January 21, 2021

Key Takeaways from DOCSF 365: The Future of Digital Health in Orthopaedics

By Becky Teng

Last week, the year-round virtual experience, Digital Orthopaedics Conference San Francisco 365 (DOCSF 365), premiered. The event was hosted by Dr. Stefano Bini, Founder and Chair, DOCSF, and Shawna Butler, Experience Director, DOCSF and the host of the See You Now Podcast. Together, they introduced the three pillars of the DOCSF community: 1) improve the care we deliver, 2) restore the joy in caring, and 3) make care accessible.

DOCSF 365 featured a series of energizing, timely discussions on what to look forward to in digital orthopedics. In the fireside chat, The Future of Digital Health in Orthopaedics, Dr. Bini was joined by Joseph Bosco III, MD, FAAOS, President AAOS; Daniel K Guy, MD, FAAOS, 1st Vice President AAOS; and Thomas Vail, MD, Chair of Orthopedic Surgery, UCSF.

Throughout their conversation, a few important topics emerged concerning the technologies that support the patient and provider experiences for successful management of musculoskeletal conditions.

What are the successful digital health technologies currently being leveraged?

  • Patient engagement platforms:“[It] knows about the patient’s upcoming surgery or past surgery, and prompts them and collects information and makes them really feel well taken care of. I really like that.”- Dr. Vail
  • Voice recognition: These technologies help ease the administrative burden for providers by eliminating the texting/typing process, and can be especially helpful for the “digitally naïve” group to integrate in their practice.
  • Smartphone: “Probably the best thing we’ve got going for us right now is our smartphone because it allows us to communicate securely… so we can share information. Trips to the emergency room dropped dramatically when I could share X-rays with the emergency room doctor.” - Dr. Guy
  • Machine learning: There is huge potential to analyze large datasets to inform personalized treatments and care plans.

How can we optimize time and reduce pain points via technology?

  • Prior-authorization process for providers: This is often a big stressor for patients in order to gain access to care, and also for doctors to be able to provide adequate care for their patients.The volume of peer-to-peer calls by clinicians for this traditionally manual process has only increased. Overall, there is an abundance of opportunity for providers and insurance companies to align and digitize the process on both the federal and state level.
  • Burden of documentation for providers:

    Despite the advances in digital health, providers still spend a majority of their time on clinical documentation, time that could have been allocated to patient care. Whether they are redundant or not, many documentation requirements can be challenging and time-consuming for providers. Dr. Vail noted that, “The irony is, you do a telehealth visit and you turn that off and go over to type a note in your computer about the visit you just did. You’ve collected digital information about the interaction with the patient, yet we still have to write a note.”

    The Force platform seeks to alleviate this burden by automating numerous manual tasks to better engage patients throughout the continuum of care and reduce dual documentation for patients and providers. Through Electronic Health Record integration, data successfully flows between healthcare platforms to overcome this ongoing barrier of manual, duplicative documentation.

  • Surgeon burnout and navigating information overload:

    With enhanced communication capabilities between patients and providers, patients now have nearly twenty-four-seven access to their surgeons. Filtering out messages that are for true emergencies, coupled with asynchronous care, will ease the burden on surgeons and care teams trying to respond to patient messages immediately.

    Within the Force platform, clinicians are able to set clear expectations with patients about communication and triage patient concerns to appropriate members of the care team, lessening the overall administrative burden currently shouldered by the care team. By leveraging asynchronous messaging and telehealth visits, patients are taken care of appropriately and efficiently, and providers can reclaim invaluable time to treat the patients that need them the most.

  • Interoperability: 

    While there is a wealth of tools to capture data today, there is also a need to synthesize this information to inform clinical decision-making. The most successful technologies will be those that provide the right information at the right time, and seamlessly integrate into the workflows of the clinical practice.

    Technologies like Force solve for this by delivering a fully integrated system of engagement. By aligning with hospital systems’ Electronic Health Records, Force establishes interoperability between disparate healthcare platforms and streamlines the secure sharing of patient data between the systems used by providers across different scenarios or locations.

Reflecting on what lies ahead in healthcare’s “new normal,” there was an overall consensus by the DOCSF community that there are tremendous opportunities to amplify, expand, and leverage the digital tools available to patients in their homes. Though there are obstacles that still need to be addressed, digital health technologies are already proving their success and are well-positioned to spearhead these issues in the coming years. This is an especially exciting time of digital innovation in the pursuit of raising the bar and transforming the landscape of healthcare delivery.

By partnering with a validated, integrated patient engagement solution such as Force, health systems are able to scale their workflows and communications; increase FTE efficiency by reducing manual work and administrative burden; and deliver the highest quality care to their patients.