Five Ways Digital Technology Can Transform the Patient Experience

Posted by James Baker, Chief Medical Officer | October 18, 2018 |
James Baker, Chief Medical Officer

Ever since HITECH, healthcare has been focusing on new ways to adopt technology to improve patient care and the patient experience. Hospitals, with their more robust cost centers, have led the way in adoption of everything from EHRs, to telemedicine, smart beds to surgical robotics. While medical practices are lagging behind in some of these high-priced innovations, the sweeping disruptions stemming from digital technologies are having an impact – even on the smallest practices.

Let’s look closely at how digital technologies are changing healthcare and transforming the patient experience. What can medical practices learn from hospitals?

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Transforming Healthcare -- Five Tech Examples

Accenture released their survey on consumer demand for digital-healthcare at HIMSS18 this year. Their research suggested that consumers are more accepting than ever before of the use of digital technology in traditional healthcare. The study of more than 2,300 consumers across the country found that:

  • One in five has already used a healthcare tool with artificial intelligence baked in.
  • The majority would be willing to use home-based diagnostic tools.
  • Most already use digital self-service tools for health management.
  • Consumer use of mobile health apps has tripled from four years ago.
  • They have also quadrupled their use of wearable healthcare devices over the past four years.

Interestingly, 90% of the consumers surveyed noted that they would be comfortable with virtual care for a variety of patient treatments, “from e-medical visits to medical diagnosis and group therapy.” These attitudes fit with other surveys that the majority of consumers would try a virtual healthcare visit.

It’s clear that an integrated and seamless digital patient experience is becoming an important component of the clinical practice of the future. Given that today’s consumer leverages these tools for every industry interaction, it’s no wonder that healthcare is ramping up their use of technology to redefine patient experience.

Deloitte recently conducted an exercise to discern how healthcare delivery networks are reshaping themselves for the future. While they noted that the personalized touch of a traditional healthcare consultation is important and that inpatient hospitalization often necessary, the digital healthcare consultation of the future will be enabled by digital technologies. They suggested that digital technologies would improve efficiencies in the healthcare space in five critical areas:

  • Redefining care delivery
    Digital technologies are already being used for telehealth to redefine the patient encounter. But Deloitte also suggests that emerging technologies will help eliminate the silos of episodic care by creating new ways to coordinate treatment. In the future, they suggest, there will be “new ways to continually monitor patients and to integrate the data to chart the flight paths of individual patients and operational units.”
  • Creating a digital patient experience
    Today’s consumer is used to having information at their fingertips. The immediacy of the digital age shouldn’t be lost to healthcare providers; the growth of minute clinics illustrates that consumers have grown impatient with long wait times. Telehealth serves as a model for care that improves access to treatment by reducing wait times. Deloitte suggests that integrating smartphones at every point of care, from physicians being able to access a secure EHR to ordering diagnostic testing directly from the doctor’s device. All of these activities, including the telehealth visit, would be captured automatically into the EHR.
  • Enhancing how we source talent
    With healthcare facing labor shortages in the near future, technology can be leveraged to recruit, train, and develop staff. Deloitte suggests these tools will help healthcare providers think outside the box to find more candidates faster. This effort couldn’t come at a better time; with baby boomers moving into their later years, more physicians, nurses, and home healthcare staff will be needed in the next decade, with projections showing there will not be enough people to respond to healthcare demands.
  • Improving operational efficiencies
    Deloitte suggests that machine learning algorithms, which help computers “learn” in a way similar to humans, will help hospitals and medical practices with supply chain and inventory management. Technology is also added new automation to revenue cycle management, which can help with everything from past due A/R to payment processing.
  • Population health and patient well-being
    Remote monitoring devices are already changing how doctors treat chronic conditions. Deloitte suggests that digital sensors will become a standard part of treating patients in the future. When coupled with virtual visits to teach patients strategies they can use at home to improve their outcomes, these tools are extremely effective at helping doctors manage these complicated cases.

These examples all illustrate one primary point -- the hospital and medical practice of the future will capitalize on digital technologies to improve the efficiency of service delivery. Case management, care coordination, and even staffing of clinical providers can all benefit from the use of new and innovative digital tools that help improve the efficiency of providing healthcare.

Where Does All This Innovation Leave Your Practice?

“Five years from now, organizations won’t compete only on price, access to care, and traditional measures of quality. Patients will not simply measure their experience based on their health outcomes, but also based on the care path that got them there. The organizations delivering the best patient experience will be the same ones excelling at accessibility via technology.”

Becker’s Health IT & CIO Report

Deloitte points out an interesting idea: In the past, hospitals developed an “if you build it, they will come” strategy. These conversations focused on the number of beds needed or renovation of a new ER. But today, the primary design driver of practices and hospitals is how they will improve the patient experience by making every encounter as efficient as possible.

Today, digital technologies are paving the way for an improved patient experience. Hospitals and medical practice must consider strategies that embrace technology and make use of tools their patients demand. Medical practices can follow these trends and remain competitive by adding a telehealth option to their practice menu. The virtual visit is an effective way to cut costs and improve patient outcomes. OrthoLive offers a digital app that orthopedic providers can use to offer a virtual visit to their patients. Contact us to make the move toward digitizing your practice.

Topics: "telehealth", "telemedicine", healthcare, 2018 trends, technology