For many years now, technology has been predicted to shape the future of healthcare. But budgeting concerns, unclear government regulations, and the lack of pressure on medical professionals have all slowed down the process of digital transformation.
But it seems like COVID-19 will provide that much-needed push for healthcare to go digital. Hospitals around the world are sagging under the weight of the pandemic. Insufficient medical staff, low bed availability, and unequal access to care are just some of the many urgent challenges the medical system needs to address.
As a result, hospitals are starting to adopt virtual ways of providing services. Governments have also relaxed healthcare regulations to make way for flexible patient care.
Health care at a distance
Now more than ever, patients need healthcare that is accessible, cost-effective, and convenient. Fortunately, more providers are welcoming telemedicine in their daily operations.
Telemedicine is the provision of remote clinical services via video and audio platforms. It allows real-time, two-way communication between doctor and patients instead of physical visits. Telemedicine has been specifically useful for treating the elderly, chronically ill patients, and non-emergency medical cases. ;
Traditionally, telemedicine was made to complement face-to-face consultations. It usually took the form of phone calls, where the patient seeks the doctor’s advice about non-urgent medical issues. At present, the power of telemedicine lies in the safety and convenience it offers to both patient and provider.
Virtual appointments can minimize in-house visits, which also lowers the risk of COVID-19 exposure and transmission. Additionally, telemedicine saves high-risk patients the trouble of waiting to see a doctor, while ensuring they still receive the treatment they need.
Telemedicine also has immense value in the continuous monitoring of patients with chronic diseases including diabetes, high cholesterol, or high blood pressure. While these patients don’t often require no immediate medical attention, they do need assistance with prescription refills, vital sign monitoring, dosage changes, lifestyle adjustments, and group support.
In light of the COVID-19 crisis, hospitals are scrambling to set up facilities and additional bed space as patient count rises. Telemedicine has allowed providers to continue serving patients without taking on more overhead.
Additionally, providers are encouraging patients to use wearable medical devices. Heart rate sensors, fitness trackers, and ECG monitors automate medical tests and provide real-time data about a patient’s health. These allow doctors to track patients without the need for regular check-ups. Using these gadgets can also eliminate testing costs and long processing time needed in traditional physical or lab tests.
Many providers are partnering with e-pharmacies to deliver medication, test kits, and health equipment to the patient’s doorstep. This is highly beneficial to patients who live in remote areas without nearby pharmacies. Journey duration and lack of sufficient transportation can influence access to medication, which in turn, affects the patient’s well-being.
Investing in digital operational tools
Apart from patient care, technology can also transform a medical practice’s operations. The right digital tools can streamline workflows and give patients a smoother experience.
A productive health care infrastructure begins with a seamless flow of information. Switching from paper-based methods to electronic health records (EHRs) can make patient data accessible to authorized hospitals and emergency medical dispatch providers. This can speed up patient transfers and provide more efficient care. EHRs typically contain a patient’s medical history, treatment plans, allergies, laboratory results, and immunization schedules.
Adopting an EHR system can provide patients with real-time access to health records, online billing, and direct messaging with providers. Web-pased portals also allow patients to schedule appointments anytime and anywhere.
Compared to first-generation models, modern EHRs don’t just digitize and store patient data. They can also act as virtual assistants by organizing staff workflow and scheduling tasks. They are also powered to automate manual processes like charting and prescribing medication. This allows providers and office staff to focus solely on patient care and other urgent tasks.
An EHR system can impact productivity and a medical practice’s bottom line. It eliminates human errors in prescriptions and data collection. It also reduces the number of missed follow-up consultations, and speeds up billing and reimbursement.
Despite their usefulness, EHRs and patient portals mostly benefit existing customers. Medical providers need to leverage all available digital channels like chatbots, email, SMS messaging and social media to reach a wider client base. In times of financial constraints and social distancing, AI-based platforms can help engage visitors, collect data, and market clinical services.
Social media has also proven to be an effective tool in the battle against COVID-19. As frontline fighters, healthcare professionals are responsible for promoting safety tips, mental health campaigns, and emergency measures in the most engaging way possible.
Our world has been radically shaped by digital technology. Tablets, smart phones, and web-enabled devices have altered the way we communicate and go about out our daily lives and the way we communicate. In the medical industry, technology is found to reduce costs, optimize processes, and transform the way healthcare is delivered. By leveraging digital progress, hospitals and clinics can improve quality of life for both patients and providers.