Healthtech: The Opportunity Beyond the Buzz How Healthcare Organizations Can Leverage New Technologies to Improve Patient Care

Healthtech is certainly attracting a lot of buzz and attention. The Covid-19 pandemic accelerated the adoption of telehealth solutions during this time as they provided a safer and more scalable option to provide care despite the in-person logistical strains at the time. It also highlighted how much more personal, convenient and optimal healthcare can be.

As we start to see accelerated adoption, many areas of healthcare will start to see immediate benefits from new technologies that enable providers to streamline patient care, improve efficiency, and bring care closer to the patient.

This is just the beginning. The news and articles of drone-delivered medications, pocket ultrasound solutions, and app-enabled diagnostics may sound like something off in the distant future, however for healthcare professionals it’s important to understand the possibilities and consider exploring each new advancement.

It’s important to understand even the most disruptive technologies take time for adjustment, especially when it comes to infrastructure and patient care. There has been some patient reluctance to embrace new trends, especially AI. According to a recent survey commissioned by Invoca and conducted online by The Harris Poll among over 2,000 U.S. adults only 20% would trust AI-generated advice for healthcare.

Consumers are still warming up to the idea of interacting with healthcare providers through digital-only or virtual touchpoints. Considering healthcare often includes critical or life or death situations, consumers still value in-person support over virtual support, but that is shifting as consumers begin to realize just how much can be accomplished with a quick virtual meetup.

Despite these concerns, the evolution of patient care technology and the increasing demand for streamlining the overall patient experience has created the need for providers to integrate simplified end-to-end patient care solutions at the customer edge.

With the ability to easily log onto an app or website to schedule appointments, fill out patient in-take forms, buy prescriptions, and do virtual doctor visits, patients are now realizing they can get the full circle experience from check-in and visit to payment and care protocols right from the comfort and safety of their own home.

However, many healthcare offices are hesitant to implement an enhanced patient experience tool. They still use antiquated technologies that either don’t offer the functionality needed to meet the healthcare demands of today’s fast-paced, app-based world, or they are clunky to use which can be discouraging to patients. Some additional pitfalls include:

  1. Manual processes impede on quality provider – patient interactions
  2. Appointment scheduling is often managed over the phone vs. a few synchronous clicks
  3. Patients have limited access to their entire health records
  4. During a time of social distancing many non-urgent appointments continue to conducted in-person
  5. A lack of visibility across all caregivers and patients, which can decrease productivity and increase costs associated with providing care.

When telehealth went more mainstream last year, expectations in care and service and the demands of patient consumerism skyrocketed as did the need to meet workflow efficiency demands.

In order for healthcare providers to keep up and remain competitive, they must adapt to these new technologies while still maintaining the integrity of patient care.

While there has been some headway in implementing these technologies, the healthcare industry is still ripe for transformation. The adaptation of new technologies can enable organizations to improve care by bringing it closer to the patient. Success in a post-Covid world revolves around an organization’s ability to deliver a convenient, easy-to-use solution directly into the hands of the consumer. There is also the increased need for scalable digital tools, which help make the full patient experience as smooth as possible.

As healthcare providers seek new ways to better serve patients and improve the efficiency of their practices, it is important to look to solutions that:

  • Maximize time – Front office staff can spend less time coordinating appointments, answering calls, checking schedules, accessing records, etc. This means more efficient service and care.
  • Allow healthcare providers to deliver a more agile, connected, and tailored approach to patient care.
  • Reduce the spread – Virtual front desks decrease person-to-person contact, a trend that does not appear to be going anywhere since Covid-19 first hit in early 2020. On the patient side, there is a reduction in unnecessary office visits and faster access to healthcare providers through telehealth.
  • Offer remote patient monitoring – for improved visibility between patients, families, and providers. AI triggered alerts and notifications allow for faster response rates to customer inquiries, which in turn increases staff productivity and revenue.

How can organizations adapt, easily implement these new technologies, and quickly get up to speed?

Get rid of the technology stigmas

Most healthcare organizations that haven’t adapted newer, more efficient technologies are typically hesitant to let go of their old monolithic systems. There is often a distrust in more modern and agile ones. For these offices to keep up with the evolving market and consumer demands, they need to lose the stigma around more advanced technologies and begin implementing those that will ultimately improve their practice and quality of patient care.

There is also a need to update regulatory and public policy as it applies to new technologies that allow for improved healthcare quality, safety, and efficiency through the promotion of health IT, including electronic health records and private and secure electronic health information exchange.

Understand market trends and demands

According to Mercom Capital Group, digital health funding reached $21.6 billion in 2020, an increase of 103% compared to $10.6 billion in 2019. This is a clear indicator that the pandemic transformed how healthcare providers operate and rapidly accelerated the advancement of digital transformation.

In order to keep up with the growing market demands, organizations need to pivot into digitally advanced systems that can support their evolving business model, simplify workflows and processes, and more accurately identify and serve patients’ needs.

Bolster patient and staff engagement

Simply implementing telehealth and other technologies is not enough to get patients to use it and staff to acclimate to it. Management needs to ensure proper staff training and communication while implementing outward bound marketing and communication strategies on their website and social media platforms.

Understand the patient perspective on the value of a digital solution. Virtual care has become the ‘new normal’. Engaging patients before, during and after virtual visits assists in enhanced care follow-up and continuity.

Prepare to make the investment

One of the main reasons for sluggish adoption of virtual front desks and other new technologies is concern about the expense. The  pandemic hit the healthcare industry with an estimated $122 billion in lost revenue for U.S. hospitals in 2021. This could certainly make healthcare organizations anxious over the cost of implementing new technologies.

However, the cost of not implementing a virtual front desk, telehealth, and other advanced technologies could be even more significant. According to a report by Celerity, 64% of business leaders surveyed indicated their investments in technology have already led to gains in productivity. Switching to an electronic health records system can improve workflow and access to patient information. Automated self-service technologies such as chat bots remove the expense of supporting routine tier-1 support requests.

With all this in mind, healthcare organizations need to start re-thinking how healthcare transformation will not only involve new digital tools that will enhance customer service and improve the quality of patient care, but also the interconnected changes across the entire ecosystem.

Accepting and adapting to new technologies and systems such as virtual front desks and telehealth will help leaders pinpoint the opportunities for better care, reduced costs and a better overall patient experience. Adjusting to a new reality takes time, but those who leap ahead now and embrace the new world of healthcare stand to reap not just improved operational and financial outcomes, but will also be well positioned to provide enhanced patient care.

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