“It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent,
but the one most responsive to change.”
~ Charles Darwin
Everyone seems to have a different opinion on technology. Some hate it and cringe every time a change or update is introduced. Others love it, and just can’t wait for the next gadget to come on the market. They wait in line for hours to be among the first to try out the latest innovation and boast to their friends about how much fun it is.
In the medical world, technology has enabled some incredible capabilities we never could have imagined just a short time ago. Advances in robotic surgery, gene therapy, smartphone-connected pacemakers, artificial intelligence, and so much more, allow doctors to provide care and treatment more closely aligned to the individual patient’s needs.
But where do we stand regarding technology in the independent practice? Do we love it or hate it? Here again, some practices would never embrace EHR (Electronic Health Records) if it wasn’t required, while others race to add the very latest to their daily patient care routine.
While the best approach is probably somewhere between the two extremes, it is certain that technology is here to stay. If the number one goal of the independent practice is to provide care that exceeds patient expectations, then technology will indeed have a large role to play in achieving that goal.
Technology in Healthcare
“The use of technology increases provider capabilities and patient access while improving the quality of life for some patients and saving the lives of others. We’re moving into an era where physicians can see patients remotely and accurately diagnose a patient’s problems, even in the most rural areas, through telemedicine.”
The impact of technology can be seen throughout the healthcare world. Some major ways these changes can be seen include:
Precise diagnostic tools enable doctors to more accurately determine a patient’s condition and develop an individualized treatment plan.
Because more tools are available to monitor and transmit data, medical care can be provided to a wider scope of the population, even in more remote areas.
Physicians can use hand-held computers to record important patient data in real time, and easily update the medical history, so that all factors can be taken into consideration as to how best to proceed with each patient’s care.
It may be hard to remember a time not so long ago when charts were kept in paper files in huge storage cabinets. Office staff would spend time sorting reports and putting them into appropriate charts, hopefully in the right order. The provider might have to search through a stack of papers to find a particular piece of information. After the visit, the provider might dictate the notes, which were then transcribed, and returned for review and approval. Sharing information with another office required copying or faxing information. Prescriptions were written by hand, and hand-carried to the pharmacy, where they could be misread. Electronic Health Records (EHR) eliminate all of that, provide templates for easy charting, safely store information in intuitive locations, and make e-Prescribing and sharing information much more efficient.
It is hard to imagine what would have happened to healthcare if the pandemic had occurred twenty years ago, without the benefit of telehealth. Although it is still somewhat in its infancy, many doctors and patients found it to be a literal lifeline when offices had to be closed, or when vulnerable patients needed to see their physician. Telemedicine enabled doctors to carry on with the important work of seeing patients and providing care.
Propelled along by COVID, this may be just the beginning of the technology revolution in healthcare. According to Modern Healthcare News, the digital health market is projected to grow by at least 26 percent over the next four years. Digital technology, in particular, will be a considerable factor in facilitating real-time data exchange and more personalized physician/patient conversations.
Technology Improves Safety in Patient Care
Health IT Outcomes cited four ways technology is used to drive increased safety in patient care:
Improved Interoperability and Provider-Provider Communications
The independent practice needs to be the hub of information for patients with multiple health issues who see several doctors, those who need tests and imaging from outside sources, or those who recently visited an emergency room or stayed in the hospital. The amount of information that must be communicated is voluminous, with great potential for error. One misstep could lead to delayed treatment or an adverse outcome for the patient. The EHR is designed to serve as a center of the latest, correct patient health information.
More Accurate Medication Fulfillment
To eliminate the problem of written prescriptions that could be misread, e-Prescribing allows clinicians to electronically send prescriptions directly to the pharmacy. Technology can also flag possible contra-indicators for further review by the medical professional.
Increased Information Access
Providers now have access to the patient’s entire health history, as well as a wide range of medical and pharmaceutical information right at their fingertips. Hand-held, laptop and desktop computer technology provide easy access to quickly reference necessary information.
Improved Patient-Centered Care
Patients want to be more involved, and many insurers also require it for increased compliance. Today’s technology helps providers connect with patients in many new and exciting ways including telehealth, virtual care, and patient portals, as well as secure messaging and email. Remote patient monitoring provides accurate data on a regular basis to help in the treatment of chronic care management patients, to improve their self-care and limit office visits.
