In the wake of a global outbreak and economic upheaval, medical providers face increased pressure to improve the quality and cost-efficiency of health care. As a result, private and public practices are adopting tech tools to increase efficiency, cut costs, and expand their customer base. But the success of these technologies relies on budget, leadership, and digital literacy.
From remote patient analysis to digital data storage, here are three technology-based tools and practices that are making waves in the global medical landscape.
Electronic health records (EHR)
An electronic health record (EHR) is a digital collection of a patient’s medical information. By digitizing patient data, health care professionals save time used in accessing or locating patient’s existing conditions, diagnoses, treatment plans, and test results. Doctors and nurses can also update these records in real time using Web-enabled devices.
One of the primary benefits of an EHR is that it makes interhospital care possible. By making patient data readily available and shareable, multiple health care providers, specialists, and pharmacies can easily coordinate with each other and ensure each patient receives the best care possible.
Many healthcare providers found that digital documentation has improved overall practice efficiency and cost savings. The primary source of savings being the reduction of time-consuming processes including chart transcription and filing. Having all the information stored in a cloud-based system also saves storage taken up by paper-based medical files.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HSS) reports that EHRs lower transcription costs, re-filing costs, and medical errors. Some EHR software tools also feature error prevention alerts that improve data accuracy and automated coding capabilities. Most EHR companies can create custom programs based on their client’s needs. Some providers offer more detailed algorithms for large healthcare systems while others focus on designing smaller programs for private practices.
While more medical practices move towards EHR, there are still drawbacks that come with its implementation. For one, an EHR software is an investment that requires time, money, and manpower. It needs specialized personnel to implement and maintain it. As such, hospitals need to provide ample staff training and guidelines to maximize its benefits.
Telehealth is the use of telecommunications to administer remote medical care, treatment, and education. It encompasses a broad range of technologies that leverage the latest developments in computer and the internet to make health care more accessible around the world.
Video conferencing is a popular application of telehealth. It is used to support remote patient monitoring, remote diagnosis, and physician consultations. Many health care practitioners use two-way or livestreaming video to educate patients and fellow health care providers through webinars and interactive teleconferences.
Telehealth often caters to populations who have barriers to quality health care. They include patients in rural areas, those in underprivileged communities, or those who are chronically ill and unable to make in-person visits. Through telehealth platforms, patients can receive convenient care from the comfort of their own home. Which saves them time and money. They can connect with specialists even outside of their geographic area.
Today’s smartphones, wireless networks, and communication schemes are enhancing remote care dramatically. They allow physicians in remote locations to easily connect and consult with larger health providers in treating rare or complex conditions.
In residential health care, telehealth is used to aid a visiting nurse or educate patients on long-term self-management. It is also used to inform family members of their loved ones’ prognoses, and how to best meet their medical and emotional needs.
Cost and availability are some of the main disadvantages of telehealth. Some technologies can be costly to set up and maintain especially for smaller healthcare facilities. Additionally, ensuring that these systems integrate smoothly with regular operations requires time and staff training. Although telemedicine can be very effective for minor illnesses, virtual appointments may not be enough to treat patients with more complicated conditions.
Prescription errors and illegible handwriting are very common problems faced by pharmacists every day. Fortunately, physicians can now send prescriptions in electronic form. This can increase efficiency by reducing issues with handwriting interpretation and adding a safety benefit for patients, too.
E-prescription systems are often used alongside electronic health records. They can assess the patient’s medical history for possible allergies and existing conditions that may interfere with a specific prescription. These systems also inform the physician about more suitable, alternate medications for the patient.
E-prescriptions are also used to automate the authorization process and prescription renewal request. This reduces communication costs for physicians and pharmacies and increases the time available for more urgent patient care and consultation.
As concerns about costs, record-high patient admissions, and physician burnout increase, it’s not surprising that patients and providers alike are seeking convenient digital solutions. While there are ups and downs to any new technology, the access to quality health care anytime, anywhere will make all the transitions and investments worthwhile.