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.

 

Adoption of Technology by Clinics and Small Hospitals – Why and How?

New technologies and innovation are being adopted in all sectors nowadays. The healthcare industry is catching up with this trend too. The growth of technology is enabling faster and efficient diagnosis and treatments for the patients. This means major competition for the smaller players such as clinics and small hospitals. If they still want to be a part of the growing market and retain their businesses, they need to become a part of the technological whirlwind too. Digitisation on small or big levels will help them retain their customers and provide better patient care, quality, and value.

Let us look at the various problems faced by small and medium-sized hospitals –

Limited Infrastructure and Resources:
Small hospitals face a lot of ground level problems. They function with limited resources. Their small budgets allow them to hire only a certain number of doctors, paramedical staff, and technicians. A lot of times, individuals need to take care of multiple roles to share the burden of work. The infrastructure at smaller clinics and hospitals is set up on a very basic level. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), out of the 57 countries facing the crisis of limited resources in the health sector, India’s rank is 52nd. In another 100-bed hospital at Jhansi, after 4 pm there was only one nurse to cater to all the 100 patients. The impact of deficiency or lack of efficient resources is seen to affect the overall functioning of any hospital. It puts the personnel under pressure, affects the morale of the health workers, and also affects the overall quality of care.

Unavailability or Ignorance of Information:
With the increasing demand for modern healthcare services, it is vital for doctors and physicians in both big and small hospitals to be able to provide high-level consultation and medication to their patients. In smaller hospitals, this is missing due to their ignorance towards professionalism or the lack of information. Poorly functioning sub-centres, PHCs and CHCs result in people having to depend on the bigger hospitals. Overcrowding in hospitals, lack of outreach, unavailability of standards and norms are some of the other problems that give patients no choice but to not trust their services.

Lack of Organisation:
Larger brands of hospitals are more organised and function uniformly across all departments since they make use of high-quality techniques, equipment, and technology. They avoid paperwork by making use of Hospital Management Systems so that all the relevant information is backed up in a single place. They avoid hard copies of all reports and rely on a single online source of information for faster and timely access. All such things are missing in small hospitals because they, in most cases, do not leverage technology to increase their operational efficacy.

What do hospitals need?
So what can help the small and medium-sized hospitals to change the way they have been functioning? They need to adopt a technological system which can help solve these problems.

  • An easy to use Hospital Management System (HMS) can be implemented so that all the people involved in the hospital, including physicians, doctors, nurses, caretakers, laboratory personnel, pathological department, etc. can understand it and make good use of it.
  • The HMS should be capable of providing the schedules and availability of the physicians within the hospital.
  • The HMS should have scalable architecture and configurable workflows so that tasks such as admissions, bed management, nurse management, insurance management, transfers, returns, eligibility, etc. can be undertaken systematically while ensuring that a record of each of them is maintained.
  • There should also be an option of maintaining a detailed medical history of every patient, which can be available whenever required. This would also help doctors make broad or specific reports for the patients and also use them for decision-making. Doctors will not have to spend hours going through paperwork since all the information will be readily available. Integrated functioning of this HMS will help segregate all the data together in one place.

MARS Plus is one such Healthcare Management Systems, which has been created considering the specific needs of Indian Healthcare system. The interface is designed such that it can be setup quickly depending on the size and requirement of the hospital or clinic. It allows a lot of customisations to help the hospital gain maximum benefit out of it even at low costs.

With digitisation and modernisation, inculcating the smartphone for keeping health records, communication between doctors and patients and sharing of data can help. A lot of apps available in the market today provide options to doctors and physicians to manage their lists of patients, appointments, records, files, budgets, and finances. This can help them save time, become more efficient in terms of data storage, improve their performance and, thereby, have a positive impact on the hospitals as well as the patients they are dealing with. The key is to try to integrate all the aspects of health care management using a single solution to meet all needs.

Adopting technology will provide great scope to small hospitals and clinics to come at par with what rest of the players in the health sector are doing. It will bring about a change in the way they have the functioning and allow faster facilitation of processes and treatments.

How Doctors Can be More Engaged With Their Patients

Patient engagement can be considered the holy grail of healthcare. As healthcare providers look towards technology and tools to improve operations and costs and boost patient engagement, doctors too, are now opening up to technology use to help their patients manage their health better. However, while healthcare providers look at providing ‘value’ to the patient by utilizing technology, the essence of patient engagement in the real sense is illustrated only when the physician and the patient work together not only during times of poor health but in times of good health as well. Considering doctors are busy and pressed for time, they can leverage the same technology to stay connected with their patients and enhance the patient experience. As almost 80% of the doctors own a smartphone, they can now connect with their patients on the go.

Telemedicine

Gone are the days when the good old doctor could come for a home visit to assess your physical health. However, doctors can use Telemedicine technology to connect with patients on an ongoing basis to assess their current health conditions. In countries, such as India, where there is a huge rural population and skewed doctor-patient ratios, telemedicine can be leveraged to ensure that proper health care services reach a majority of people. In the urban landscape too, doctors can leverage telemedicine facilities to interact with patients and help them manage their health. Considering the amount of time we spend traveling from one point to another, telemedicine can be a huge boon when you just want to discuss preventive medicine or take immediate advice if a health problem needs to be addressed in the emergency room or it can wait until the next morning.

Patient Interaction Systems

Doctors can also leverage Patient Interaction Systems to improve their patient interaction. A great patient interaction system will enable two-way communication by SMS, email, and even IVR. Appointment confirmations, instant notifications and updates, post appointment messages etc. can be delivered by these systems. When doctors are proactive about their interactions with their patients, they too are more satisfied. This can improve a doctor’s online reputation as these interactions can increase patient response rates to social media and other surveys. Along with this, doctors can also send out post-consultation updates to their patients using chat and SMS services to ensure that the patient does not miss out on any vital piece of the information that he/she needs to maintain his health.

