5 Ways Technology is Changing Healthcare
As a 90’s kid, I vividly remember my doctor carrying a colorfully labelled file filled with paper that detailed my health history into every check-up. At the end of each visit, the doctor would hand my mom a pile of visit summary notes and a Scooby-Doo sticker. Nearly 20 years later, I had a much different care experience at my annual check-up. My doctor didn’t touch a piece of paper once during my visit. At the end of my visit my doctor sent the after-visit summary to my online patient portal. Simple, easy and no extra papers that will inevitably get lost on my kitchen counter.
In today’s virtual age, technology is ever changing and increasingly expanding into every arena of life, including our health. For decades care providers relied on paper charts and hand-written notes to track their patient’s health overtime and improve long-term care. Over that past twenty years there’s been a dramatic shift in healthcare as many organizations have moved to electronic health record (EHR) systems. While digital shift has had a huge impact on improving continuity of care, reducing waste and increasing efficiency, there are many other recent technology shifts that will forever change how we as patients use healthcare.
- Virtual Visits –With modern video and real-time chat technology many of us are privileged with the ability to have instant access to friends, family and co-workers across the globe. Why not have immediate access to a doctor or NP as well? Virtual visits increase access to care for working individuals, rural patients, patients without transport and otherwise inaccessible patients. Talking to a provider online saves time, money and the hassle of going into the doctor for diagnosable and treatable health issues like pink eye, rashes and the dreaded UTI. Some virtual clinics can even prescribe birth control options for patients who would otherwise not be able to go to a clinic.
- Predictive analytics –I can easily geek out of this one for days if not weeks. But I’ll keep it brief, using the plethora of healthcare data now collected in EHR systems, healthcare organizations can utilize artificial intelligence and algorithms to better identify patterns and risks so clinicians can act proactively, instead of reactively. The practical use predictive analytics in healthcare is vast. To name a few practical uses: earlier cancer diagnosing with improved screening rates, reducing sepsis in patients by identifying risks changing care plans, accordingly, providing depression support sooner to prevent suicide by identifying risk factors from mental health screenings.
- There’s an app for that –Various apps today now give patients access to their records, upcoming visits and tools to help them stay healthy. I personally have MyChart saved on my phone so I can easily pull up lab results or after visit summaries at the palm of my hands. Many patient portals today also integrate with other health apps to track exercise, diet, glucose levels, cholesterol, weight, sleep and other preventative health metrics. All this data works together to create a more holistic view of a patient’s health in their electronic record.
- Accurate Cost Estimates –Using data points from electronic records and revenue cycle systems, healthcare organizations are now better equipped to provide more accurate cost of care estimates that can help eliminate the uncertainty of treatment and visit costs. Using upcoming technologies like PriceEstimate in Epic MyChart, many organizations will soon be able to provide patients with a close to the money estimate of the overall cost of care, insurance coverage and the amount owed – all before patients receive treatment.
- Going beyond pamphlets –Recently my mom asked me to help her with a few physical therapy exercises she was given to help with her arthritis. When I asked to see her after-visit summary or the pamphlets from her P.T. she instead handed me her phone which displayed a few videos and demos for my mom to follow. Technology now allows care providers to offer new avenues patient education that go beyond pamphlets. Videos, quizzes, blogs, readings and online lectures through virtual learning tools increase patient engagement and can easily be accessed on a cell phone.
Looking back to my early 90’s experience in the doctor’s office I can say I do miss the Scooby-Doo stickers, but I don’t miss the paper notes, long after visit summaries, limited access to care, and the disjointed notes across care organizations. The technology advances in healthcare are incredible and ever changing the fabric of our healthcare system. I for one am excited to welcome those changes and see the better care results that are to come.