Doctors and physicians know informed patients are engaged patients. But with vast amounts of healthcare data generated not only by patient-provider encounters but also by personal devices, wellness apps, and other external sources.
Under structures like HIPAA in the U.S., the Data Protection Act 2018 in the U.K., and the EU’s European Health Data Space, patients in many countries have the right to easily access their own health records. Ready access to personal health information increases patient satisfaction and empowers them to actively participate in their own care.
Data accessibility and security improve patients’ perceptions of their healthcare experience. Seventy-four percent of American patients indicated that better access to their healthcare information is a priority, while 77% reported they prioritized the security of their data.
Personal health information can be a powerful tool for delivering patient-centered care, reducing treatment costs, and improving doctor-patient communications, but it’s often fragmented across systems. Integrating records and collaboration technology enables healthcare providers to securely share and update patient records in real-time, facilitating coordinated care and leading to improved health outcomes and higher patient satisfaction.
The Modern Healthcare Data Landscape
The pandemic accelerated the digital transformation of the medical industry and has permanently altered the way we approach healthcare. There’s a wealth of clinical information available to help doctors and patients make informed, data-driven decisions about treatment.
- Electronic health records (EHRs): Digital versions of patients’ medical records, EHRs include information such as medical history, diagnoses, medications, laboratory results, and imaging studies. They’re stored in secure databases called EHR systems and are accessible to authorized healthcare providers. Patients typically access these records through virtual patient portals or by requesting them from their providers.
- Health insurance claims: Transmitted between the patient’s healthcare and insurance providers, insurance claims include data about medical procedures, services, and medications. This information is used for reimbursement purposes and is stored by insurance companies and healthcare providers.
- Public health surveillance data: Government agencies, such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), collect and store public health surveillance data to monitor the occurrence and spread of diseases in populations. This includes data collected through disease registries, notifiable disease reporting systems, and other public health surveillance systems.
- Health surveys: Governments, academic institutions, and private organizations conduct surveys to collect information about individuals’ health status, behaviors, and attitudes. This data may be used for research purposes and published publicly.
- Wearable devices and health apps: Increasingly common for personal use and remote monitoring, wearable devices and apps collect data about individuals’ health and fitness, such as heart rate, activity levels, and sleep patterns. This data is typically stored on the device or in the cloud and can be accessed by the user and authorized healthcare providers.
The Benefits of Accessible Data for Patients and Providers
The rise of patient-centered care emphasizes the importance of data accessibility for developing personalized treatments and improving long-term health outcomes. Doctors and patients alike benefit from improved access to medical records.
Patients who have access to their health records are more engaged in their own care. The ability to review their medical history, lab results, and medication lists enables them to better understand their health and make informed decisions about their treatment.
Integrated, accessible record systems allow patients to easily share their medical history and test results with other healthcare providers. This can help prevent medical errors, reduce duplicate testing, and improve coordination of care among specialists.
Communication between patients and providers is enhanced by data accessibility. Patients can review their medical history and prepare questions for their healthcare provider, facilitating more productive, engaging conversations about their well-being and care.
Patients with access to their records can also monitor their history for any inconsistencies or safety issues. For example, a patient might review their list of medications and notice a discrepancy in dosage, alerting the prescriber before it’s sent to the pharmacy.
Access to their personal medical information empowers patients to feel more in control of their health and more satisfied with the care they receive. It allows them to make informed decisions and work together with their providers to develop personalized treatments that work for them.
Improving Healthcare Data Accessibility with Unified Communications
Unified communications and collaboration (UCC) solutions tailored for the healthcare industry enable providers to increase operational efficiency and create positive patient experiences.
Implementing UCC in a healthcare setting increases patient engagement with:
- Access to records anywhere, from any device. Reach patients wherever they are, on whatever device they choose, with omnichannel UCC. Elderly patients may prefer to speak with their caregivers over the phone, while remote monitoring devices send vital updates to their doctors via the cloud. Telehealth, including video visits and virtual chats, is a critical way for doctors to reach homebound patients.
- Secure messaging and document sharing. The security of private information is of utmost concern to patients and providers when sending messages about health conditions or uploading medical records. All UCC solutions and integrated systems should comply with security, privacy, and anti-fraud measures to reduce risk to patient data.
- Real-time updates and communications. Providers can securely communicate with patients and other care team members, enabling them to collaborate more effectively and efficiently. Additional features like click-to-chat and click-to-call capabilities within patient portals make it easy for patients to connect with their caregivers when they need more help.
- API and third-party integrations. Create a custom patient portal by connecting your existing healthcare systems to your UCC with easy-to-use APIs. Clinicians can easily access and update patient information during visits or calls, improving the accuracy and timeliness of information. Meanwhile, patients have unrestricted access to their EHRs, including lab results, medication lists, and appointment schedules.
- Optimized, personalized responses using AI analytics. Improve outcomes and make patient communications more effective by using AI analytics to gather information on engagement. With insights into patient history and current needs, healthcare providers can triage and prioritize patients, send automated reminders about appointments or medications, and track recovery.
Healthcare data is growing exponentially. Now is the time for providers to embrace emerging technologies that can improve patient experiences through efficient and automated communications services.
Patient access to information is not only a human right but has a measurable impact on treatment outcomes.
Ryan McManus is General Manager, Healthcare at Mitel.