The world of medical IT has traditionally been the province of enterprise systems. Yet consumer technology – smartphones, tablets and wearables – is beginning to transform the relationship between patients and providers. The once-clear boundaries that separated enterprise systems and consumer devices are being radically renegotiated. In this guest post, Dr. Ali Hussam, CEO and co-founder of an outcomes data collection software company, explains how facilities and providers can advance in quality performance, coordination and patient engagement by embracing the right digital tool strategies.
Why you should embrace the digital age
People’s desire to use their personal devices for work, a phenomenon known as “bring your own device” (BYOD), is introducing new opportunities and challenges into the healthcare ecosystem. The trend offers unparalleled convenience and productivity, but it’s also forced IT managers to address a host of integration concerns.
In a medical setting, those challenges are made even more complex, especially when it comes to the security of the information being shared. Even though many physicians are willing to adopt digital tools, few of them have taken steps to accomplish it because of varying concerns – security being the most notable.
The process of ensuring that patient data is safe, secure and private is an inherently complex matter. When you add the concept of BYOD to a medical setting, it’s imperative to provide ample security measures for patients’ protected health information (PHI). The consequences of unintentionally violating regulations like HIPAA and HITECH can make implementing digital tools a daunting task.
But the ability to efficiently access and share patient information is essential. In value-based health care, the patient is the focus, and the team of healthcare providers must coordinate efforts to provide high-quality treatment. Digital tools make that coordination more efficient by accelerating patient engagement and information sharing among the patient and team.
When those tools are mobile, the advantages are even greater. Physicians can work together, untethered by a specific desk or office, and the immediacy of access to information significantly enhances the dialog between patients and providers. An informed patient is better equipped to articulate his own desired outcome, increasing the likelihood of greater patient satisfaction.
How to digitize workflow
Patients observe when their physicians don’t leverage digital devices to advance communication or share pertinent test results. Even patients who aren’t tech-savvy themselves are used to seeing digital devices everywhere, and observing the lack of any in their doctor’s office may cause them to doubt their physician’s competency.
Fortunately, keeping up with the Joneses of digital medical technology isn’t an unachievable task, even if you’ve gotten a late start. The key is remembering the objective isn’t to force the adoption of technology based on hype; rather, it’s to embrace the tools that make sense for you, your facility and your patients. You can find the right tools by following these four tips:
- Use technology that’s on your level. For some people, using digital technology doesn’t come naturally, which can generate an uncomfortable sense that they’ve fallen behind. Instead of focusing on what’s flashy and becoming overwhelmed by bells and whistles, choose the tools you use based on utility. Always ask, “Will this benefit my patient and make me a more efficient physician?”
- Embrace what works, disregard what doesn’t. Everyone’s different, and even the most gifted healthcare professionals struggle to keep up with technology. Don’t be embarrassed. Instead, recognize what doesn’t work for you, and disregard it to find a solution that does. There are countless tech solutions to choose from to help you feel confident that you’re using the best science to analyze your data.
- Partner with vendors that make onboarding easy. The point of the BYOD approach to health care is to make it easy to incorporate a variety of technologies into the workflow. Work with vendors who provide processes that even a novice technology user could exploit to avoid complications with integration down the road.
- Engage patients with digital tools. Digital screens can intimidate patients, especially when they aren’t sure what they’re seeing. Share the health data being displayed on the screen by conversing with the patient. This transparency will better educate patients and invite them to engage in their own care, and it can give you a better sense of mastery over once-unfamiliar digital tools.
Embracing digital tools is about more than convenience; it’s about ensuring the quality of the care you provide. Even among a highly skilled team of physicians, a single disconnected member can place the quality of care and attention to the patient at risk. In the new value-based system, physicians and facilities can no longer ignore the need to join the digital age of health care, for their own sake and their patients’ well-being.
Dr. Hussam directs a range of strategic and visionary initiatives as CEO and founder of OBERD, an outcomes data collection software company, including a CMS-approved QCDR.