What Should Doctors and Clinics Look for When Making Technology Choices?

The obvious advantages of technology adoption have made it an integral part of the fabric of businesses today. There is hardly any business that is untouched by technology and in order to stay ahead of the curve, all businesses today are making sure that their information systems evolve and grow at the same pace as the technological advancements.

The healthcare industry, too, has extensively adopted technology to streamline processes, increase efficiencies and productivity, and improve patient care and healthcare outcomes. By 2022, we can expect the global healthcare information systems market to technology market to grow to approximately 60.00 billion from approximately USD 41.20 billion in 2016. These are compelling figures that show that technology adoption in the healthcare segment in on a healthy incremental growth.

Having said this, it is not just large hospitals that can leverage technology for its benefits. Small practices too can reap the same benefits from technology. However, when making a technology choice there are some parameters that should be considered to ensure that the technology helps in improving costs and efficiencies along with patient outcomes. The technology solution should be a comprehensive product that not only helps in clinic management but can provide integrated healthcare experiences. In this blog, we take a look at a few parameters that doctors must look for when making technology choices to give their practice the technological edge.

Usability

Great usability forms the crux of any good information system. When selecting an information system for their practice, doctors, thus, should ensure that the system has easy to use user interfaces, allows easy data entry with minimal typing, facilitates easy data exchange etc. and ensure that the software that they purchase facilitates high performance. It should have an intuitive user interface and should ensure easy navigation of the system.

Implementation

Which technology solution are you most likely to use – one that is available in a ready to use, plug-and-play format or one that demands a huge time investment to achieve the same result? When choosing a technology solution for a practice, it is best to choose one that provides comprehensive features but comes in an easy to use, plug-and-play format and does not have a steep learning curve. Considering doctors and their administrative staff both are extremely busy, purchasing a technology solution that is complex, has a steep learning curve and takes a long time to implement will only impede the use of the solution and leave it as an overhead cost.

Comprehensive Solution

Good things come in small packages. However, today the package has to be small and yet has to be comprehensive. Doctors do not have the time to invest in making different technology choices for different functionalities and hence demand a solution that is comprehensive and fully-functional and at the same time. A technology solution should, thus, connect the entire practice ecosystem on one common platform. From patient management, practice management, finance management to data analytics, the solution should connect all the dots easily and demand minimal effort from its users to ensure that the doctors can focus on their most important area – their patients. Many a times technology implementations in clinics fail mainly because the doctors do not receive a comprehensive solution and have to make multiple technology purchases to meet their requirements.

Mobility

Today, if a technology solution does not provide mobility then it is most likely to fail. Since doctors are always on the move, they need to make sure that the solution in use gives them the mobility advantage so that they can be productive even when they are on the go. Thus, the solution should be accessible on the mobile and should allow them to make iterations from the phone itself. For example, if a doctor wants to access a patient’s health record, or upload patient history or share test results etc. they should be able to do so from their handheld device irrespective of their location.

Scalability

If a technology solution does not offer scalability then it is most likely to fail its purpose. Having a cloud-based solution that can handle multiple loads and increase its capacity and facilitate the addition of additional features according to the needs of a practice become essential for successful implementation of a technology solution for any practice.

Patient integration

Patients today are the consumers of healthcare. The technology choice, thus, should provide an integrated platform where they can store their health records, test results, health history, provide prescription management etc. and allow them to access these anytime, anywhere so that the patients can get proactively involved in their own health management.

Along with the above, the technology should take into account how its users are going to utilise the solution. The solution provider should talk to the users and assess their usability demands and then make iterations to the solution and provide customisation options to suit the needs of the customers to ensure that the solution meets the user demands. The product should provide an interoperable structure, understand the clinical goals and increase cost efficiencies in order to benefit the practice by increasing productivity and ensuring that the key priorities of the practice are met at all times.

How Doctors in Rural Area Can Use Technology

India’s healthcare system, much like the healthcare systems across the globe, is witnessing an overhaul. Increased use of technology and greater digitisation efforts are being taken to make our healthcare system more organised, efficient and effective. While this holds true for the urban areas of the country, India still has a very large rural population that still is wanting basic healthcare facilities and hardly has access to good doctors. Given the pace at which urbanisation is increasing, it is almost dismal to know that even today, when India is helmed as one of the fastest growing nations and produces some of the greatest intellectual capital across the globe, the World Health Organization’s ‘2000 World Health Report’ ranks India’s healthcare system at 112 out of the 190 participating countries.

