How Care Orchestration Automates the Best Route

By Kathy Ruggiero, VP of Marketing at Lumeon

The compass is one of mankind’s most impactful inventions. Beginning a thousand years ago, it allowed mariners to navigate safely far from land, when landmarks were not in sight, or when the sky was overcast or foggy, preventing a view of the stars, increasing sea trade, and enabling the trans-oceanic voyages of the Vikings and other explorers we learned about in grade school. To this day, the compass in all its variations continues to be an invaluable tool for pilots, boaters, and hikers.

Of course, the compass did not represent the end of navigation technology advancement; it was a step along the path. Few people today would trade in their radar or GPS devices for a shiny new compass.

In the world of healthcare technology, many patients today must feel as if they have only a compass to help them navigate their care journey. They deserve better… and so do the care team members responsible for guiding them.

Even in our highly computerized age, the healthcare function known as “care coordination” is still surprisingly manual. Yes, patients’ records are mostly digitized, but frequently the job of coordinating a patient’s various providers, appointments and treatments falls to the patient him or herself or a family member, and invariably involves lots of phone calls, hold time, call backs and, most daunting, medical knowledge they may not possess. This is especially problematic for complex patients with multiple diagnoses, for whom there often is not a single, comprehensive care plan. The upshot typically is a lot of trial and error, repetitive communication with multiple providers (who may not have ready access to the same information), and duplication of tests and procedures – in other words, wasted time, effort, and expense.

At a recent CHIME webinar, healthcare industry leaders John Glaser and Tim Zoph shared their perspectives on this topic. In Zoph’s opinion, healthcare has focused disproportionately on enlarging its infrastructure, and perhaps has lost sight of “the basics of why it is that we do what we do,” which is caring for people in a compassionate and humane way.  He notes that other service industries are employing smart automation to improve their customer experience and to enhance the reliability and predictability of what they deliver, while at the same time improving throughput and reducing their costs.

Glaser observed that hospitals are perhaps the most complex organizations ever created. “It’s extremely hard to manage something that complicated where there’s that much variability,” he noted. But a second factor also contributes to healthcare’s unresolved systemic challenges: in the traditional fee-for-service financial model, “there really are not that many economic consequences to doing a poor job of executing. But that’s changing as consumers have more healthcare options.”

For hospitals and other care facilities to deliver a better patient experience, they need to equip all participants with better tools to coordinate care. Fortunately, automation is coming to care coordination, in the form of “care orchestration”: a platform that integrates with an organization’s real-time data from the EHR and other systems, applies clinical knowledge, and employs intelligent automation to individualize the care of every patient — at scale.

With care orchestration, automation isn’t about robots or AI applied to a single task. Rather, it’s about automating multiple tasks, processes, and workflows together within the context of the overall patient journey to affect their healthcare experience in its entirety.

As Glaser puts it, the key is to “choreograph” all that happens with a patient – whether it’s getting someone ready for surgery or managing a disease — such that it flows as a process from beginning to end. A care orchestration system is contextually aware of what’s going on, all the individual tasks involved, and based on the patient’s particular situation, whether the process needs to be adjusted, whether certain steps can be driven automatically, or when and how a human being needs to be involved.

So in an ironic twist, automated care orchestration creates a more “human” healthcare system, in which care is more readily personalized to the needs of each individual patient… and which is more easily navigable by patients themselves. Aided by a new tool that’s far more than just a better compass.