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Technology’s impact on the patient lifecycle

Cesar Fernandez, Director of Product Solutions, PMG

From digestible sensors and wearables to provider relationship software, it’s safe to say the goal behind the vast majority of today’s healthcare innovations is centered on improving the patient lifecycle. While inefficiencies run rampant in the day-to-day doctor-patient interaction, as an off-and-on patient myself, I’ve begun to experience the benefits of better patient care as a result of some of these new technologies and processes.

During my last trip to the doctor, for example, I noticed quite the transformation. For starters, my physician’s iPad accompanied him on this visit. He feverishly typed notes while we were talking and with one tap he sent dual notifications to my insurance company and pharmacist. Thanks to workflow automation technology operating behind the scenes, my prescription was set up instantly and earmarked for a home delivery the next day. To me, convenience is the epitome of satisfaction, so needless to say I was delighted.

Beyond improvements to my experience, you could tell the process had become much more streamlined for my physician as well. Rather than wasting time on the logistics behind patient care, the technology he utilized enabled him to spend more time focused on providing better care.

More and more physicians just like mine are investing in new tools in order to ensure they’re efficient, engaged and ultimately improving the patient’s experience. They’re not alone, insurance providers and pharmacies alike are also looking to out-of-the-box technologies to disrupt process inefficiencies and progress the patient lifecycle.

BPA is making the rounds

Business Process Automation (BPA) in particular has begun to play a much more integral role in enhancing essentially every facet of the patient lifecycle by enhancing visibility and accelerating action. Physician requests and revenue cycle management stand out in my mind as having been impacted the most by the introduction of BPA.

With the average cost of hospital bed days at $2,000 and climbing, automated alerts for readmission, inpatient criteria, and length of stay can keep costs and patient readmissions low. Furthermore, leveraging technology to automate physicians’ requests in real-time enables them to deliver better patient care, avoiding costs associated with errors or delays due to unfit tech.

We worked with a nationally recognized medical center, as an example, whose initial approach to facilitating equipment requests for its physicians was manual and very cumbersome to say the least. By adding an actionable service catalog with automated workflow capabilities, the company was able to provide its physicians with an intuitive tool – similar in nature to Amazon – to submit their requests for blood pressure gauges, stethoscopes, thermometers, etc. An easy-to-use form allowed physicians to select what tools they needed from a pre-populated list of options and input special information like timing requirements. Immediately after a request was submitted, a member of their service center received a notification with the order information and could begin the process of fulfilling the physicians’ need.

Case management and collaboration in the cloud

From insurance and pharmacies to healthcare providers and patients, the demand to monitor and execute activities in real-time, while also collaborating with a variety of parties, is growing by the minute. Cloud-based technology, in addition to automation, is another advancement bettering that aspect of the patient lifecycle.

Many physicians, in particular, are turning to their mobile devices to access data in the cloud, taking action on critical patient information and meeting the need to be more accessible. In fact, according to an infographic developed by Wolters Kluwer Health, 72 percent of physicians leverage their smartphones to access drug information. Sixty-three percent access medical research from their tablets. As a result of leveraging cloud-based enterprise resource planning (ERP) tools, these physicians are able to quickly and easily get greater insight into a patient’s medical history and proactively improve patient care anytime, anywhere.

Coupled with BPA, healthcare and insurance providers can establish a mutual series of automated checkpoints to review existing data on a patient and modify the patient’s medical plan as needed.

While cloud-based software and mobile devices have certainly helped to extend the availability of resources and information for healthcare providers and others throughout the patient lifecycle, the true lynchpin connecting the technology is its interoperability. Without it, data can’t be accessed and shared regardless of the application or applications’ vendor. When present within automated workflows in particular, full interoperability alleviates error-prone information transmissions and improves care coordination.

Forecasting the future of technology and the patient lifecycle

Looking ahead, automation and collaboration will still be prevalent throughout the patient lifecycle as physicians, insurance companies and pharmacies are beginning to prepare for more engaged patients. According to ICD Health Insights, 70 percent of healthcare organizations worldwide will invest in consumer-facing technology including apps, wearables, remote monitoring and virtual care by 2018.

All in all, healthcare providers that are taking their patient processes to the next level with automation and collaboration can stand out as leaders in their industry and leaders among patients.