The healthcare services marketplace is one of the most complex – and vital – industries in the modern world. From heart transplants to routine checkups, doctors around the globe work tirelessly to improve the quality and longevity of countless lives each and every day. Unfortunately, this work often runs into problems or issues that require a virtual helping hand to overcome.
Thankfully, the digital technology community is ready and willing to put its services and abilities to good use in support of healthcare professionals from all walks of life. With this in mind, we would like to present five healthcare problems currently faced by this industry, as well as how apps, cloud-based services, and other digital technologies can help solve these issues to promote a healthier and happier world.
Problem #1: Data Overload on the Healthcare Provider Side of the Equation
“Health care is one of the most data-intensive and data-driven industries in the world. Vast amounts of data are generated from health care providers, public and private payers, ancillary service providers such as labs and pharmacies, and healthcare consumers alike. The challenge is not just in storage and access, but also in making this data usable.” – John Glaser, Hospitals and Health Networks Magazine.
These words, from John Glaser of Hospitals and Health Networks magazine, encapsulate the issue of data overload in the healthcare community perfectly. With each new patient and unique case added to the registry at one of these institutions, the burden placed on dated practices grows larger and larger. Expecting these infrastructures to handle this increased load of names, medical histories, current treatments, and other data points is simply unrealistic.
What makes things even worse is that an inability to accurately store and retrieve this information can lead to disastrous health implications for doctors and patients. The following issues can arise as part of a mismanaged or overloaded data system:
- Missed diagnoses.
- Lapses or breaches in patient security and confidentiality.
- Improper applications of treatment.
- Failure to respond and adapt to new conditions or health issues that arise during treatment.
It doesn’t take much to see that getting a handle on data is one of the best things that a medical facility can do to boost treatment effectiveness and avoid unnecessary healthcare problems.
The Digital Technology Solution
So how can software and system developers create a digital solution for the “Big Data” problem that’s currently plaguing hospitals and other medical facilities? The answer to this question lies in cloud-based data systems and mobile portals.
By providing medical professionals with real-time access to a constantly updated and properly maintained a database of patient information, the potential for these issues to manifest within a hospital is greatly diminished. Adding in that integration with apps based on iOS, Android, and other mobile platforms provide even more flexibility for doctors and other practitioners that are on-the-go throughout the workday.
Solving the Problem
Example 1. Practice Fusion interface
Practice Fusion offers an Electronic Medical Records (EMR) solution that not only eliminates the waste and clutter found with paper documents, it also helps reduce data management costs significantly. Even though this startup is one of the newer entrants to the marketplace, it currently services 150,000 medical professionals in the U.S., which in turn covers the health records of 33 million patients.
Example 2. drchrono’s web-based and mobile app screens
As a mobile-centric solution, drchrono offers access to important documentation via iOS and Android devices, as well as speech-to-text functionality. From billing statements to prescriptions, this growing service emphasizes the concept that convenience and accessibility can do wonders for productivity in the healthcare world.
Problem #2: Keeping up with Medicine Schedules and Appointments as a Patient
Of course, staying on track of treatment schedules and appointments isn’t only a problem that bogs down healthcare professionals; patients also face this logistical issue as well. Even with the best intentions, staying organized and up to date with the seemingly endless flood of meetings and treatment details is quite the task for the average person.
To put this issue in perspective, let’s turn to a report from CVS Health that tackles the facts related to medical adherence within adult patients.
- 75 percent of adults are non-adherent in at least one way at any given time.
- This number incorporates 50 percent of chronically ill patients who are prescribed at least four different types of scheduled medications.
The moral of the story here is clear: Keeping up with all the responsibilities on the patient side of the equation is a daunting task for those who receive health care assistance in its myriad forms.
Building a Proper Response
Thankfully, the modern era of technology has an answer to this dilemma. By using a branded app that is either recommended by a healthcare professional or synced with a referring institution’s currently existing platform, patients don’t have to run the risk of forgetting treatments and appointments anymore.
Generally, automated reminders and open channels of communications between patient and healthcare professionals stand as the big payoff for this kind of technological development. However, anything that keeps all parties involved in the process and ensures that the patient has access to updated information is a welcome addition to this ongoing battle.
