March 16, 2023

Digital technologies focus of new academic health report

A new report by the Blue Ridge Academic Health Group makes recommendations for the opportunities and challenges that the ongoing digital technology revolution brings to academic health centers.

Digital technologies are changing the landscape in health care and in scientific research. A new report by the Blue Ridge Academic Health Group (BRAHG) makes recommendations for the opportunities and challenges that this ongoing revolution brings to academic health centers.

BRAHG is co-chaired by Jeff Balser, MD, PhD, President and CEO of Vanderbilt University Medical Center and Dean of Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, and Jonathan Lewin, MD, former executive vice president for health affairs at Emory University, executive director of the Woodruff Health Sciences Center and CEO of Emory Healthcare.

The group consists of leaders of academic health centers (AHCs) and experts in health policy. Each year, they take an in-depth review of health and health care needs and outline recommendations for academic health centers to create greater value for society.

This year’s report notes that health care’s digital transformation already is well underway and has the potential to unlock enormous value.

Through case studies, the report outlines issues faced by most health care systems, potential solutions through digital innovation, and the strategic value as well as challenges of the digital initiatives.

“While digital innovation has rapidly improved numerous industries and society in many ways, health care’s unique role has mandated a different path to adoption of these innovations,” says Balser. “The complexity of our systems and importance of our output — patient health and safety — requires diligent research and careful application.”

The report states that, “Given the vast potential of digital health technologies, AHCs have both an obligation and opportunity to leverage our formidable research enterprise capabilities to aggressively pilot and evaluate, and where beneficial, implement digital health technologies. AHCs are inherently designed and supported to evaluate capabilities that have the potential to improve care, and digital health technologies — including those impacting back-office infrastructure — are no exception.”

Among the recommendations within the report to AHCs are:

  • Identifying the highest priority areas in which virtual and digital care can help improve access to patients, improve efficiency and support all health professionals in their work.
  • Defining the underlying financial, clinical, operational and technical requirements and associated performance measures for the highest priority areas.
  • Build alignment of the business case and transformation roadmap across relevant stakeholders, for example, physicians, clinical staff, IT and operations.
  • Establish an effective governance and operating model to enable disciplined execution and portfolio management.

“Academic health centers are designed to lead responsible change and innovation in health care research and delivery,” says Lewin. “Digital transformation is an imperative that we must embrace. As the study points out, these innovations are not realized in the technology alone, rather, as a whole-systems approach to adoption and implementation for the benefit of our patients.”