In recent years, healthcare providers have not only focused on providing more effective, efficient care but also upon evaluating and improving the patient experience. With the emergence of EHRs, patient portals, and AI on the medical landscape, many medical professionals wonder how other technological developments will fit into patient-focused care.
While value is determined by a myriad of facets surrounding care, including cost and accessibility, many professionals realize that a positive-patient experience can drastically affect a medical outcome. Patients will not want to receive or continue care if they associate it with a negative experience. With that in mind, here are a few of the ways technology can contribute to the patient experience.
How Technology Has Improved the Patient Experience
Technology has made it possible for patients to go online and access their personal healthcare information, schedule appointments, request the refill of prescriptions, and much more. With this information at their fingertips, patients can save time previously spent on the phone for routine requests and, instead, go online to accomplish these tasks with a few clicks. Ultimately, out-of-office access to their personal information creates a more effective, positive experience for patients — as they feel more in control, and less stressed about their everyday healthcare needs.
The Downsides to Technology
Of course, technology does have its downsides. While it allows for more direct access to information and enhances patient/physician engagement, technology cannot replace human interaction. Downplaying the necessity for a human element in healthcare to pave the way for technology could be detrimental to the patient experience. Patient’s seek empathy from their caregivers, and while advanced technological tools, such as AI, could provide more efficient means of diagnoses, such codes and machines are detached from emotion and cannot fully “assess” a patient’s needs, concerns, or state of mind. The interactions between clinicians, other medical staff, and patients are vital. Technology merely serves as a resource to help ease the burden of healthcare providers, streamline manual processes, and allow clinicians to focus on patients, as well as improve the care that they receive.
Moving to Mobile
As mobile technology and improved smartphones have become more and more prevalent, many hospitals and other care facilities have incorporated these tools into their treatment regimens. Patients can use apps to report changes in their conditions, to look up information, or to merely be reminded to take their medications.
Many physicians now offer e-visits as well. Patients can use their smartphones’ cameras or a webcam for virtual visits with their physicians. These visits require little waiting and are most effective for low-priority care issues or common illnesses that don’t require a physical exam. Patients, therefore, can get prescriptions for these common illnesses without driving to a doctor’s office or missing work.
There are also new mobile apps that work with other types of devices, including sensors, which allow physicians to monitor patients from a distance. If a sensor detects that a patient’s vital signs have exceeded a normal range, it sends a signal to the patient’s phone. The phone then relays this information to the patient’s physician. This enables the physician to call the patient to discuss the issue and map out how often these episodes occur, thereby providing better healthcare overall.
How Effective is Technology?
But is technology truly effective in the healthcare environment? It can be, but it must be completely integrated. The goal of technology is to improve the quality and efficiency of care.
If healthcare professionals have to take extra time or do extra work to utilize technology, effectiveness is decreased. That, in turn, can decrease the overall patient experience.
As with any new technology, there will always be a transition or adoption period. Clinical personnel will have to take time to learn the latest technology, whether by attending workshops, participating in one-on-one training, or through facility-wide lectures. They may also need time to become proficient in using these new tools. As long as the end result is an improvement in the care provided or a reduction in the amount of time it takes to do tasks, however, this investment is worth it.
Making Healthcare Costs Transparent
Some patients may not fully understand what their health care plans offer, even after enrolling. The terminology used is often confusing or unfamiliar to those who aren’t healthcare or insurance experts. It may also be difficult to tell which insurance plan is the best-fit for a particular patient. Thanks to technology, however, the shop-a-bility of healthcare is becoming easier to understand. Technology can educate patients about insurance policies, thereby allowing them to make more informed decisions.
Technology has undoubtedly made healthcare more accessible and understandable to patients, while also improving the quality of care physicians can provide. These advantages, in turn, have positively impacted the patient experience. New technology will continue this promise of creating a positive atmosphere and benefiting patients within the healthcare landscape, but the patient experience will remain majorly aligned with the quality of interactions with healthcare professionals.