer. Over two-thirds may stay in the workforce, but in a non-direct patient-care role, while 20% say they’ll likely leave the nursing workforce completely. Those more apt to leave the profession “placed outsize importance on manageable workloads, while those more likely to stay placed outsize importance on doing meaningful work, having caring and trusting teammates, having a sense of belonging, and feeling engaged by their work.”  

The takeaway? Technology can power and augment the critical work the frontline performs unburdening the delivery of care.

No turning back

The pandemic opened a pandora’s box, requiring us to reassess standard modes of operation to instead quickly find new and innovative ways to provide patient care. The rapid acceleration of technology in healthcare was released—and embraced. And it’s proving to be good for the non-acute sector.

According to McKinsey, the ownership and integration of alternative sites of care beyond the hospital has demonstrated superior financial returns. Between 2013 and 2018, the number of transactions executed by health systems for outpatient assets increased by 31%, for physician practices by 23%, and by 13% for post-acute care assets. At the same time, the number of hospital-focused deals declined by 6%. In addition, private equity investors and payers are becoming more active dealmakers in these non-acute settings. 

Investments focused on alternative sites of care–like non-acute care–are generating returns above expectations with lower costs, enhanced coordination, and improved patient experience.

No doubt, non-acute care will continue to grow along with the investments in it. Technology must be part of the equation to deliver the innovative, quality care that benefits everyone in our pandemic-changed world.






HIMSS Future of Healthcare Report, RFID technology, Techcare, Zebra Technologies


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