What is abundantly clear is that it is this rural segment that can benefit the most from the Digital India initiative as it aims to connect rural India with the rest of the country through the network of high-speed Internet. The Digital India initiative also aims to increase digital literacy and plans to connect all the villages across the length and breadth of the country through mobile networks by the end of 2018. To put it in numbers, by 2018, if everything goes as per schedule, then 44,000 villages who are currently cut off completely from all technological developments, will also be able to reap the benefits of the technology and digitisation.

Presently, the rural healthcare infrastructure suffers from a dearth of qualified doctors, inadequate medical facilities, insufficient specialised care, non-access to basic medications. With 60%, that is almost 700 million people, facing this grim healthcare situation, it is high time that technology is leveraged efficiently to close this widening healthcare gap. Without getting into the details of the nuances of the public healthcare system and its areas of improvement, let us, simply take a look at how doctors in rural areas can leverage technology and improve patient outcomes.

Telehealth

According to the World Health Organization, the stipulated doctor to patient ratio should be at 1: 1000. In India, this stands at 1:1700. Along with this, there are approximately are 6-6.5 lakh doctors working currently in the country. By 2020, this number needs to increase by 4 lakh more to balance out the doctor –patient disparity. Most of the rural population has to travel an approximate 20 kilometres to access good doctors. Greater adoption of mobile and better internet connectivity in villages can shorten these distances leveraging telemedicine facilities. Multi-specialty hospitals such as Medanta have operational telemedicine services to help healthcare accessible to all irrespective of their geographical location. Individual doctors too can leverage mHealth and telemedicine to reach out to a large rural population. The patients can consult with specialists when the need arises using telemedicine.

EHR

Personalised care, too, should not be a luxury afforded only by the urban population. Doctors in rural areas can also offer personalised care by leveraging EHR systems to increase their efficiency and quality of care, record and store valuable data and manage critical healthcare information. Using technology, doctors can make sure that they can access this data anytime and anywhere. This can help greatly in disease management, sending timely reminders to the patients for health checks or medications and also for conducting health assessment and research. It can also help rural doctors eliminate dubious healthcare practices by educating the rural population about good healthcare practices and give them the ability to understand when they need to seek medical help.

Big Data

Rural India is a goldmine for clinical data. Leveraging big data and data analytics, doctors can look at identifying triggers and causes for poor health. For example, India has one of the highest rates of maternal and neonatal death. By looking at these data patterns, doctors can identify the causes leading to this and then can push for addressing these issues. Lack of qualified doctors, inadequate nutrition of expecting mothers, poor hospitals which are lacking even in basic infrastructure, lack of medications etc. are just some of the points that have been identified as the cause of maternal deaths in India based on the data story. Clearly, digging deeper into the data will provide greater insights and help in identifying risk factors, both social and environmental, and help in improving clinical outcomes.

Mobility

In India, several healthcare organizations have started using mobile phones and IVR services to educate the expectant mothers about the care they need to take and make them aware of the best practices in sanitation. Medical helplines allow patients to ask questions to medical experts and get the answers. With a severe shortage of doctors in rural areas, many times, health care workers attend to patients. These health care workers can access important health related information through national healthcare portals and help the patients.

Doctors in rural India can further leverage technologies such as remote diagnostics, HIS, healthcare informatics and EHR etc, to bridge the gap that divides rural and urban healthcare and help a very large piece of the population access improved, cost-effective, and affordable healthcare. Looking at the rate at which digitisation is increasing in India, we can surely say that with the right use and adoption of technology, the rural healthcare system will definitely take a turn for the better and make a million lives better.

How Doctors Can Leverage the Wearables Revolution?

Did you know? The wearable technology industry is expected to grow to $34 billion by 2020. As the digital world grows with full momentum, you can safely say wearable devices are becoming a humdrum of a daily life. There is so much technology is doing in our lives that most of it are yet to be seen.

Wearables, though, can be used with multiple applications and also have a user-friendly design. With more time, we will see how wearables will revolutionise the way it’s used. Then again it is easy to see how the data from the wearables technology can help in the field of healthcare. Can a doctor really leverage the wearables revolution? Yes. In reality, it’s doing it already.

A Wearable Revolution – or is it?

