By Samant Virk, MD, MediSprout
The healthcare industry continues to transform. Innovative technologies, such as artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning, mobile devices, and telemedicine are helping providers better care for their patients and more efficiently operate their businesses.
Here’s a look back at how technology helped to forge change in healthcare in 2019 and predictions for what’s ahead in the coming year:
HIT Highlights From 2019
Technological advancements and growing implementation rates have helped us to improve patient outcomes, replace time-draining business inefficiencies, and even curb the escalating cost of healthcare. Technology has set us up for success, and also has opened our eyes to new challenges, including how new approaches can interface with our established healthcare system:
- Telemedicine continues to skyrocket.
Virtual visits offer convenient access to care, saving patients and providers time and expense and providing care to those who have limited access to it. Televisit use has jumped 340 percent in recent years and continues a rapid rise in popularity as providers adopt the technology to meet growing patient demand and policies and regulations evolve to support it. Providers are realizing that if they don’t offer their patients a telehealth option, it’s likely patients will seek it elsewhere.
- Convenience dominates demand.
The explosion of both consumer-focused telemedicine and retail healthcare facilities, such as urgent care centers and retail clinics, is a reflection of healthcare changing to meet the demands of patients. Convenient access to care is a top priority for patients. In fact, more than half of patients said it is the most important factor in choosing a care provider. While providing convenient access to care, providers must ensure that quality is maintained.
- Emerging technology is on everyone’s mind.
Research shows that emerging technology, such as AI, machine learning, and predictive analytics are making headway into healthcare: 39 percent of provider executives are investing in the technologies and 75 percent plan to invest in the next three years. We are starting to better understand the advantages it can help us to bring to our patients and our practices.
- We’ve had it with costly technology that impedes care.
Adoption of healthcare technology, like EMRs, have left many providers feeling burned by the costly process of innovating and hesitant to embrace additional change. Providers are surrounded by often expensive solutions that make insurance billing, prescription writing, documentation, and test ordering more efficient but do little to improve the element that is most important—seeing and helping patients.
We don’t need tech that comes at a high cost and shows no significant proof of helping to improve care and reduce overall care costs. The industry’s shift to patient-centric care—and affordable technology to support it, some as simple as downloading an app or plugging in a device to monitor health and guide care decisions—presents an opportunity to offer patients more personalized care that benefits providers, as well.
How Technology Will Support Healthcare In 2020
Innovators focused on supporting patient-centric care that is effective, accessible, and affordable, are well positioned to deliver on our industry’s needs. Here’s what we can expect to see:
A shift from sick to preventative care through better care continuums: Virtual provider-patient visits—affordable and accessible to both—continue to make it easier to connect and to stay connected. Through this strengthened connection, we are able to shift focus from treating diseases to preventing them.
How? Virtual visits redefine healthcare and how it’s delivered so that routine needs, such as prescriptions, lab results, and updates can be virtualized rather than require an in-office visit.
When patients can connect with their doctors without taking time off from work, commuting to an appointment, and enduring long waiting room stays, they are much more likely to stay connected between appointments. The strong care continuum improves overall wellness, reduces healthcare costs and helps prevent illnesses.
Getting back to making eye contact: According to the Annals of Internal Medicine, nearly 70 percent of physicians’ time at work is spent on administrative tasks, such as making phone calls and documenting treatment decisions. Time spent with patients is minimal. It needs to be better spent. Patients want to feel connected and understood by providers who know their personal stories.
In 2020, we will see a return to human interaction. By improving the human element of healthcare — the relationship between doctor and patient — we can maximize the value delivered to patients. Meaningful human interaction, combined with technology that enhances care and provides for its continuity, will enable patient-centric care that addresses not only the immediate, but the ongoing and long-term needs of patients.
Healthcare becomes more convenient and accessible: Patients want access to healthcare when, where, and how it best suits them. They have flocked to urgent care centers and retail clinics that offer walk-in, last minute services. Patients are often willing to see providers who are strangers to them simply because of the convenience they offer.
In 2020, physicians will win back their patients by providing them with more convenient access to care, for instance, through secure, web-based portals; mobile clinics offering primary and preventative care services; extended office hours; and online scheduling. Better access to care will help to strengthen doctor-patient relationships, thereby reducing medical errors (common when providers do not know they patient they are seeing) and leading to more accurate treatment and long-term wellness.
Patients take on greater responsibility for their wellness and health: Mobile apps and at-home diagnostic testing enable patients to track far more than their daily steps or calorie intake. Patients will leverage new tech as channels to care, for instance using it to connect with medical devices that allow them to monitor chronic conditions, like heart abnormalities and diabetes. The valuable data they collect can be easily shared with their providers to influence and guide treatment.
Patients also will start to rely more on at-home tests to diagnose infections, such as strep throat and urinary tract infections, before going to the doctor for treatment. They will become more comfortable using an at-home genetic test to identify existing or future health risks, taking on greater control of their health.
Emerging technologies enhance providers’ effectiveness, leading to better care and boosting bottom lines: As healthcare organizations and providers gain a better understanding of emerging technologies, such as AI and predictive analytics, they’ll better leverage them for newfound empowerment. For instance, these technologies are capable of analyzing and evaluating vast quantities of historical data, as well as genomic information, enabling providers to better understand patients and the conditions that affect them. Providers can use the valuable data available to them to more accurately prescribe treatment paths based on proven outcomes and also offer care aimed at preventing complications and chronic conditions.
Advancements, too, will extend clinical capabilities, for instance enabling providers to check drug interactions, monitor blood loss in surgical procedures, evaluate imaging, and make faster, more accurate diagnoses from the convenience of a mobile device.
Providers also will rely more heavily on technology platforms, software, and mobile apps that allow them to connect and collaborate with peers and to better manage their practices.
The Future of Healthcare
As technology advances, practitioners need to stay current on new developments and welcome the right tech into our practices, leveraging it to connect and better care for patients. By focusing on patients and embracing affordable healthtech that helps medical providers spend more time seeing and helping patients, we can strengthen doctor-patient relationships, build stronger businesses, and deliver better care.
About The Author
Samant Virk, MD is CEO and Co-Founder of MediSprout.