Brian Fugere, chief product officer at symplr, see the future of healthcare, and it includes a much more seamless experience for customers. Using that industry as an example, he spoke with StrategicCIO360 about how tech can best be unified, how to approach M&As and when tech decisions can be “emotional.”
How can IT teams integrate technology solutions to create a unified experience for their customers?
Over the course of my career, I’ve led organizations through a number of mergers and acquisitions to build out technology portfolios and ultimately work toward creating a seamless, enterprise-wide experience for customers. However, acquiring new solutions comes with its own set of challenges to consider from a technology standpoint. These include integrating different infrastructures and configurations, and software of varying ages and maturities. To create a unified experience for customers, I would recommend the following four-step approach to emerge successful.
Unify the user experience. Customers should experience a universal look and feel across the organization, even with products that have been acquired from other companies. While this is a large undertaking and cannot happen overnight, making small changes over time can create that unified experience customers are looking for. Meanwhile, your company can avoid any major disruptions to service.
Leverage an API infrastructure. Having an application programming interface within each solution and across the product portfolio allows solutions to “talk” to one another, as well as the larger ecosystem around them, to exchange the necessary information to be more efficient and effective.
Connect the workflows. Once a common look and feel is achieved and products have a universal API infrastructure, you can start to have activities in one product trigger a reaction or inquiries for information in another. This level of autonomy behind the scenes will drive overall efficiency for the product portfolio and improve the user experience.
Use enterprise analytics. Enterprise analytics and reporting provide a core service to aggregate data across the product portfolio and create a centralized data source. By leveraging aggregated data, analytics platforms can serve up new and never before seen insights that might not have been possible in solutions composed of disparate systems, especially when they’re point solutions from various vendors.
Can you discuss how technology can help improve hospital operations to create better outcomes for patients?
Similar to the many benefits that new, streamlined technologies have brought to other industries, digital transformation has the potential to significantly improve healthcare by modernizing and streamlining areas such as clinical communications, electronic health records, workforce management and more.
Technological inefficiency is a leading and well-known cause of burnout among healthcare workers and staff, and nursing shortages and the pandemic have further exacerbated staffing issues across the industry. However, the right technology can provide hospitals with more efficient and seamless workflows for behind-the-scenes activity and take much of the administrative burden off of healthcare workers.
They’re struggling with duplicate data entry, inefficient workflows, multiple logins and cumbersome, slow technology. Improved solutions that work with healthcare providers instead of against them will allow staff to spend more time where it matters most: with patients.
Do you have any takeaways or best practices for other technology leaders working to integrate disparate technology as a result of a recent merger or acquisition?
My advice to other technology leaders would be to take a “best of” approach when facing a merger or acquisition. You have to remember to be impartial when you’re evaluating the technology and leave behind any preconceived notions that might cloud your judgment.
When integrating a new product into a portfolio, start from the beginning and prioritize the technology with the best features, functions and benefits. Sometimes the solution you are acquiring is the best technology to move forward with. Other times, your core solution might be what is best and you’ll borrow some ideas or features from the technology you acquired.
Often, it is a difficult and emotional decision, especially if you’ve been working on something for a long time and suddenly there are new and better options available to replace it. Ultimately, you need to make the hard choices and be willing—for the customer’s sake—to go with the best technology available to provide them with the best experience possible.
Do you have any predictions for the future regarding technology and its potential to improve hospital operations?
When you think about a hospital or a health system, there are three core systems that are used every day. One is the EHR, which provides the clinical backbone. The second is the revenue cycle solution, which ensures they get paid, and the third is the enterprise resource planning solution, which manages day-to-day business operations. If you imagine each of those as the corner of a triangle, the area in the center is the hospital operations space, where all of these different components come together to facilitate day-to-day business.
Healthcare is incredibly complex, and nearly everything involved in managing hospital operations is interconnected. For example, if a physician calls out sick, it not only affects shift scheduling but also clinical communications and who should be “paged” for which emergency. If systems aren’t integrated, the ER could be “paging” the wrong on-call doctor if the clinical communications and scheduling technologies don’t talk to one another.
This is a simple example. But because the average hospital uses 50 to 300 individual point solutions for things like inventory, supply chain management, physician credentialing, visitor management and more, it gets complicated, fast.
When you look at the history of healthcare and clinical technology, you see patterns. The EHR community went through a consolidation period, where the number of solutions available shrank considerably. Revenue cycle and ERPs went through the same consolidation. I find it likely that hospital operations, or the space in the middle of the triangle, will be going through the same phenomenon.
What we’ll see over time is that those 50 to 300 solutions are going to coalesce into a few key vendors who can offer a broad portfolio of fully integrated solutions.
This consolidation will help to create enterprise-level technologies that actually talk to one another and create a unified experience for physicians, staff and patients. However, anybody can tack two solutions together. The question will be, what can you do to integrate to truly create solutions that are collectively better, faster and stronger for the customer? This is what will drive that consolidation and it’s where I predict we are heading as an industry.