Crafting an Organizational Answer
As far as current solutions to this problem go, apps like Simplee and GAIN Fitness are leading the charge. In the example below, you can see how Simplee helps track everything from insurance claim concerns specific details regarding treatments and appointments. Simply put, Simplee is a powerful tool that can help manage costs and other planning considerations, all from the palm of a patient’s hand.
Example 3. Simplee’s breakdown of patient treatment costs and insurance benefits
For users that need to track a fitness regimen – be it at the behest of a medical professional or as part of a prescribed physical therapy plan – GAIN Fitness is the perfect app for keeping these individuals organized and focused.
Example 4. GAIN Fitness session overview
This tool provides step-by-step instructions for various exercises, as well as built-in tracking of patient performance via analytics. GAIN Fitness even has the ability to provide audio-based coaching through a mobile device’s music player.
Problem #3: Communicating Patient Information Between Institutions
Speaking of communications, there’s another major problem related to these channels that currently serves as a roadblock within the medical industry. However, this issue arises when different institutions reach out to one another, not during transactions between patients and doctors like in the aforementioned section.
“We’re constrained by whatever platform it is, be it a single [system] or multiple [systems], based on what they bring to the table. You need to build systems that operate but also bring the action to the data on the clinical side.” – Donald M. Voltz, M.D., Healthcare Informatics.
As this quote from Donald M. Voltz, M.D. of Healthcare Informatics shows, sharing vital patient information with other organizations in a safe and secure manner is often a lesson in incompatible platforms and substandard levels of communication. What’s even worse is that without these assets working properly and in a timely fashion, the risk of treatment errors – and even security breaches related to this sensitive data – rises exponentially.
Answering the Call for Better Communications
When it comes to leveraging the power of digital technologies to build better channels of data transference and communication between institutions, the team of experts from the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) has a few suggestions in mind for turning this area of weakness into a position of strength. In total, five key areas of technological improvement are highlighted by this group of healthcare professionals:
- Patient health information should be available electronically across the entire health care delivery system.
- Only relevant patient health information should be shared electronically across the entire health care delivery system.
- Web-based collaborative technologies should be utilized to promote enhanced patient transfer protocols and timely access to specialists.
- Personal health record adoption should be considered as a means to promote increased patient health.
- Any comprehensive reform of regionalization in emergency care must include telemedicine. (More on this later.)
By adhering to these tenants and seeking to create web- and cloud-based repositories of data, partnered facilities, and healthcare providers can privately, securely, and expediently share data from one professional to another. This, in turn, can promote enhanced treatment and the proper handling of these sensitive documents.
Forging Enhanced Channels
If you’re looking for specific examples of these shared platforms, then look no farther than the Telus Health Integration Platform and the Sentara Information System. Each of these tools offers medical professionals the ability to delve into patient history and information from remote sites and across independent institutions.
Example 5. Telus Health Integration Platform patient data screen
The example above of the Telus Health Integration Platform shows how medical professionals can requisition vital data in real-time, thereby encouraging faster responses to treatment needs and unique patient cases.
Example 6. Sentara Information System additional information display
The Sentara Information System also provides data related to current environmental conditions and even explanations of how to deal with certain medical issues and reactions. Additionally, both of these platforms place a significant amount of importance on secured communications and data storage via consent and terminology services, as well as proper digital orchestration among participating facilities.
Problem #4: Reducing Waste and Optimizing Supply Management at Hospitals
On the practical side of things, hospitals and other medical facilities face a variety of logistical concerns – just like any other major organizations. Supply shortages, misplaced inventory, and less than stellar preventative measures regarding shrinkage all play into the reality that hospitals are epicenters for wasteful operations without a proper supply management system in place.
“Thirty cents of every dollar spent on U.S. healthcare – a total of $750 billion – was wasted in 2009 on unnecessary services, excessive administrative costs, fraud and other problems.” – PBS Newshour and the Institute of Medicine.
How bad is this wasteful spending? According to this statistic provided by PBS Newshour and the Institute of Medicine, the losses have reached certifiably stunning proportions. The number has very well fluctuated since this study, but it doesn’t refute the fact that hospitals in the U.S. and around the globe are letting the money go down the drain via a lack of a strong technological answer to supply concerns.
