What Patients Need: Does Technology Hold the Answer?

There is no better time for the health IT community to come together under one umbrella to raise national awareness of the benefits information technology can bring to the US health system. National Health IT (NHIT) Week is a nationwide awareness week focused on the value of health IT. Each year, NHIT Week Partners educate industry and policy stakeholders on the value of health IT for the US healthcare system. During NHIT Week, our valued partners will share their voice and experience on how they demonstrate the value of health IT.

There has been quite a bit of buzz in recent years about the concept of patient-centric care. But what do we actually mean? On top of providing superior service, an engaging and personal experience is key to success.

With healthcare largely based on a brick-and-mortar infrastructure, we built hospitals and expected our patients to come to us, becoming largely dependent on their doctor as their main source of information. Now, we increasingly provide care in a variety of settings, with more procedures moving to outpatient care. We use technology to support a more efficient experience and to empower consumers to take control of their own health, with access to more personalized information than ever before.

The goal of patient-centric care

The goal of patient-centric care is to combine clinical expertise, technology, design, and research to improve the overall care experience. This creates more streamlined operations and better patient outcomes.

The transformation to patient-centric care typically starts with a deep understanding of the patient population. From these insights, we can map the patient health journey and the associated clinical pathways for others with similar needs.

For a nurse or healthcare assistant with numerous patients under their care in lower acuity settings, assessments are typically done with spot-checks. Now, wearable biosensors can continuously gather respiratory rate, heart rate, body posture, and detect falls. This automates the process of collecting the patient's vital signs and feeding them into the system, freeing up time for care providers and offering actionable insights. Wearable technology helps the clinician identify deviations in a patient’s vital signs and supports both the patient experience and the quality of care.

The value of integrated care teams

I also believe in the value of integrated care teams that link primary care with behavioral specialists. A patient’s illness can be made up of myriad factors. Failure to consider emotional health could mean misdiagnosis and misaligned treatment of physical illness, leading to adverse outcomes for patients, and ultimately, wasted time and money.

Approximately one in every five adults has symptoms driven by life triggers each year – stress, anxiety, losing a loved one or relationship, and family issues. Unfortunately, our healthcare systems rarely give people timely access to the right level of care. Consumers have long wait times, care is expensive, and the overall experience is fragmented.

Digital technologies are disrupting the way we can help people with emotional and mental health issues. By tracking cell phone behavior, we can automatically detect subtle patterns, highlighting mental health triggers in conversations to identify when someone is symptomatic and deliver emotional and mental health support in the moment.

Some apps include instant, around-the-clock access to a multi-disciplinary care team to address different levels of patient needs. This enables seamless care for mental health, as expert teams are always with you, in your pocket.

The advantages of virtual care

Virtual care brings providers to locations where or when there is a lack of professionals. eICU telehealth programs can dramatically improve critical care with remote monitoring using audiovisual technology, predictive analytics, data visualization, and advanced reporting.

Research has shown that it helped save lives, as 26% fewer deaths occur with the use of this technology, and patients are discharged 15% faster. Above all, these reductions in costs allow clinicians to focus on vital caregiving and focusing their interventions where needed.

For too long, we have expected consumers to accept the way things have always been done. It’s up to us in the industry to harness technology and design to deliver a model of care that enhances the patient experience, improves outcomes and lowers costs. Now is the time to deliver truly patient-centric care.