Mobile App

While mHealth has become quite popular with patients, digitally inclined doctors too are leveraging mobile apps to improve their practice. Doctors can use mobile apps to look up drug and disease information, discover other providers for consultations and referrals, find lab guides, get answers to critical clinical questions, centralize all patient related information for easy access, view and share medical information, get feedback and even monitor a patient remotely. Further mobile apps are a great way to keep track of patient appointments and avoid overlaps along with address the needs of running a practice. Practice management becomes very easy with mobile applications as all important documents are hosted in one place and are integrated. Since no time is wasted looking for previous history and other relevant information when a patient comes for a physical meeting, the doctor can utilize the time to concentrate on having a meaningful conversation and boost effective interaction with the patient.

Tutorials

We are now entering the age when patients want to leverage preventive healthcare. However, there is a serious lack of qualified information regarding the same. Most people reach out to Dr. Google to get answers to some of their pressing health care queries as they feel that their doctor might not have the time to answer their questions – They, after all, are not unwell. Doctors can become a part of this preventive healthcare drive by leveraging technology and uploading tutorials on preventive healthcare and give practical advice to people on how they can manage their health better and answer the questions that are asked regarding the topic in discussion. This information can greatly benefit the patients as they will be getting their information from a qualified and dependable source and thereby increase the scope for patient engagement.

By leveraging technology, doctors can ensure better physician-patient interactions, enable preventive health care and ensure that their patients are more involved in their personal care. High patient engagement then, just becomes a consequence of these great interactions.

5 Reasons you should take control of your Personal Health Records

Personal Health Records – Helping Patients be in Control of their Health and Wellness

 

With your every visit to a physician, hospital or healthcare provider, you add a new record paper in your medical file. Your file cabinet is filled with your medical files, reports, X-rays, and prescriptions. Whenever you want to access any old report, you dig out all the files to find the right information. Any follow-up visit to the doctor or a consultation with a new doctor needs an hour of preparation because you need to collate all the past reports, prescriptions and other such details.

Today’s smartphone savvy generation has got all the things in control through their phones. They also have a lot of fitness apps installed on their phones which track their fitness goals, calorie count, tablet reminders and all such things. But somehow maintaining a consolidated medical health record online has slipped through the cracks. For many of us, a complete record of all the personal health information still cannot found in a single location at any given time.

Let’s look at some of the advantages of maintaining a personalized digital health record, also called as Personal Health Record (PHR), and that will convince you to look for options to use your smartphone for your healthcare needs as well –

1. Manage your Health and Wellness

Having one place to access the healthcare records and information helps you stay on top of your health. You can maintain a list of your medications, health history, lab results, scans and X-rays, and all such details at a single location. It makes it easy to search and look for information – anytime, anywhere. You don’t need to have physical access to the report files in case you need some information urgently. With PHR, you can track patterns and better manage your health and wellness.

2. Better Inform your Doctors

Whenever you visit your doctor, you can get the most from the visit by updating your doctor with your latest health information. You can share the up-to-date list of medications, reports, or allergies. If you are tracking blood pressure, blood glucose, or weight at home, then you can easily share the latest information with your doctor. Such up-to-date information can help the doctors in improving the quality of care.  With such readily available information, you also reduce or eliminate duplicate tests, and receive faster and safer treatment.

3. Be Better Prepared for Medical Emergencies

In case of emergencies, it is important that the doctors know your previous medical history, the medicines or foods you are allergic to, your current medications and dosages, immunization records, a record of your surgical procedures, results of your recent medical tests and even emergency medical contacts etc.  During a crisis, it can get difficult to remember such important information and easily accessible PHR can be life-saving in such situations.

4. Chronic Health Management

Living each day with chronic ailments or medical conditions like blood pressure, obesity, depression, anxiety, or diabetes, is very difficult to deal with. There are many things which need to be done to properly track patterns and manage these conditions. PHR apps which can assist you in keeping track of medications, appointments, readings etc. can be very beneficial.

5. Set and Achieve your Fitness Goals

PHR apps help you track your activity, fitness activity, weight, diet, set goals, and track progress. One can easily monitor such information through interactive graphs and visualizations and keep track of the progress. This kind of self-motivation helps individuals in doing the right changes in the diet and activity to get the desired results.

Technology is undoubtedly bringing in a paradigm shift in the healthcare space – gone are the days when patient data and doctors notes were residing in silos at multiple, difficult to access places. Consumers today are looking to have complete information about their health data on their mobile devices with an option to share it with doctors as per the need.

“Get up and start moving”

A rendezvous with Dr. Suchitra Mankar, general physician.
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Dr. Suchitra Mankar
Dr. Suchitra Mankar

A veteran of medicine, general physician Dr. Suchitra Mankar studied at the Armed Forces Medical College in Pune. I spoke to her last evening about her work and life. She told me that she worked for the Indian Air Force as a doctor for 30 years. Her stint in the Air Force allowed her to experience many interesting events. In fact, she has been invited by the Rotary Club to talk on ‘Anecdote of my Life in Air Force’ on January 17, 2014. So I felt lucky to have found her for this interview and talk about her life back in the days. When she talks about those days, her voice is filled with both – emotion and power. The enthusiasm with which she narrates a few of her experiences makes one feel like it’s so fresh that it just happened.

So here’s what we spoke about. Continue reading “Get up and start moving”