Digital Health

Health Information and Technology and Its Impact on Digital Health

In the two decades that I have been involved in the healthcare technology space, I have seen it continuously change and evolve from the basic use of a computer for submitting claims to currently utilizing technology for every level of patient care. The impact of digital health has forever changed the HIT landscape and has brought us a long way from where we were.

Through the lens of digital healthcare, the basic priority areas for healthcare technology have remained constant. These include:

  • patient safety
  • partnering with patients
  • consumers and communities
  • providing quality care and value
  • supporting healthcare providers to provide safe and effective high-quality patient care

The utilization of digital healthcare tools helps improve outcomes by reducing unwarranted variations in care, preventable injury or harm to the patient and diagnostic errors. Furthermore, it improves treatment options, patient centricity and increases opportunities for quality of life improvement for patients as well healthcare providers.

Well-designed workflows are the backbone of how healthcare providers deliver effective patient care by utilizing various HIT modalities. On closer observation, it is difficult to separate HIT workflows (e.g., EMR systems) from digital workflows (e.g., technology devices) as they appear to be one in the same.

The following are several examples of how digital health workflows have been adopted seamlessly in HIT workflows: use of electronic patient portals, electronic patient reminders, information sharing, computerized provider order entry, clinical decision support (CDS), wearable digital health devices and use of social media in healthcare.

Electronic Patient Portals have had a significant impact on patients and their families by allowing them to be more involved in their own care and decision-making. Through secure logins, patients can have access to their personal information from anywhere in the world and easily connect with their healthcare team. Once logged in, patients can view a broad range of healthcare related information: physician visits, medications, immunizations, allergies, lab results, discharge summaries and other pertinent information in their medical record.

By navigating their patient portal, patients can

  • exchange secure emails with their providers
  • request prescription refills
  • schedule appointments for clinic visits or diagnostic workup
  • review coverage and benefits
  • update personal information
  • download forms
  • make payments
  • access educational materials

Automated Alerts and Reminders have become a valuable tool in patient care. Through use of automated reminders for appointments, tests, and medication, patients are more compliant and are having better adherence to their treatment plans.

Digital Information Sharing allows the sharing of patient charts and pertinent information electronically between healthcare teams. This dynamic accessibility of of information grants providers with a complete 360-degree view of the patient. As we move into the new value-based shared patient care models, several healthcare providers involved in patient care can coordinate efforts to provide integrated patient centered care by enhanced communication and patient data sharing.

Computerized Provider Order Entry (CPOE) is the digital technology used by clinicians to directly enter pharmacy, laboratory, radiology, and other orders into an EMR system via a computer, tablet or mobile device. These orders are then transmitted electronically to their respective departments such as the pharmacy service for execution. CPOE technology supports standardized, evidence-based, and legible orders. Through CDS, CPOE can improve quality and patient safety by reducing medication and other errors at multiple stages of the order management process.

Furthermore, CPOE helps physicians avoid duplicating orders and tests. Use of digital technology within HIT is the most critical component for safe decision-making process. Overall, CPOE single-handedly reduce errors and improves patient safety, efficiency and medical reimbursement.

CDS—when used in conjunction with EMR systems—matches patient-specific characteristics to a database and creates personalized predictions for assessing disease status, diagnosis, appropriate treatment options and other clinical decisions. CDS serves as a great tool that generates patient-specific reminders and alerts in the EMR/HIT systems. For example, if two patients appear very similar in diagnosis, CDS allow the creation of treatment plans that are custom tailored to best suit the individual patient rather than a generalized plan. Overall CDS helps reduce the use of ineffective patient plans and provides better healthcare outcomes.

Personal Wearable Devices recently have had an immense impact on HIT and in large how medicine is being practiced. Never before has medical data been more readily available nor offered this much insight into a patient’s health. The market is full of wearable technologies and each year more are being introduced. Implantable devices are being used to monitor vitals and glucose levels. Smartwatches are keeping track of breathing, detecting falls and alerting the user of abnormal heart rhythms. Fitness tracking equipment such as smart clothing and digital scales help patients focus on their personal health goals, alert providers of any change in their patient’s condition and provide detailed information of a patient’s wellbeing—all from the comfort of their own home.  

Social media has been taking a center stage as technology has been quickly evolving. The utilization of different platforms such as Facebook, Google, YouTube, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest have connected healthcare consumers and patients in many revolutionary ways. Patients tend to use social platforms to reach out for help, obtain better understanding of their disease or illness, communicate with other fellow patients and to access overall health and wellness related information.

The digital healthcare workflow revolution has significantly changed the way medicine is being practiced. I believe we have just started this amazing journey and that there are many new innovating technologies on the horizon. HIT is what originally brought us to the path of digital health. Any healthcare organization can provide significant benefit to their patients and healthcare providers alike by adopting and utilizing these numerous digital healthcare tools into their HIT workflow. It is quite clear the impact and transformation digital health technology has brought to patient care: better emphasis on healthier lifestyles, more comprehensive healthcare and transforming the cost as well as the quality of services.

The views and opinions expressed in this blog or by commenters are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of HIMSS or its affiliates.

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