Digital Hospitals Move Off the Drawing Board

CHCF report identifies key themes for successful hospital technology planning

Hospitals seeking to transform their facilities, individual departments, or specific care processes through the use of innovative digital technologies must pay careful attention to several important themes to improve their chances for success, according to a new report, Digital Hospitals Move Off the Drawing Board, prepared for the California HealthCare Foundation (CHCF) by First Consulting Group (FCG).

Based on in-depth interviews with leaders from 11 representative hospitals around the country that are undergoing significant digital makeovers, it was learned that strong leadership, exploring a wide range of possibilities, staff training, and solid vendor partnerships and user partnerships characterized successful efforts to improve hospital efficiency and quality of care through adoption of information technologies.

“Though it’s still too early to define best practices for achieving the digital transformation of hospitals, this study reveals common themes on the barriers that must be overcome and the practices that contribute to success,” said the authors Erica Drazen and Jason Fortin of FCG.

While several so-called “digital hospitals” are close to becoming a reality in the United States, many of the nation’s nearly 5,000 acute care and specialty hospitals have been using digital technologies to transform individual processes or departments.

“Technology is being used to improve access to medical information, process efficiency, and process reliability,” said Sam Karp, CHCF director of information technology. “Doing so improves clinical care and can lead to better patient outcomes as well as reduced hospital costs.”

Interest in technology as a means to improving the care delivery process was elevated with the landmark 1999 Institute of Medicine report, “Crossing the Quality Chasm,” which emphasized the role of technology in lowering medical errors that cause an estimated 98,000 deaths a year in hospitals in the United States.

Hospitals studied included several building entirely new facilities: El Camino Hospital, Mountain View, CA; Physicians Hospital, El Paso, TX; Sacred Heart Medical Center at RiverBend, Springfield, OR; and two undergoing major renovation: Inland Northwest Health Services, Spokane, WA, and St. Vincent’s Hospital, Birmingham, AL.

Several other hospitals were studied that have transformed individual departments: Hamot Medical Center, Erie, PA; Mount Carmel St. Ann’s Hospital, Westerville, OH; NorthCrest Medical Center, Springfield, TN; Sentara Norfolk General Hospital, Norfolk, VA; University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, Pittsburgh, PA; and Washington Hospital Center, Washington, D.C.

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About the California Health Care Foundation

The California Health Care Foundation is dedicated to advancing meaningful, measurable improvements in the way the health care delivery system provides care to the people of California, particularly those with low incomes and those whose needs are not well served by the status quo. We work to ensure that people have access to the care they need, when they need it, at a price they can afford.