At A Glance
- Healthcare technology has rapidly advanced, with tools like EHRs, telemedicine, and wearables redefining medical service delivery
- Best practices for technology adoption include assessing specific practice needs, prioritizing user-friendly solutions, involving the entire team, ensuring interoperability and scalability, and safeguarding patient data against potential cyber threats
- While technology offers numerous benefits, it’s essential to strike a balance, ensuring that technology enhances patient care without overcomplicating or burdening healthcare professionals
Most healthcare professionals learn to “treat the patient, not the monitor.” The phrase is likely derived from the Hippocratic Oath’s “I will remember that I do not treat a fever chart.” This old adage highlights the need to focus on the patient's clinical condition and conduct a thorough physical assessment over sole reliance on a monitor screen.
At the same time, healthcare technology has advanced rapidly, integrating more screens into decision-making processes. Practitioners can access a wealth of technology and tools to aid in diagnosis and treatment, communication, care delivery, administration, and much more.
Digital solutions, such as electronic health records (EHRs), telemedicine, and wearables, are redefining medical service delivery. They’ve improved patient care, accessibility, and efficiency. Patients can now access healthcare remotely through virtual consultations, remote monitoring, and health apps that empower them to take an active role in their well-being.
Artificial intelligence (AI) technologies are further transforming the industry. Machine learning and natural language processing can analyze extensive medical data for improved diagnosis, treatment, and predictive care. AI-powered tools can help identify diseases with greater accuracy, streamline administrative tasks, support personalized medicine, and advance population health management, creating an efficient, patient-centric, and data-driven healthcare ecosystem.
In management, digital technology has cut administrative tasks, minimized paperwork, and facilitated secure data exchange. This revolution continues to reshape the healthcare landscape, offering boundless possibilities for improved patient outcomes and a more patient-centered approach.
Yet the rapid pace of change and growing reliance on digital technology concerns some providers who worry that overreliance might actually harm patients.
This article explores the question, “How can you use technology to improve the quality of patient care?” and outlines some of the most important investments in technology you can make to improve workflows for your practice and outcomes for your patients.
Physician attitudes toward digital technology are changing
Physician attitudes toward the role of digital technology are changing rapidly. From 2016 to 2022, the American Medical Association (AMA) surveyed 1,300 physicians in 3 regular intervals to investigate their motivations and requirements for integrating digital health tools into their practices. The findings identify important adoption trends among physicians:
- More physicians are embracing digital solutions. The percentage of physicians who believe digital health tools are beneficial for patient care grew from 85% in 2016 to 93% in 2022. These increases were measured irrespective of age or specialty.
- Adoption of digital tools has increased among all physicians, regardless of gender, specialty, or age.
- The average number of digital health tools used by physicians grew from 2.2 in 2016 to 3.8 in 2022.
- Improved clinical outcomes and work efficiency are the top factors to influence physician interest in digital health tools.
- Stress reduction and burnout prevention are also key drivers of digital tool adoption.
- Liability coverage is the top requirement for physician adoption of digital health tools, followed by EHR integration and data privacy.
- Digital health tools that support remote care gained the most support among physicians. The percentage of physicians who use telemedicine platforms grew from 14% in 2016 to 80% in 2022, while the percentage of physicians who use remote monitoring devices grew from 12% in 2016 to 30% in 2022.
- 2 in 5 physicians plan to adopt augmented intelligence in the next year, yet only 1 in 5 physicians are using augmented intelligence in their practice currently.
“More physicians are embracing digital solutions. The percentage of physicians who believe digital health tools are beneficial for patient care grew from 85% in 2016 to 93% in 2022. ”
Overall, the data is clear: digital transformation is sweeping healthcare. So if digital technology is here to stay and will play an increasingly large role in patient care in the future, how can you, as a provider, ensure that the technology you adopt for your practice really does improve the quality of care for your patients?
