Access to data, and the systems to connect and optimize that data, are essential.
Although healthcare reform legislation has created new regulations for patient care, implementing IT solutions can help providers change their business strategy to accommodate these mandates. Technology for healthcare can also increase productivity, eliminate inefficiencies, and streamline operations.
“Healthcare providers should leverage IT used by other industries to speed access to information and make better use of data,” says Dan Allison, president of global healthcare & life sciences at NTT Data Services. “Technology reduces the friction in data exchange so physicians and hospitals can conduct business with patients in the same way online retailers conduct business with consumers.”
Here are a few examples of how technology can help healthcare providers:
- New software applications for healthcare can reduce time spent on paperwork, administrative tasks, and patient follow-up. This frees up providers to focus on providing quality care.
- Online scheduling benefits patients for convenience and ease of use, but also lets providers reduce revenue losses from missed appointments.
- Time-tracking tools can help keep an accurate account of on-site or remote work by employees.
- Electronic payment and billing technology help optimizes back-office procedures and reduce the errors that can cause rejected insurance claims.
- Telemedicine lets providers convey test results, talk to patients, or assess symptoms without an in-office appointment.
- Electronic health records (EHRs) reduce the time and cost of maintaining patient information, increase security and accuracy, and make record sharing among providers easier.
Proactive Strategies for Leveraging Technology
For technology to be successful in supporting the business side of healthcare, however, providers must proactively align their business strategy with IT solutions. Many practices have already adopted EHRs, but are still adjusting their processes and workflows to leverage other IT tools to gain efficiency.
CRM and risk management analytics tools, for example, can help providers gather and organize trend and socioeconomic data that would be impossible to manage with paper records. Mobile devices let patients collect their own data and upload it to an online portal vs. requiring healthcare practitioners to log information in paper charts. Smart robots can automate certain manual tasks. Technologies such as these make communication with patients easier and more frequent, resulting in a higher level of value-based care.
Any decision about what solution to deploy must include several factors. All systems should be “tested” by a small group of providers (and patients, if possible) before implementation. This user-base buy-in is essential for maximizing the user experience for patients and providers. In addition, new regulations, especially for EMRs, may dictate certain choices. Researching what mandates require is critical.
“Providers today are frustrated because they have these cumbersome systems they have to work with and they can’t practice medicine efficiently,” says Allison. “We as a nation need to come together as payers, practitioners, providers, and IT, to develop a seamless view on how we can leverage the technology we have today to have better outcomes. I am hopeful that we’ll get there.”