“Technology is best when it brings people together.”
~ Matt Mullenweg, Social Media Entrepreneur
Technology. What are the first thoughts that pop into your mind when you hear that word? Do you think that technology is great, love all the latest innovations, and rush out to buy the newest gadgets as soon as they become available? Or, do you think that things are fine just the way they are, and all these advancements are really not so helpful after all?
Today’s technology allows for the easy dissemination of information, saves time, allows for increased mobility, saves money, and facilitates innovation. Despite all these benefits, you might still be somewhere between the two seemingly-polar opposites when it comes to your feelings about technology. While you realize that it has helped to make things more convenient, you still have some qualms about how it seems to take over every aspect of our lives.
In medicine, especially, the thought of technology can cause great trepidation. After all, isn’t this the one profession that relies on the personal touch, the caring attitude, the bonding relationship to achieve the goal of better health? Can these two feelings co-exist for the benefit of our patients? This article takes a look at some of the benefits of technology and discusses those areas where the independent practice can indeed use technology to put the personal touch back in medicine.
The Value of Technology in Medicine
“The two areas that are changing… are information technology and medical technology. Those are the things that the world will be very different 20 years from now than it is today.”
~ Bill Gates
Without technology, of course, medicine would not be where it is today. Advances in robotics, artificial intelligence, and gene sequencing have all contributed to our ability to improve health and save lives. Through the use of innovative digital devices and diagnostic tools, medical professionals continue to deliver care and value to patients.
Advanced technology in medicine means that medical professionals are now capable of diagnosing health problems earlier, and with much more accuracy. That offers the ability to provide an earlier intervention, which could lead to an improved outcome. In the hospital, surgeons use technology to repair and replace vital body functions. In the private practice area, practitioners use remoted monitoring devices to watch over patients’ conditions, and telehealth to communicate with patients on a regular basis. Overall benefits of technology in healthcare include:
One of the great stumbling blocks of patient care has been the difficulty of coordinating information and communications between the primacy care provider and other professionals in the patient’s realm of care. From tracking down lab reports, and asking patients to manually transport images, to coordinating follow-up care after an emergency room visit or hospital stay, it has long been a challenge to relay information from one provider to the next so there is one central point in charge of a patient’s care. Despite government mandates to this effect, poorly-coordinated transmission of information can lead to medication errors and treatment complications. Technology is aimed at improving this gap in communication to lead to a better patient care continuum.
Better Educated Patient Base
The medical profession is finding that engaging patients in their own care is more productive than simply issuing orders and writing prescriptions. In September 2021, Medical Economics reported that personalized digital interventions were indeed helpful in cases requiring chronic care management. The article cited the results of a clinical study regarding the management of 998 patients with Type 2 diabetes who were asked to use a digital health platform. The study found that supporting long-term behavior change can improve patient outcomes, and suggested the need for a more personalized approach to the delivery of digital health beyond the doctor visit. Taking advantage of online video and social media education opportunities, and improving use of the patient portal, can also help in presenting customized health education information to patients based on specific needs and conditions.
More Data Availability
One big benefit of technology in medicine is the ability to store and access large amounts of data. Healthcare professionals can now quickly retrieve patient data to review patient history, and share medical information rapidly with other healthcare professionals.
Higher Levels of Communication
Modern technology has vastly improved communication opportunities between medical professionals and patients. Providers can now stay in touch with each other and patients through email, smartphones, and secure text messaging. Appointment reminders and follow-up instructions can be transmitted in a variety of ways. Patients can ask questions and receive answers through a patient portal. Many medical professionals are even increasing patient education efforts through the use of videos, webinars, and social media.
Online Patient Education
Providers and team members often find themselves providing the same instructions, or saying the same things over and over again during the course of a patient visit. This can be very inefficient if the patient has communication difficulties or is experiencing anxiety about the visit. These instructions can be recorded and kept as video files that can be easily accessed on the practice website, or sent to patients for viewing at their own convenience.
Health apps are an adjunct to the advice provided by a medical professional. Apps are available that can be used to help patients better monitor their health and vital statistics, provide them with medical information, and provide prompts for healthcare actions such as a glucose test, blood pressure check, or follow-up appointment.
Technology is expected to continue evolving to dramatically transform the way health care is provided. On the horizon are such advances as machine learning, Artificial Intelligence, blockchain, wearables and other innovations that will change the way healthcare is delivered. Although the technology may change, there is still no replacement for the personal touch in healthcare.