Adopt a patient-centered approach to healthcare technology
The best way to ensure that the healthcare technology your practice uses serves the needs of your patients is to adopt a patient-centered approach.
A patient-centered approach to healthcare technology emphasizes individual needs, preferences, and well-being in implementation. This strategy tailors tools to meet the unique challenges of each patient and creates a more personalized and empathetic experience.
This approach involves patients in their healthcare decisions, and empowers them to actively participate in their treatment plans and collaborate with healthcare providers. By enhancing communication, accessibility, and engagement, it lets patients take an active role in health management and decision-making. Instead of relying on general online information, it provides the tools to obtain personalized details about their care.
Essential patient care technology for your medical practice
The following healthcare technology solutions are important components in a adopting a patient-centered approach for your practice:
Electronic health records (EHR)
The EHR system you select serves as the bedrock of your practice. A good EHR should streamline workflows, make information easily accessible to all members of your team, reduce paperwork, and ultimately lead to more efficient patient care and practice management.
To improve patient care, the EHR you select should provide a centralized and comprehensive view of a patient's entire medical history, including past diagnoses, medications, allergies, lab results, and imaging reports. Having all this information readily available and accessible will help your team make more informed and timely decisions, leading to better diagnoses and treatment plans.
Your EHR should also facilitate seamless communication and information exchange among all the members of your patients’ care team. Investing in a system with this enhanced coordination is key to preventing medical errors, duplications of tests, and conflicting treatments, and results in more effective care and better outcomes for your patient.
Inquire about EHR interoperability when choosing an EHR for your medical practice. EHR interoperability means that the system will be able to exchange and use data in a coordinated way across different organizations and boundaries. Not all EHRs have this feature.
Many EHRs are also designed to relieve some of the burden placed on healthcare providers. These platforms offer advanced functionality such as clinical decision support tools that provide alerts, reminders, and evidence-based guidelines to assist in making optimal treatment decisions. These tools can alert you and your clinical team to potential drug interactions, best practices for specific conditions, and preventive care measures that improve both the safety and efficacy of your care.
Some EHR platforms integrate with remote patient monitoring devices, allowing healthcare providers to track patients' vital signs and health metrics in real time. This constant monitoring enables early detection of changes in a patient's condition, enabling timely interventions and reducing the risk of complications.
Many EHR platforms include a patient portal component that facilitates secure communication between patients and healthcare teams. A portal empowers patients to participate in their healthcare journey, boosting engagement while reducing the administrative burden on staff.
Encourage your patients to use the portal by highlighting the benefits, including:
- Improved communication: A portal provides a secure and convenient channel for messaging between patients and providers. Patients can ask questions directly, request prescription refills, and clarify treatment plans. Removing the middleperson leads to better communication and more informed decisions.
- Efficient appointment management: Patients can schedule and manage appointments online, saving time and work for patients and staff. This minimizes wait times and allows patients to schedule appointments at any hour.
- Access to health information: A portal grants access to vital health information, including diagnoses, medications, and immunizations. This can expedite school, daycare, or camp enrollment; facilitate transfers of care, and keep patients up to date on their health status and treatment plan.
- Better care coordination: Seamless data sharing among different healthcare providers ensures better coordination of care and fewer medical errors.
- Secure data exchange: With data security and privacy and robust authentication, portals facilitate confident data sharing between patients and healthcare professionals.
- Proactive preventative care: Healthcare providers can send automated reminders for screenings, vaccinations, and follow-ups. This approach helps patients stay on track with their preventive care and can improve health outcomes.
- Increased patient satisfaction: By providing patients with greater control over their healthcare information and enabling convenient communication with their providers, patient portals boost satisfaction and a positive healthcare experience.
Telemedicine has revolutionized patient care by breaking down geographical barriers and connecting patients with healthcare services they might not otherwise be able to access.
