You can’t click on a new health article nowadays without seeing how advances in technology are making improvements to healthcare. Physical records are being replaced with electronic health records using cloud-based apps and devices. Even professional caregivers use medical apps on in the workplace. 3-D printers can now create realistic models for making customized implants or planning surgery. Robots assist physical therapists and even surgeons with patients. Genes are being mapped to see how medications can be customized to maximize efficiency on an individual level. Even with all these advancements, however, it’s still possible to increase patient care using existing technology.
The Affordable Care act has had a profound effect on healthcare in this country. We are slowly moving away from a traditional provider model, where individual providers have their own care and billing practices, to a more integrated model where the costs are shared for the entire treatment.
With this progressive model, hospitals and their staff will become responsible for the cost and quality of care for the entire duration of a stay. For example, a hospital would not just be responsible for gallbladder surgery, but for pre-care and post-care as well. The entire process of caring for patients will be improved by reducing the many variables involved with how different providers coordinate and deliver their services.
Much of this variability happens during post-care when an individual leaves the doctor’s office or hospital. With literally hundreds of thousands of different providers, post-care is highly fragmented. The methods involved with maintaining post-care are also low tech, with very little incentive for providers to improve.
Database and Protocol Integration
Using existing information in smarter, more efficient ways can have a huge positive effect across a myriad of care settings, and help health care providers improve their performance and reduce the many variables that plague the industry. There are three main areas where being more efficient would have a big impact on the industry.
Analytics: This is the basic information about every patient’s medical history and needs. For example, answering the question, “do cellphones cause cancer,” involves bringing together data from every aspect of a patient’s life in order to eliminate variables and determine the likelihood of a cell phone being the sole source of cancer. Bringing this information all together in one massive database can vastly improve individual care by making it immediately available to every health care provider. Not only could it be information from the primary doctor, but even data from smartphone apps can be used in conjunction to build a better picture of an individual’s overall health.
Clinical Protocols: A protocol is a set of practices that the best options for care and minimize risk or harm. Right now protocols are written in broad strokes. The could be further developed to work with different sub-groups of patients based on different variables such as body type, history, lifestyle, etc. This would mean developing a comprehensive set of variables and grouping them together in different combinations to reflect more realistic guidelines that are not so broad and can be more easily applied to an individual.
Assessment and Workflow Management: These are the different ways that health care professionals become more efficient, without technology getting in the way. For example, electronic records are a progressive way to improve modern healthcare, but they don’t work in every setting. In a hospital, they’re great, but at the moment they’re rarely available anywhere else, such as the home.
It’s not just a patient database that needs to be implemented. Administration is the backbone of any hospital or doctor’s office, and administrative resources can take a huge chunk from any provider’s budget. However, there are simple ways to reduce these costs across the board.
Integration of different administrative systems would help a great deal when one provider deals with another, saving time and resources that could be better used elsewhere. A universal administrative system would save untold amounts of time in both training and interaction between providers.
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