The days of filing cabinets and metal shelving filled with paper medical records will soon be a thing of the past. With subsidies from the Federal Government totaling $19 billion, hospitals are improving their operations in profound ways, incorporating Information Technology as a staple of administration and care. From patient communications to top-down records systems to better asset management, hospitals are seizing the reigns and making a positive difference in their budgets and their service.
Paper bills and missed appointments pose a challenge for care provider and patient alike. The endless headaches that can arise from archaic administrative systems can lead to financial loss, inefficient personnel usage, and poor customer perception. This arena of external communications may represent only the beginning of health-IT’s potential, but the efforts utilized are streamlining billing and patient access to important information.
The Cleveland Clinic in particular offers an exemplary demonstration of what innovative new IT technologies can achieve. Their comprehensive iPad app not only makes relevant health news and developments available to patients, it also provides access to MyAccount, the clinic’s online bill-pay system. In addition to facilitating essential communication between patients and hospitals, the piece works as excellent PR, distributing content marketing in the form of health quizzes and other awareness tools. This outward-facing effort combines the considerations of both busy doctors and busy patients and finds a solution that both can agree on.
The trust placed in hospitals manifests in multiple contexts. Patients trust their health and, literally, their lives to doctors. But upon exiting the hospital, they trust their medical records and private information to the systems of the facility. With cyber criminals taking advantage of security flaws to personal profit, hospitals are building their own barriers to data theft by employing security solutions and IT expertise. With the digitization of medical records comes an inherent threat to privacy, but savvy hospitals are identifying this as a crucial aspect of their IT operations and protecting their patients in the process.
The capability of computer systems to communicate with one another in order to streamline systems has not escaped the notice of health professionals. Database Administrators and Systems Analysts alike are seeing more opportunities in job listings, but the solutions being deployed extend beyond simple networking. Hospitals understanding the importance of customer service in the evolving marketplace are changing the playbook entirely.
Enter Puyallup Medical Center in Puyallup, Washington. Through a joint effort with technology firm Group Health, the institution is changing the way that patient care is administered. Through usage of real-time location systems (RTLS) via badges attached to patients, care is being brought to those in need instead of the other way around. At any time, those administering care can access patient histories, conduct consultations with other wings of the hospital, and access administrative support staff. The end-goal, as stated by the organization, is to perform the entire primary care visit in a single room, face-to-face.
The hospital plays a curious dual role, providing an essential and oftentimes life-changing service, and functioning as a business that must maintain profitability. In this way, inclusion of IT technologies represents a win-win for patient and organization. The primary vehicle for this benefit is the fact that all functions administered through IT infrastructure can be tracked, analyzed, and optimized.
Puyallup’s example represents a groundbreaking vision for integration, but tracking of patient care and asset usage lie at its core. Consultations, prescriptions, test results, dates of care, and myriad other metrics can be used to better offer health recommendations and improve patient service. The equipment, personnel, and resources used to administer this care can be tracked and analyzed in order to maximize efficiency and improve profitability. The combination offers the best of both worlds, and is achieved through a single system; the definition of efficiency.
While mentioned multiple times in the previous paragraphs, it bears repeating that the heart of the IT revolution in health care is service. A new era of customer expectations has driven the understanding that those who value volume before service will fail to retain profitability. Greater connectivity between critical personnel and systems will surely improve hospital operations, but patient care is where the rubber meets the road, and the aforementioned examples, alongside countless others embracing the change, are reshaping the way we administer and receive medical treatment for the better.
Through innovative patient care and integrated data efforts, savvy hospitals are changing the face of health care. More efficient access between patients and hospitals are reducing loss in the billing and booking process. Integrated systems are improving primary care and keeping patients safe. Finally, tracking technologies designed to keep tabs on asset management and health records are enhancing and re-defining service in exciting new ways. It’s difficult to say what new horizons health-IT will see before the revolution reaches its apex, but suffice to say that those with the technical know-how needed to administer the change are in for a decidedly enjoyable ride.