These platforms provide convenient and safe access to medical expertise, especially for patients who reside in rural or underserved areas, as well as those with physical disabilities, sensory impairments, or who are immunocompromised. Patients can connect with specialists located in other parts of the country from their homes, saving travel time and costs.
Telemedicine also facilitates better continuity of care, allowing for follow-up consultations, medication management, and monitoring of chronic conditions without the need for frequent in-person visits. By promoting accessibility, continuity, and patient involvement, telemedicine platforms significantly improve patient care and overall health outcomes.
Practice management solution
Practice management software is a comprehensive digital tool that streamlines and optimizes many routine administrative tasks and processes within a healthcare practice, such as:
- Patient registration and check-in
- Staff scheduling and other HR functions
- Billing and claims processing
- Inventory management
- Reporting and analytics
From simplifying billing to providing valuable insights into performance, financials, and inventory, a good practice management solution can optimize efficiency and help your team identify areas for improvement. Efficiently managing appointments, billing, and patient information also contributes to a more seamless patient experience, leading to higher patient satisfaction and retention.
Remote patient monitoring devices
The rapid expansion of the Internet of Things (IoT) for healthcare has led to tremendous developments in the number and type of remote patient monitoring devices available. These devices are increasingly small and reliable, allowing healthcare providers to track patients' vital signs and health metrics remotely. In addition to better continuous monitoring and proactive intervention, remote patient monitoring technology enables providers to:
- Monitor patients continuously, enabling early detection of changes in health metrics and timely intervention to prevent complications
- Manage chronic conditions with real-time data on patients' health status and adherence to treatment plans
- Reduce hospital readmission rates by enabling remote monitoring and prompt intervention when health indicators are outside the normal range
- Encourage patients to take an active role in their healthcare by providing them with access to their health data and promoting self-management of their conditions
- Facilitate better communication between patients and healthcare providers, leading to improved care coordination and patient outcomes
- Lower costs for health systems by reducing the need for frequent hospital visits and preventing complications that might result in costly treatments
Health information exchange (HIE)
A HIE is a secure electronic system that allows healthcare organizations and providers, such as hospitals, clinics, laboratories, and pharmacies, to exchange information. Its primary purpose is to enable sharing of patient health information, including medical records, test results, medication history, and treatment plans, in a standardized and secure manner.
Interoperability is an important feature, and some medical practices will purposely choose a system that communicates with their EHR. The Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society, Inc. (HIMSS) defines 4 levels of healthcare interoperability:
1. Foundational establishes inter-connectivity requirements from one system to another
2. Structural defines the format, syntax, and organization of data exchange
3. Semantic provides for common underlying models and data codification
4. Organizational includes governance, policy, social, legal, and organizational considerations
This interoperability enables healthcare professionals to access critical patient data whenever needed, regardless of where the patient receives care. This has several important benefits:
Continuity of care
HIEs grant healthcare providers access to comprehensive and up-to-date patient data, regardless of location or previous healthcare facility visits. This means that a physician in California can see the treatment a patient received in Alabama. Continuity of care enables informed decisions that lead to more effective care.
Reduced medical errors
Access to complete and accurate patient data through an HIE reduces medical errors caused by incomplete or outdated information. A comprehensive view of a patient's health history, medication allergies, and existing conditions can prevent adverse drug interactions and mitigate the negative impact of polypharmacy.
Timely and efficient patient care
HIEs enable real-time data exchange, allowing healthcare professionals to access crucial patient information quickly. This can be critical in emergency situations, when making time-sensitive treatment decisions, or for treating patients who are traveling.
Elimination of duplicate testing
HIEs can prevent unnecessary repetition of medical tests or procedures by providing a patient's recent test results. This saves time and resources and avoids subjecting patients to redundant discomfort or radiation exposure.
Public health benefits
HIEs can provide aggregated and de-identified health data for research, surveillance, and epidemiological studies. This data can help identify trends, monitor disease outbreaks, and inform public health strategies.
