The future of healthcare: digitally streamlined workflows

The healthcare sector is facing a massive transformation thanks to the gradual introduction of digital services. While healthcare is still notoriously lagging behind other industries when it comes to using digital systems, the Covid pandemic has brought to the fore the importance of technology in the healthcare sector.

Embracing the digital revolution in healthcare is quickly becoming a necessity. Patients are unlikely to be willing to return to longer wait times or unnecessary amounts of paperwork when they have experienced digital services that can make the process much faster. As a result, many hospitals and clinics are currently actively streamlining their workflows digitally.

The ultimate advantage of digitization is that the quality of patient care improves enormously. And the majority of patients seem ready to embrace digital change. A recent survey found that 93% of patients want to use digital tools to communicate with their healthcare providers and many would be willing to use new technology to reduce in-person visits.

Digitally streamlining workflows should be at the top of every medical organization’s agenda for the coming year. Let’s see how you can help your patients with this.

  • Use wearable technology for better data collection

Thanks to the rise of the Internet of Things (IoT), we are seeing a huge evolution in the kind of technology available to healthcare providers and patients. In fact, the IoT market is expected to explode in the coming years, with the latest predictions pointing to a market growth of $72.5 billion in 2020 to $188.2 billion in 2025.

Wearable devices such as smart watches and EKG monitors can help to capture vital information from patients, store data securely and provide medical staff with relevant information at all times. By implementing devices that can capture patient data and remove the need for manual data entry, health practices can allow their staff to focus on more important things like patient care. This leads to both less burnout for staff and better results for the patient.

In addition, wearable technology means medical practices can use these devices to monitor patients and collect data remotely. This means that patients can send their caregivers important information from home instead of spending an expensive office visit or hospital stay.

Artificial intelligence can help healthcare providers collect patient data and facilitate calculated decisions. This is a huge advantage in an industry where an estimated 80% of data is unstructured, meaning it is unconsolidated or in physical note form. AI platforms spot trends that would otherwise have gone unnoticed and streamline decision making based on previous knowledge about similar patients and symptoms. Such predictive analytics improve the speed of patient diagnosis and streamline the ability to create a treatment path for patients, which in turn raises the bar for the quality of care in your facility.

  • Introduce digital management software

Another area ripe for improvement is inventory and supply chain management. Hospitals and medical centers are known for incurring costly losses due to outdated inventory tracking systems. A survey found that U.S. hospitals overspend as much as $25.4 billion on inventory, indicating an urgent need for inventory reform.

Part of the problem is that inventory management is often spread across multiple systems and can still involve a lot of paperwork. Automated technology can dramatically improve the way healthcare practices manage inventory, dramatically reducing costs and waste. Introducing automation software is a very effective way to achieve this. These types of systems use predictive analytics to help the hospital foresee necessary purchases, providing a more efficient approach to inventory management.

Companies can also take this digitization a step further by adopting software with API integrations. API technology allows the different data silos in your organization to connect with each other and pass that information on to other healthcare organizations. This means that practices can better collaborate with other clinics and share resources that would otherwise be lost.

  • Improved patient experience through patient portals

Providers can quickly improve patient experiences by implementing a few simple digital strategies. For example, self-check-in kiosks in waiting rooms can help reduce a patient’s waiting time in a crowded seating area or the need to take unnecessary steps. In fact, even before a patient arrives at the office, digital medical technologies such as patient portals and telehealth can enhance patients’ experiences by giving them instant remote access.

On the backend, improved interoperability between electronic health records (EHR) can greatly streamline a patient’s experience. While old medical databases typically struggled to communicate with other systems, new advances in cloud technology can give patients access to personal data from the comfort of their own homes.

We are already starting to see the benefits of digitizing patient experiences coming to fruition. Some practices are already using technology such as RFID tags or QR codes to track equipment, patients and staff. These location-based devices help reduce errors, save time and provide a more streamlined workflow during the treatment process.

  • Better security compliance through cloud-based services

A comprehensive cloud-based data system can help healthcare organizations transition to digitally streamlined workflows. These systems can also support the safety requirements of a medical practice. In recent years, there has been a significant emergence of HIPAA-compliant technology that can provide better encryption and end-to-end security when it comes to transferring personal health information. Cloud-based services eliminate the need for a centralized on-premises storage system and can provide more focused data access, permissions, and increased security.

Cloud-based systems also give healthcare organizations an edge during the compliance audit process. To prepare for accreditation surveys, healthcare providers must ensure that their data is secure and that survey readiness is up to date. The better prepared a medical facility is for an inspection or survey, the less time employees will spend correcting the deficiencies identified by surveyors. Ensuring compliance leads to safe patient care.

Final Thoughts

Digital systems that can help streamline health practice workflows are growing at an impressive rate. Replacing old systems with up-to-date alternatives requires training and trust from your staff. In addition, there are certain cyber security concerns that you need to address when implementing and maintaining your vigilance following reports of data breaches.

The digitization of healthcare offers many opportunities, but also challenges. But the promise of streamlining workflows, maximizing interoperability and, most importantly, improving patient outcomes far outweighs the cost and inconvenience of bringing healthcare into the 21st century. The shift is long overdue, and organizations that fall behind risk higher costs, lower patient satisfaction and higher staff burnout, and put the facility at risk for a patient safety event.

Photo: rudall30, Getty Images

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