When you read revolution here, please don’t jump to any conclusions. It’s not pointing to a revolution like the industrial or of the French kind. The wearables technology got into people’s lives so dramatically and it’s really the massive scale at which it’s reaching people is what the revolution is talked about here.

Wearable devices such as Fitbit, Apple Watches, and GoPro got popular in 2014 and it was no wonder that this time was known as the year for wearables. Apple shipped 11.6 million of their watches in 2015! That’s what so revolutionary about it. However, did you know? Wearables technology has been around since the 60’s. It’s only because of the economic scale such as the reach and affordability that has popularised these wearables now.

Technical devices like those mentioned above are exciting to use but you’ll be surprised how much of this is directly affecting the healthcare sector.

Can you imagine shirts that measure your heart rate or socks that record live data of your blood pressure? These are manic inventions hitting the market now. Just so you know that wearables technology is not just for the wrists.

Live Data adds to the excitement

It’s important to eat healthy food, yes. People know this, but how many really follow it or can they afford to follow an organic or vegan diet? Same is the case for exercise. You know exercise is good for you, but do you do it every day like you’re supposed to? That’s why these wearables are so exciting to use.

Wearable devices for fitness, track live data. Whether you are standing, walking, or running, all your data is tracked and recorded. Before the wearable revolution? Only your weight and vitals were tracked, but how effective were they to predict anything…

The live data from devices now measure sleep patterns, your activity or inactivity levels are averaged every day. If you’re into this, then tracking and playing with these numbers will help you improve your health. Something like the Pokemon Go game where players are walking around the area to play the game and get exercise also, etc. The drama unfolds further when you share your fitness numbers with your “fitness pals” and track your progress against others. This way, even if you aren’t feeling up to working out or feeling discouraged, there is a community to help you gather your bearings, per se.

Streamlining Diagnoses with Wearables

Say something bad happens to you and you were to be wheeled into the hospital. How long do you think it will take for the doctors to study the paperwork or look at your previous records? This is easily going to take a while before a thorough diagnostic can be made. It is no wonder that many doctors are leveraging the wearables revolution now. They are using all that live data to make better diagnoses and create effective treatment plans like never.

It is not just about the bands you wear on your wrists or the fitness data tracked on your smartphone. These are wearables that doctors wear and use to quickly accumulate your data and make swift decisions based on it. This is good news because this is a revolutionary new way to be there for patients and save more lives!

Take for instance, if someone was to come to the hospital with an allergic reaction. Allergies need to be diagnosed with tests and it may take a while before any treatment could begin. With wearable devices now, doctors can see the medication history and will gauge if the allergy stemmed from the use of any particular medicines. In a worst case scenario, the timely approbation of the wearable is enough to save that person’s life.

The wearable technology is clearly changing the way we see our health and the way doctors use patient information. It’s a fantastic new avenue for better diagnosis and effective treatment plans. This is because wearable devices have now made patient information more readily available where previously it wasn’t. Patient information was always so sensitive and private, but now technology enables both doctors and patients to share the information together.

As more people are embracing a life with wearables, doctors are leveraging this information to impact lives better and faster. It is also how the devices connect with our bodies is truly making a revolution in the healthcare industry.

How Technology Can Transform Doctor-Patient Relationship

The doctor-patient relationship is on the cusp of disruption. The increased availability of information, technology adoption, the rise of smartphones, better carrier networks, and increased internet usage are all contributing to the rise of the ‘involved patient’. Susannah Fox entrepreneur in residence at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation says, “Consumers only used to get a filtered drip of information. What the Internet did was pull open that funnel and give people more access — not complete access — to health information.

No longer are patients passive consumers of healthcare. Today, they want to manage their own health journeys, make their own health choices, keep track of their wellbeing and access clinical support that they feel is right for them. Almost 90% of the millennial generation look for medical information on social networks before they make their healthcare decisions – it is a testament to the fact that the locus of control is moving from the hands of the physician alone and into the hands of the individuals seeking care. With the help of technology, healthcare providers too, are looking at improving patient engagement along with increasing efficiencies and improving operational costs.