Selecting patient care technology for your practice
When deciding what technology to use at your medical practice, consider several factors to ensure successful implementation and integration.
Here are 5 best practices to follow:
1. Assess your practice’s specific needs
Start by assessing your practice's specific needs and challenges. Identify workflows that can be improved or streamlined, such as patient care, practice management, procurement and supply chain management, patient communications, and IT and data security.
Unless you have the budget to address all your needs at once, rank your wishlist from most to least urgent. This process will help you make strategic investments that align with your practice's business goals and deliver a greater return.
Once you’ve identified the technology investments you’d like to make, and the order in which you will make them, consult with your current vendors to find out if you can increase the functionality of any of your existing solutions. It’s important to remember that any technology investment you make will come with ongoing maintenance costs, so factor that into your planning.
2. Prioritize user-friendly solutions
Implementing new healthcare technologies can be a big investment, so it's important to select user-friendly and intuitive solutions on which you then train all staff. Complicated or difficult-to-use systems can lead to resistance from staff, a drop in productivity, and incomplete or inaccurate charting, reporting, or billing. Always ask vendors for a thorough demo or trial to assess how well the technology integrates into your existing workflow and how easily your team can adapt to it.
3. Involve your team
When you consider new technology, it’s essential to involve all relevant stakeholders, including other physicians, nurses, medical assistants, administrative staff, and IT professionals, in the decision-making process. Each group will likely have different perspectives, requirements, and priorities. Involving them from the outset will ensure that the technology selected meets the diverse needs of your team and garners better acceptance and support during implementation.
4. Consider interoperability and scalability
Make sure that all new solutions can seamlessly integrate with your existing systems, including your EHR. Interoperability allows for smooth data exchange and improves efficiency. Additionally, make sure that the solution will be able to grow with your practice, particularly if you plan to open multiple locations.
5. Prioritize protecting patient health data
Finally, make sure that any technology that you’re considering meets security and compliance standards.
The Department of Health and Human Services published a report in early 2023 on key healthcare cybersecurity trends and incidents that contains some troubling statistics:
- Ransomware attacks targeting healthcare delivery organizations doubled from 2016 to 2021
- Healthcare data breaches have consistently trended upward from 2012 to 2021, doubling in number in the past 3 years
- 66% of healthcare organizations surveyed by Sophos were hit by ransomware in 2021
- 61% of organizations paid the ransom to get encrypted data back
Independent providers often lack the technical expertise and support available to healthcare systems with dedicated IT teams, so the recent uptick in cyberattacks targeting healthcare organizations underscores the need for robust data security. Before adopting any technology solution, work with an IT expert to verify that it complies with the highest industry standards and regulations, such as National Institute for Standards and Technology (NIST) cybersecurity frameworks, Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), and the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act.
It’s also important to conduct security audits and risk assessments on existing technology to ensure it adequately protects sensitive patient information. The out-of-pocket cost to work with IT experts might seem high, but it will certainly be less than the price you will pay in the event of a data breach.
By following these best practices, your private practice can make well-informed decisions about adopting technology that aligns with your specific needs, enhances patient care and practice management, promotes efficiency and productivity, and safeguards patient data.
Find the right balance with patient care technology
Finally, remember that using technology to improve patient experiences and outcomes should not come at the expense of your own health. Any technology that you adopt at your practice should lessen your workload and alleviate symptoms of burnout — not exacerbate them.
Approach technology for your practice strategically. Rather than adopting technology for its own sake because it's trendy or available, assess how it can address specific pain points, improve efficiency, and enhance patient outcomes. It should serve a genuine purpose and add value to your patient care and practice management. It should integrate thoughtfully into your existing workflows. And above all, it should not make your job or the jobs of your team more difficult or time consuming.
By using technology purposefully and judiciously, healthcare professionals can optimize its potential and ensure that it enhances, rather than complicates, your daily operations and, most importantly, positively impacts patient well-being.
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