By Romy Ricfort
From the waiting room to the operating room — and now, sometimes even in the living room — technology plays a central part of every stage of patient care. The role technology plays in healthcare and the factors driving innovation, however, are evolving.
While healthcare organizations have historically prioritized outcomes over experiences, patients are increasingly taking a consumer-focused approach to their care. As a result, the shift to patients-as-a-customer is having a significant impact on the industry — and the technology that surrounds it.
Estimates show that active patient choices can impact more than 60 percent of healthcare spending. Healthcare organizations — and their IT executives — are taking notice and prioritizing technology spend for technology that optimizes the patient experience.
Patients Want Choice
While healthcare plans once made it difficult for unhappy patients to switch providers, today it is much easier to do so. At the same time, as patients become more digital-centric and self-reliant, they have a growing sense of empowerment regarding their healthcare experience.
Now, healthcare providers are offering several alternatives to the in-office care — many of which go beyond the four walls of the hospital. The current pandemic has only accelerated the adoption of telemedicine. Patients are opting to perform visits, including sick, well and mental health checks through telecommunications technologies, including phone and video chat.
Patients Want Convenience
Today’s healthcare providers are not just looking for technology to help ensure their patients feel well, but also that they are treated well. This includes making sure visits occur on-time, simplifying appointment-setting and billing, and creating personal and engaging interactions, whether with a receptionist, nurse, lab technician, doctor or billing specialist.
While technologies like online bill pay and scheduling, have already been adopted by many healthcare facilities, tools that streamline tasks for the patient, including prescription refills or accessing test results are increasing in demand.
Newer technologies, such as AI-enabled chatbots provide a faster route to healthcare and ultimately supports patients and caregivers alike. Healthcare providers are using chatbots to answer simple questions — such as location information or hours — to sharing information on prescriptions or lab results. Additionally, when connected with an electronic health record (EHR) system, chatbots also can provide personalized interactions and be proactive in helping patients manage their continuum of care.
Patients Want Power
Patients are taking control of their own health by adopting wearable devices. These devices are able to keep track of user-health data such as blood pressure and heart rate which provides patients with data they need to better understand their overall health — and to know when they need to visit their doctor for treatment of any ongoing medical condition.
Furthermore, patients are turning to apps that better connect them with their healthcare providers and their own healthcare data, such as the ability to view their lab results online or make appointments to visit their physician.
There are also a plethora of “doctor on-demand” apps that provide advice from medical practitioners and some also include the ability to communicate with physicians or other healthcare providers to discuss symptoms and determine whether the user should seek care at a hospital or urgent care center. Many of these health-related apps enable patients to bypass going to the doctor altogether.
Connectivity’s Role in Improving the Patient Experience
To fully reap the benefits of technology, healthcare organizations — from hospitals to doctor’s offices to insurance providers — need sufficient bandwidth and smart, software-defined architecture to move data quickly and securely. A slow or inefficient network can lead to a poor experience and low satisfaction, which can be detrimental to a healthcare provider’s reputation and, ultimately, its bottom line.
The support of technology in healthcare will continue to shift, as will the patient and consumers demands for convenience and personalization. As more health organizations recognize the importance of the patient-as-customer experience, the providers that adopt a technology-forward approach will be best positioned to be the picture of perfect health — and experience.
Romy Ricfort is Senior Director, Sales Engineering at Comcast Business.