Video, social media, and interactive platforms are just some of the technologies revolutionizing healthcare and helping improve the patient experience. 1to1Media recently posted an article describing the five ways technology is transforming healthcare. A summary is below:
To fundamentally transform healthcare, it is critical for payers and healthcare providers to embrace technology and redesign processes. "To succeed and differentiate in the healthcare market of the future, stakeholders must leverage technology," stresses Pat McCaffrey, TeleTech's senior vice president for health care and public sector. This includes using cutting-edge technology to build multichannel communication strategies that are customized to members and patients. "Those stakeholders who are successful in this regard will command mindshare with their member and patient population and build lasting ties with them," McCaffrey says.
Let’s look at five ways in which technology is changing the face of healthcare, leveraging data to help patients better understand and navigate the landscape, and providing tools for physicians to collaborate across borders.
5 Ways Technology is Transforming Healthcare
Data Drives Guidance and Care
Having the right information can help patients make the correct decisions about their healthcare. However, navigating the healthcare landscape is confusing at best, and recent changes have been overwhelming for consumers. Especially in stressful times when they're dealing with health problems, patients and their families often seek guidance to determine the best options and aren't faced with nasty surprises when treatments aren't covered by their health plans.
Data is also being used by progressive health plans to be less transactional and more personal in their interactions, creating an opportunity to build lasting connections, McCaffrey notes. "For instance, by making the on-boarding process more welcoming and engaging, the health plan can often gather information about a member's particular health challenges and in the process tailor the information they receive to enable the member to live a healthier life," he explains. This data-based enhanced engagement will create lasting value for both the member and the health plan.
Some forward-thinking insurance providers are leveraging the data they have about their members to target them with relevant information that would help them take action to avoid disease. "They're trying to impact customer behavior before they're admitted to a hospital," notes Michael Charest, vice president of healthcare, insurance, and financial services for GMC Software Technology. He explains that these plans have recognized that being proactive with communications that resonate with individual members can be extremely beneficial in avoiding expensive treatment later on.
According to Ashley Mahoney, director of data insights at Accolade, technology is helping health organizations have access to customer and healthcare data, allowing them to use the information to assist customers with taking the best decisions. "Patients want someone who can translate information to them," she explains. Mahoney explains that Accolade, whose role is to simplify the healthcare system, provides members with their personal health assistant.
The biggest benefit, Mahoney notes, is helping patients access the right care at the right time, before a health problem spirals out of control, which leads to cost savings for both the patient and their health insurance provider. Further, patients are provided with different options, for example the opportunity to take advantage of a telecare provider that is often cheaper.
Technology is also providing new mediums of communication that are more effective than the traditional mail. In addition, there's an opportunity to leverage mobile and the web to follow up with patients who accessed the healthcare system, for example to make sure they're taking their medications.
Data Identifies Early Risks to Save Lives
The adage "prevention is better than cure" has a lot of truth to it. Patients and their families benefit greatly when a health issue is preempted and addressed before it becomes a problem. Today, organizations have the data to be able to understand to an extent the likelihood that a particular patient will suffer from a particular disease. For example, there are established links between being overweight and the risk of cardiovascular events.
The predictive element of data is being used by healthcare institutions as another tool to help them save lives.
Collaboration Tools Break Down Geographical Boundaries
With healthcare being such a vast and constantly changing topic, caregivers need to constantly keep in the loop about new advances that can impact the way they treat or take care of a patient. Often, clinicians in a particular geographical region need to know what peers in other countries are working on to deliver the best care possible. This means that collaboration between physicians in different hospitals and easy access to information is a necessity to ensure the best experience for both patients and their families. TeleTech's Aston notes that it is critical for healthcare entities to continue developing and maintaining communication channels and the infrastructure that allows payers, patients, and clinicians to communicate with each other about a patient's care.
But as Jeffrey Burns, chief of critical care medicine at Boston Children's Hospital, noted during January's IBM Connect, geographical barriers are often creating restrictions to the release of information. The hospital needed to address this issue and make sure that physicians had the information they need at their fingertips but also remove any barriers to communication and information sharing, especially when treating patients outside the hospital, something that Burns experienced firsthand.
Video Educates Caregivers
Video is a great way to pass on information without the need to read long pieces of text. Further, video has the added advantage of providing the visual element that tends to stick longer in people's minds. A number of entities are leveraging video both to pass on information to their patients and share information with caregivers, including step-by-step instructions for certain interventions.
But patients and their families do not depend on physicians and other carriers only for medical expertise. Instead, many times they are seeking advice about ancillary services, for example post-treatment dietary restrictions or options for continuous outside-hospital care.
However, busy physicians don't always have the time to research the best information to deliver to their patients. Further, few have the time to sift through the huge amount of promotional and informative mailings they receive. Video solves the problem by providing information in a concise and easy-to-remember format.
Social Media Simplifies Interactions
Other institutions are leveraging social methods to improve collaboration and communication, both between doctors and patients as well as among patients themselves. The Mayo Clinic is among the most advanced healthcare institutions when it comes to leveraging social media and in 2010 launched its Center for Social Media.
Jeffrey Bauer, PhD., an independent health futurist and medical economist, also notes that social channels are providing wonderful opportunities for patients to talk to others going through similar experiences, acting as both a source for non-medical research as well as support networks. There are dozens of patient networks, including Patients Like Me, which, as Mohammad Al-Ubaydli, founder and CEO of Patients Know Best, notes in this article are allowing patients to share details about their medical conditions with others who have the same or similar problems and provide them with a forum to compare and contrast different diagnoses and treatments. Bauer notes that an added bonus is the ability to identify side effects from particular drugs or other similarities between patients which would otherwise have taken many years to spot.
The Bottom Line
Technology has completely revolutionized the world we live in, and it is therefore not surprising that it is impacting the healthcare industry, which has always been on the cutting edge of development in order to improve lives. It is heartening to see both clinicians and insurers leverage different technologies to improve their patients' and members' experiences. The healthcare industry is being presented with an unprecedented opportunity. It needs to continue making the most out of it.
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