Physicians today are looking at mobile phones to boost patient engagement and optimally utilize their time in between commutes. A report from Research2Guidance shows that almost 80% of physicians now use a smartphone or medical app. Since an increasing number of mobile apps are now being developed keeping the regulatory and compliance requirements in mind, the healthcare community comprising of doctors, private practices and hospitals are now finding it easier to use mobile devices across the healthcare spectrum. James Avallone, Director of Physician Research at Manhattan Research aptly states, “As we move to an outcomes-based model of healthcare provision…, remote monitoring and telehealth are going to drive an extension of the point of care. We’re seeing physician attitudes really align with policy.”  In this blog, we take a look at how technology is helping doctors and patients foster a better working relationship.

Health Information Management

Given that most patients have online access, they can leverage technology to access their health records. Technologies such as cloud give both the physician and the patient access to health records such as scans, X-Rays, pathological reports, patient history etc. anytime and anywhere. This ensures that neither the patient nor the doctor wastes any time looking for and filtering the right healthcare information when they need it. With health information management systems, doctors can get a comprehensive view of a patient’s health history and are aware of any problems or issues that the patient might have forgotten to mention during a consultation. Such technologies make sure that the consultation time is used productively which make doctor-patient interactions smoother and more effective.

Improved Communication

Technology is also helping doctors and patients improve interactions with each other. With more access to their health-related information, patients feel more in control of their care as they are able to understand their conditions better.

  • Post consultation updates that can be automated and sent via SMS’s ensure that patients have access to all vital pieces of information that are essential for managing their health.
  • Improved doctor-patient interactions not only impacts the patient’s experience with the doctor but also make sure that they follow their practitioner’s directives better.
  • Access to health data also gives patients the chance to ask relevant and more focused questions to their doctors and helps them gain an understanding of what their health data is saying from the physician.
  • With technology, patients can now discuss their medications, side effects, alternative medicine, lifestyle changes etc. with their doctors more accurately.

The role of the doctor thus has evolved from being an authoritarian care provider to one who is more of a mentor and an advisor. The doctors too are able to facilitate these interactions easily as getting access to current and updated patient data and records are at their fingertips owing to smartphones.

Pre and Post-Operative Care

Technology goes a long way in advancing patient outcomes by improving pre and post-operative care and improves the surgical pathways.

  • Doctors can use technology to help the patient understand risks and benefits of a particular surgery before an operation with the help of evidence-based suggestions.
  • With the help of direct messages, doctors can intimate the patient on the necessary precautions and measures they need to take before a surgery.
  • Health information exchanges can become more streamlined when clinical data in the form of medical records and investigation results can be efficiently shared with the right stakeholders before surgical intervention making the pre-operative process smoother for both the patient and the doctors.
  • Doctors can also use technology to deliver tailored post-operative care plans which include expected length of stay, post-operative care, self-managed symptoms, and side effects etc.
  • They can complete symptom assessments electronically that can help in effective discharge planning and send electronic alerts to their patients regarding medicines and consultation reminders once they are discharged from the hospital to make health management easier and effective.

Chronic Disease Management

Technology goes a long way in chronic disease management. Mobile health applications help people with chronic diseases become more accountable towards their health. Interoperable applications enable doctors to gather healthcare data to track their patient’s behaviours and send out timely reminders to help them manage their conditions better and decrease hospital readmissions. With such technology, medical staff can send out educational interventions by providing objective data and helps the patients manage their condition better.  Almost 93% of doctors believe that mHealth applications can improve a patient’s health and 40% of doctors believe that mHealth technologies can reduce the number of visits to a physician.

Risk Management

Mobile health applications also give physicians access to health-related data which helps them identify potential candidates who are ‘at risk’ of a particular disease. For example, accessing health data to identify patients who have been susceptible to the flu at a certain time of the year can help the doctor take a more preventive approach towards healthcare. The same data can be put to use to even identify patients who are at risk for chronic diseases such as diabetes, coronary diseases etc.  and preventive steps can be taken to reduce risk and promote better health.

Clearly, technology has been a big influencer in the changing doctor-patient dynamics. However, while leveraging healthcare technologies, it is essential that the application fosters interoperability between the patient and the doctor, is easy to use and is secure. Technology is allowing both patients and practitioners more control over health by offering reliable data, access to clinical support, and high information levels. This is helping patients get closer to medical science and health management than ever before by increasing transparency and participation and is helping doctors improve the quality of their patient interactions, reduce wait times and better patient outcomes.

 

Doctors – The World Is Now Mobile. Do You Have A Plan To Keep Up?