How Digital Technology Can Reduce This Unnecessary Waste
If you’re not interested in continuing to incur substantial amounts of losses and enacting unnecessary spending, then it’s time to turn to digital technology providers for a powerful and effective solution.
A strong data management system is one that is not only constantly updated and operates within an easy-to-use graphic user interface (GUI), but also operates across in-house terminals and mobile platforms. This way, administrative and medical professionals alike have immediate access to accurate inventory numbers and current budget allocations.
Helping Solve This Issue
Like the other problems addressed thus far, there are organizations and services that currently push the boundaries of these issues and seek to solve the overarching problem via digital technology solutions. Two of the major forces that pop up in this discussion include Omnicell Hospital Materials Management and McKesson Supply Chain Management.
Example 7. Omnicell stock management display
As you can see, Omnicell’s management tool seeks to eradicate medical stockouts and reduce the amount of time spent searching and filling requisitions by nurses, doctors, and other professionals for these much-needed supplies. Mckesson’s variation provides this kind of information as well, all while also incorporating a highly specific search function.
Example 8. McKesson’s web-based medical supply management tool
Adding in the ability of these apps to also track workflows and chains of request ensures that participating institutions have the ability to continue promoting optimization and refinement throughout each step of the supply fulfillment process.
Problem #5: Enhancing Access to Telemedicine and Healthcare at a Distance
While improving telemedicine was part of the research conducted by the professionals at NCBI that we referenced earlier, this issue is substantial enough that it deserves a position on this list all to its own. In fact, the American Telemedicine Association points to this segment of the greater healthcare industry as one of the fastest growing portions of the marketplace.
Of course, any time that you incorporate two-way video services, email, wireless connectivity, and expansive geographical distance into the patient care process, it’s only natural for issues and problems to also enter the picture. Device reliability, timely access to professionals in different time zones, and even dealing with the rigors of providing access to remote locations are all primary issues that hinder the effectiveness of telemedicine.
Removing the Limitations of Telemedicine
If you’re wondering how digital technologies can improve the functionality of telemedicine, then you need to look no farther than constant improvement found in other mobile app services. Developers continue to expand the consistency and performance abilities of these remote-oriented platforms, thereby creating a more accessible and reliable experience for medical professionals who provide patient care and advice from abroad. As long as an emphasis on improved streaming functionality and real-time communications continues to dominate the discussion, the limitations of telemedicine are sure to fade into the past.
Covering the Distance Gap
For those that are either looking to join the telemedicine marketplace or simply are curious about the potential growth held within this process, there are three apps – as outlined by Damon Beres of Reader’s Digest – worth looking into.
Example 9. Various looks at the Doctor on Demand app
The first inclusion on Beres’ list is Doctor on Demand. This app provides educated opinions from board-certified medical professionals 24 hours a day, all from the convenience of the patient’s favorite mobile device.
Example 10. Pingmd app functionality
Next up is Pingmd. Users of this tool can request medical help and advice via text, video, and picture submissions. As the example above illustrates, Pingmd serves as a real-time channel that offers lightning-fast response times to comments, questions, and concerns.
Example 11. Healthtap’s iOS graphic user interface
Finally, Healthtap offers peer-checked answers from over 50,000 participating doctors and dentists. This network currently stands as one of the most expansive and comprehensive offerings in its field.
After reviewing these examples, it doesn’t take much to see just how far telemedicine has come in recent years when it comes to answering patient questions and queries.
Building Toward a Better Future
There’s no denying that the healthcare industry has come a long way as technology continues to take on a role of prominence in this industry. From dealing with data overload across various institutions to connecting doctors and patients from opposite ends of the globe via mobile apps, digital technology continues to enhance the effectiveness of these endeavors.
However, we are just now viewing the “tip of the iceberg” in terms of what these apps, cloud-based services, and other digital assets have to offer to healthcare professionals. As exciting as these past few years have been in terms of growth and development, the future looks to be even brighter and more innovative. The only question left now is to figure out where you fit into this constantly evolving picture.