Technology and the Independent Practice
“In 10 years, the electronic medical record will be the minor player, in terms of where a person’s health history lives. Most of that information will be kept on the phone or in a secure cloud, and the patient will be highly engaged with collecting, curating and sharing that data. Most doctor visits will be like calling up a YouTube meets virtual human docs and there will also be an aspect of virtual reality.”
~ Leslie Saxon
That description sounds almost unreachable, except for the fact that we are marching toward a digital future faster and faster every day. Your independent practice can take advantage of these digital drivers to enhance quality of care, focus more on the patient, and exceed patient expectations at every turn. Examples of effective technology that help the independent practice focus more on the patient include:
Bringing Care to the Patient
Instead of patients having to come to the provider’s location to receive care, virtual care enables more facets of healthcare to be provided right in the patient’s home. Wearable devices, remote patient monitoring, and improved telemedicine brings care to all patient populations including seniors, those in remote areas, and others with mobility or communication issues. Modern technology enables the independent practice to humanize healthcare even in the virtual environment.
With their enhanced ability to allow for structured data entry, and quicker access to information in usable formats, EHRs can now help independent practices provide quality care to patients and perform population-level assessments.
Fully Integrated Virtual Care
Modern Healthcare News reports that the use of virtual care resources surged more than 10-fold since 2019, and will only continue to increase. This new technology enables providers and patients to conveniently connect on a regular basis to discuss everything from routine health issues to chronic care management. Telehealth solutions increase the ability of your practice to remotely deliver in-home patient care that is comparable to an in-office visit. 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.
Remote Patient Monitoring
Using a variety of devices such as wearables, glucose monitors, and home hypertension monitors, the independent practice can better keep an eye on what goes on with patient health between visits. With the incredible acceptance of smartphones and fitness monitors across all populations, it is no big leap to share this and other vital information with the physician as part of improving well-being. Some health plans are even beginning to offer devices at no cost to members as part of a digital treatment therapy.
Better Functioning Office
A doctor’s office can unwittingly decrease patient satisfaction by sloppy administrative practices. Lost charts, problems with billing, and ineffective scheduling can lead to stress and frustration for both patients and staff. In fact, Physicians Practice says that “the revenue cycle is vital to exceeding patient expectations and driving financial performance.” 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, a quicker time to payment with your payers and patients, and higher patient satisfaction.
Pressure is already on hospitals to be more transparent about their pricing, but this is an area where your independent practice can take the lead. Use your technology to give patients up-front information about costs, insurance, co-pays, and their out-of-pocket expenses, so they can make more informed choices. Patients can understand the cost before scheduling care, instead of being surprised after it is too late, and they find they must pay more because a claim was denied.
Easier Self-Serve Approaches
Eliminate the frustration of in-office paperwork by allowing patients to submit information online prior to the appointment. This is also helpful for patients with vision problems or cognitive impairment who are unable to accurately complete paperwork on their own. A caregiver or family member can work with the patient to check and submit accurate health history and medication information. Online technology aids in scheduling, asking questions, requesting referrals, signing consents, updating insurance, and providing current health status. This eliminates confusion, minimizes in-office waiting time, and saves staff time in transferring information to the patient’s file.
Leaving follow-up steps to the patient is a fraught process, as they misplace paperwork, forget to make an appointment, wait for insurance authorization, or provide inaccurate information to the outside provider. If the next step is completed, information often takes a circuitous route in getting back to the primary provider to schedule follow-up care. Future digital technology tools include electronic orders, care coordination tools, direct scheduling capabilities, and prior authorization processing. Electronic transmission of information ensures accurate and immediate delivery of necessary information between involved parties.
More Patient Contact
Patients want more contact from their medical care providers, but on their terms, not those of the doctor. A Virtual Preventative Care Assistant offers the capability to increase external remote care services by adding remote staff, or contracting out existing staff, to reduce labor costs while maintaining patient continuity. This service often exceeds patient care expectation.
Technology can be used to transform key patient touchpoints, to make it easy, comfortable and convenient for patients to fully participate in each step of their healthcare journey. Patients want to be understood, feel important, and experience less frustration. They don’t want to feel like they are lost in a medical paper shuffle. When your independent practice uses technology to deliver on all levels, you can not only meet, but to exceed patient expectations.
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.