The smartphone has taken over the world and India is no exception. According to Indian Telecom statistics from TRAI, India’s mobile subscriber base has crossed the 1 billion mark in 2016. Researchers from Gartner estimate that in the next couple of years, a large chunk of these mobile subscribers will move to a smartphone. According to a report by Counterpoint Research, India has over 220 million active smartphones and has surpassed the US smartphone market. With this smartphone proliferation, there also has been an incremental adoption of mobile applications. In 2016 alone, Indians downloaded over 6 million mobile applications, up from 3.5 billion in 2015, and beat the US app market. As the world is getting increasingly concentrated into the palms of the consumers, healthcare applications too are finding space on the smartphone screens. As the consumerisation of healthcare increases, doctors too are looking towards mobile applications to increase efficiencies and productivity and foster better patient engagement.

A good mobile health application has to serve as a common platform where the patients, who are the consumers of healthcare can connect with the healthcare provider, the doctor. Given the increasing emphasis on digitisation, mobile apps serve as the perfect medium that bridge the gap between the patients and the doctors. The average mobile data consumption is also increasing in India and Ericsson estimates that it will account for 99% of total traffic from mobile phones by 2021 increasing fivefold from 2015. This increase in mobile data use is only going to further fuel the app economy.

Search Doctors:

Patients too are turning towards mobile to address their healthcare queries. A large number of people turn to their mobile devices to search for doctors and look for diagnostic services etc. What is becoming apparent is that just as the world turns to mobile to managing their banking and finance, and retail etc. needs, it is also turning to mobile and mobile applications to address their healthcare needs.

Patient Medical History Management:

With the rise of high-speed networks, both patients and doctors can look at the mobile app for a more integrated healthcare experience. A good mobile application can store the health history of an individual and allow anywhere, anytime access. This can be of help if an individual requires medical assistance when he/she is travelling or does not have access to hard copies of the health records. Mobile apps can be used to store all health-related data in the form of prescriptions, health records, lab reports, X-Rays, and scans etc. All health records can be easily stored in the mobile app and can be accessed when needed. The patients can choose to provide access to these medical records to specific doctors enabling the doctors to offer better patient care.

Better Patient Management:

For doctors, managing and maintaining mountains of health records, cases, and patient information can prove to be a gargantuan challenge. Since most doctors are connected with more than one hospital and usually run more than one clinic, having access to patient records and cases when they need to becomes critical. In this age of technology, mobile apps make it easier to read up on cases, take a look at reports and lab results when they are on the go. They can use the mobile app for drug and disease research, store related research information and identify other reliable sources for consultations. Having a centralised repository of patient information can assist them in better patient management as all appointments, feedbacks, case notes can be stored easily in one place and accessed at convenience.

Improve Efficiency:

Mobile apps can also make practice management easier and more efficient. Since all the information regarding the patient is stored in a central repository, there is no time wasted in retracing steps and the time spent with the patient can be used more productively. They can also use the mobile app to manage the administrative concerns of the different clinics, manage multiple calendars, streamline case management, referral management etc. easily. Along with this, they can also share files with the concerned parties.

Analytics:

With a good mobile app which offers analytics feature, doctors can assess the performance of their clinics, identify factors that contribute to recurring ailments, assess which tests are being done more frequently etc.

Better Compliance:

Given the increasingly complex and stringent compliance landscape, finance management capabilities of a mobile app can help the doctors remain on the right side of the regulatory landscape by easily documenting all incomes, outflows and finance records.

Better Patient Interaction:

Mobile apps also make consultations easier. Using the app both, doctor and patient can connect with one another, exchange basic information, and complete the first stage of consultation which primarily revolves around information gathering. They can decide on the course of action that needs to be taken and when they meet physically, the meeting then becomes more productive and time-efficient. Considering the low patient and practitioner ratio in India, this feature can be of great advantage to both the parties.

Patient Engagement:

Doctors can also help patients manage their health with the help of mobile apps post discharge from hospitals, remain connected with patients post operations easily, assist in chronic disease management and send timely reminders to their patients to make health care more manageable and increase patient engagement and patient satisfaction.

Most doctors today are using their mobile to check emails and messages from patients. To leverage the mobile revolution to their advantage, all they need to do is look at a comprehensive mobile app to address the medical needs of their patients. The convenience of the mobile app not only benefits the doctor but also benefits the patients greatly.