Technology Enables the Personal Touch at the Independent Practice
In September 2014, Medical Economics reported that small primary care practices were able to use the personal touch to increase use of the patient portal through sensitive promotion and direct engagement. The portals were linked to practices’ Electronic Health Records (EHR) system to integrate communications with charting data. Other ways technology is adding the personal touch at the private practice level include:
Population Health Management
With new attention focused on the management of health outcomes for a group of individuals, technology is developing tools to collect and analyze data on the populations being served. While the EMR is great at analyzing a single patient, Population Health can analyze the practice as a whole. Tools are now available to aggregate, analyze, and achieve results, such as better patient care, reduced patient costs, and increased practice productivity. Of particular importance are the Clinical Quality Measures, or CQMs, which are the data points that CMS utilizes to measure and track the quality of health care services provided to patients.
Electronic Health Records (EHR)
Storing, organizing and transporting paper records was costly and fraught with danger that pertinent information would not be relayed to the doctor or patient. Referring a patient would often require an hour or more of time to painstakingly copy page after page. Individual doctors would have separate records, with no one central accumulation area. The ever-improving technology behind the EHR has made life much easier for both healthcare providers and patients. Information is available in one central location, with faster access so providers can instantly access necessary data, leading to improved care and better outcomes. Components of the latest comprehensive Electronic Health Records (EHR) systems include easy charting capabilities and templates to maximize provider time, e-Prescribing, better scheduling capabilities, and a patient portal for enhanced communication purposes.
The benefit of using telehealth to communicate with patients was proven over and over again during the COVID-19 lockdowns. Now it is time to take that knowledge and experience, and incorporate it as part of routine patient care protocols. Telehealth solutions increase the ability of your practice to remotely deliver in-home patient care that is comparable to an in-office visit, and it is even more important for follow-up care with patients who live in remote areas or have limited transportation options. You and your medical staff can quickly and easily initiate telehealth video and secure text conversations, and maintain logs of those chats and videos for billing and audit purposes.
Improved Patient Follow-Up Care
One action that makes a difference in many patients’ care is personal contact outside the patient visit. It would be nice if doctors were able to perform personal follow-up for each and every patient, but that is simply not practical, and does not help in achieving a better work-life balance. Another advancement that provides more equilibrium between in-person visits and remote care is a Virtual Preventative Care Assistant. Amazing Charts now offers the capability to add external remote care services to your patient care kit by adding remote staff, or contracting out existing staff, to reduce labor costs while maintaining patient continuity. This takes a huge administrative burden off of the medical professional.
Billing might not seem like an area of personal touch, but there is plenty of communication that goes on between office staff and patients when good billing goes bad. Patients and staff don’t need the extra stress and frustration that comes from coding errors, inaccurate billing and collections problems. Amazing Charts’ Medical Billing Service is a fully integrated Revenue Cycle Management service that handles the hassle of billing for you, and at a more affordable rate than most third-party billers. Your practice could experience an increase in collections, a higher rate of claims paid on first submission, and a quicker time to payment with your payers and patients.
Balance Technology and Personal Touch to Build a Better Patient Experience
Of course, too much of anything, no matter how good it may be, is usually not a good thing. Pay too much attention to technology, and you miss out on building a personal relationship. Overindulge on establishing connections, and you could be losing time or overlooking critical information. The key is to establish a balance between the two.
Look at the way a typical independent practice books appointments, for example. Most of it is a laborious process at the front desk, or involves a series of “phone tag” calls. Scheduling apps allow patients to book an appointment on their own, when they can check their calendar or transportation capabilities. If the appointment needs to be changed, the next availability can be easily displayed. The app then takes over the routine of reminding the patient via email, voice mail or text message. This frees up phone lines and support personnel to manage urgent care requests.
More technology is available via laptop or smartphone to chart information during the patient visit, but that should not preclude the provider from taking the time to actually listen to what the patient is saying and rephrasing the complaints to make sure all symptoms have been captured.
Love it or hate it, technology is definitely here to stay. Independent practices that learn to use technology and balance it with providing the personal touch will have an increased opportunity to thrive in the years ahead. To make technology work smarter for your office, work with a reputable vendor dedicated to helping independent practices survive and thrive by providing easy-to-use solutions for delivering patient care that make healthcare more accessible, and more effective.
Healthcare Technology Solutions Designed By and For Independent Practices
Amazing Charts was founded in 2001 by a practicing family physician to help medical practices thrive. We have grown consistently since then by creating easy-to-use solutions for delivering patient care. Today, we offer a variety of additional capabilities designed to help independent practices succeed, including Electronic Health Records, Practice Management, Billing Services, Population Health and Remote Care. Call 866-382-5932 to learn about our products, schedule a practice consultation, and learn more about telehealth pandemic lessons that can help your independent practice grow.