Real-Time Is Not A Luxury Anymore.
Let’s imagine two entirely different scenarios:
Scenario 1: You are a physician traveling to attend a conference or on vacation. A patient is nearing his mandated checkup. Since the situation might not be as urgent as to warrant a referral to another physician, it is best that you advise him on next steps until you meet him in person. So what do you do? Log in to the digital solution, find latest test results uploaded by the lab, and advise via chat.
Scenario 2: You are traveling. There is a situation requiring urgent medical attention and you want your physician’s advice before attempting anything else. You log in to your provider’s mobile application and reach out to the doctor, who immediately accesses your medical history and test reports, to send you his advice on treatment methods.
Welcome to new-age healthcare powered by digital.
Patient Health Records—Access on the Go
Patients are a different crowd from what they were some time back. The world is slowly but surely moving to a consumer-oriented healthcare—one where value to service matters most.
“Accenture predicts that by the end of 2019, 66 percent of US health systems will offer digital self-scheduling and 64 percent of patients will book appointments using digital tools. Nearly 38 percent of appointments will be self-scheduled—almost 986 million appointments—creating $3.2 billion in value.”
A recent survey conducted by Surescripts mentions:
“When most Americans (55 percent) visit their doctors, their medical history tends to be missing or incomplete, with nearly half of patients (49 percent) noting that their doctor is not aware of what prescriptions they are taking. Further, patients report that their doctor usually does not already know their allergies (61 percent) or existing medical conditions (40 percent), or know about recent surgeries, hospitalizations or visits with other doctors (44 percent). Four in ten Americans note that during most visits to the doctor, the office does not have their personal (40 percent) or insurance (38 percent) information on file.
The lack of electronic communication between doctors and patients places a burden on patients to connect the dots themselves. Because of this, 29 percent of Americans—close to 70 million individuals—fax or physically transport test results, X-rays, or health records from one doctor’s office to another.”
This is a compelling reason for medical practitioners to be armed with the most important digital tools and medical information at their fingertips.
There are two major advantages to this changed scenario.
- Clinicians are no longer crippled by their inability to access patient records at the right time. This helps them serve patients efficiently any time, even while traveling.
- Patients have instant access to medical records and hence are free to take a second opinion from any practitioner of their choice.
The Clinician Side of the Story
Clinicians across the world are a harried lot, primarily because they have to attend to an ever-burgeoning mass of patients, something that can lessen accuracy of diagnoses and increase the time spent on each patient. They also spend a lot of time unnecessarily on administrative tasks that take away attention from patients. Having a digital focus can most certainly help clinicians access real-time information and use it to gain patient trust and satisfaction.
That clinicians have to gain more trust from the people they serve has been revealed through many research studies. As per an insight released by Samsung, only 23 percent of Americans have “a great deal” of confidence in the healthcare system, and only 58 percent agree with the statement, “All things considered, clinicians in [your country] can be trusted.”
This is the barrier that digital aims to break.
A PwC study shows that “88 percent of consumers are willing to share personal data with their clinician to find new treatments, which could create opportunities for richer conversations and lead to more accurate diagnoses and more personalized care.”
Of course, it’s another matter that healthcare establishments should have the required infrastructure to hold and retrieve such huge volumes of information. Now that big data analytics in healthcare is a promising scenario, this is a mandated condition before trying to go digital.
Other advantages of an effective mobile health record system include:
- Immediate attention and treatment options
- Reduced waiting periods
- Less stress—for caregivers and physicians
- Patients connected online to drug store; medicines ordered without delay
- Early signs of illness attended to so that they are not worsened
- Better information to patients who are customers as well
- Better precautionary measures for invalids at home
- Reduction in hospital admin processes and process times by 50%
- Reduced costs of operation by cutting down on resource usage
Here are some more interesting statistics.
According to an article in The New York Times, “The Healing Power of Your Own Medical Data,”
“Other medical groups are beginning to allow patients online access to the notes taken by physicians about them, in an initiative called OpenNotes. In a year-long evaluation project at medical groups in three states, more than two-thirds of the patients reported having a better understanding of their health and medical conditions, adopting healthier habits and taking their medications as prescribed more regularly.”
The number of clinicians accessing mobile applications and mobile devices for medical histories of patients are on the rise. It is safe to assume that nearly 70 percent of physicians do this, as per a recently concluded survey by HIMSS Analytics.
As patient engagement and experience are gaining importance in the current world scenario, moving to an efficient patient records practice need to be the primary goal of any healthcare provider.
Some Counter Arguments
Easy access to patient information also leads to certain pertinent questions. Some of these can be:
- Will patients trouble clinicians unnecessarily with a lot of questions about their health?
- Can data security be attained to the desired extent?
- Would the legal aspects be satisfactorily covered?
If benefits outweigh the negatives, then embracing benefits is the wiser path. Considering this logic, patient records should be made accessible to both patients and clinicians.
A Final Note
Hospitals are not exactly the place where people would want to use the term loyalty. But we have to admit that human beings do become unwell and if that happens, we would want to go to a place that genuinely cares for us. It would be a place that makes the journey of the patient a little less painful and maybe even joyful.
When you consider this fact, hospitals that make sure patients and clinicians have the right tools to access the right information at the right time will enjoy ultimate patient trust and loyalty.