At a recent doctor’s appointment, I found myself in an uncomfortable situation, one that will probably seem familiar to you.
Before my appointment, I filled out a bunch of paperwork online—but when I arrived, there were still more forms to complete. Although the check-in process is typically annoying at best, this extra hassle during a pandemic made things even worse.
The care I received was great. But the administrative experience—which included using a communal pen and clipboard, and standing in the waiting room to keep my distance from others—was clunky and stressful. On the way home, I found myself searching online for a new (and more modern) provider.
It’s been said that your best experience anywhere inevitably becomes your baseline expectation everywhere. Didn’t Amazon change how you shop online forever? Likewise, healthcare has had to adapt and deliver consumer-friendly experiences that mimic those in patients’ daily lives.
The need for transformation in digital health has only been accelerated by COVID-19, with people seeking virtual care to avoid exposure, or even delaying care and cancelling appointments—which can increase morbidity rates for chronic and acute health conditions.
If consumers can order grocery deliveries with the touch of a button, why can’t it be as simple and convenient for patients to engage with healthcare providers at a time and place that’s most convenient for them? Why can’t we deliver a patient-centric experience by meeting them where they are?
Leading retail companies have set the bar so high that exceptional end-to-end digital experiences are now just table stakes. Patients are consumers, after all, and consumers increasingly expect an end-to-end journey that’s cohesive, seamless, and safe. They deserve a connected experience that better meets their needs. So, how can providers exceed patient expectations in the new normal and beyond?
According to Cedar’s second-annual Healthcare Consumer Experience Study, conducted by Forrester Consulting, the future of healthcare must be transparent, touchless, and personalized. It’s that simple. Sixty-eight percent of study respondents emphasized the importance of having a customized experience with their healthcare provider—how they communicate, pay, and so on—not unlike how Chipotle remembers that you like extra guacamole with your burrito bowl when you order through its app.
In fact, nearly half the respondents wished that the digital healthcare experience was smoother and more intuitive, similar to experiences with Amazon, Netflix, or Uber. Companies offering best-in-class digital experiences have become the yardstick against which all other companies are measured—and healthcare is no exception.
Imagine if connecting with your provider was as easy as queuing up your next binge-watching session: an app could navigate you through scheduling an appointment, completing check-in forms, and pre-paying your copay, all within minutes. Imagine having an outstanding patient experience before you even walk into a doctor’s office.
Drug-related problems (DRPs) are an “unspoken pandemic.” Serious DRPs are directly responsible for 6-10% of hospitalizations. About 25% of the population will suffer from at least one serious DRP during their lifetime, ending up with severe morbidity, hospitalization, or even mortality.
Although DRPs are often associated with the elderly population and the concomitant use of several medications, DRPs can occur while taking a single medication at any age.
Typically, medications are prescribed for specific indications with the benefit substantially outweighing the risk associated with the treatment. This risk-benefit ratio can be altered by several factors including the following:
(1) Patient-drug interactions – Some people can suffer serious and even fatal reactions to their medications due to individual vulnerability to develop serious adverse effects or lack of drug efficacy. The patient-specific factors that govern such outcomes include diet, genetic profile, smoking status, lab results, and concurrent disease states, among others.
(2) Drug-drug interactions – When patients are exposed to more than one drug, an interaction between the drugs may occur and can often be very serious. A common example is where one medication substantially increases or decreases the concentration of another medication in the body. Combinations of drugs can also lead to an increased toxic effect (e.g., hypotension, hypoglycemia, hyperkalemia), a synergistic harmful effect of medications on various body organs/functions (e.g., blood pressure, cardiac rhythm, bone marrow suppression, cognitive functions) and/or reduce the therapeutic effect of one or both drugs.
The emergence of serious DRPs in patients is often linked to the lack of appropriate alerting of clinicians to the potential risks. With the large number of drug therapies available, healthcare providers need assistance to assess potential DRPs and relevant management options.
The biopharmaceutical industry is consistently on the cutting edge of the future, not only for healthcare but for innovative technologies and transformations across multiple industries.
Companies such as Wuxi Biologics, AbbVie, and Patheon have all evolved as front-runner CDMOs in an effort to bring new and transformative innovations to the pharmaceutical industry.
But perhaps no single company has made more of an impact over the last year than Samsung Biologics, which is poised to grow into its role as the leading biopharmaceutical company in the world. Here’s why.
The Decade Ahead
While Samsung Biologics has long been known primarily as a CDMO, a recent address by the company’s new CEO, John Rim, gave strong signals about the company’s future.
“We will look beyond the next decade and evolve as the global top-tier biopharmaceutical company by securing future growth engines with continued investment and expansion in capacity, portfolio, and global footprint,” he said.
This statement came on the back of multiple announcements from Samsung Biologics relating to expansion, including explosive growth in revenue, the construction of plant 4, a new CDO R&D center in San Francisco, and much more.
Explosive Revenue Growth
One marker of Samsung Biologics’ continued growth as a CDMO is their recently released earnings report from 2020, which saw it increase revenue by 463.2 billion Korean won for a total annual revenue of more than 1 trillion won.
In the fourth quarter of 2020, the company scored their highest single quarterly sales record ever, boosting sales 36.7% in just one quarter.
One of the most newsworthy aspects of Samsung Biologics’ growth in recent months has been the way the company has adapted to a quickly shifting landscape due to the COVID-19 pandemic, including adapting its global supply chain and finding ways to stay engaged virtually through investments in new digital platforms. All in all, their new contracts for 2020 were 2.5 times higher than in 2019.
Elderly, lower income and rural individuals frequently lack easy access to mental health services where they live, but technological advances and the burgeoning field of telemental health hold out the promise of bringing these services to them.
Telemental health provides its own set of challenges for mental health professionals. But there are currently few opportunities for these professionals to obtain relevant training in how to address those challenges, as well as applied training in telemental health best practices.
A new online graduate certificate program from Purdue University represents a leap forward in addressing that training deficit, as well as enabling professionals in the field to enhance their careers or practices.
“This program doesn’t really exist anywhere else,” said Kelly LeMaire, assistant director of the Purdue Psychology Treatment and Research Clinics and a clinical assistant professor and licensed psychologist.
“We have a whole class that’s entirely focused on that area,” said Rachel Ploskonka, director of the Purdue Counseling and Guidance Center, a clinical faculty member for Purdue’s counseling psychology doctoral program and also a licensed psychologist. “We’re definitely more comprehensive.”
“If not done well, we are seeing that telehealth offerings can actually amplify disparities,” said Bridgette Kelleher, associate professor of psychological sciences. “It’s really important that we are building telehealth services in a way that addresses the specific needs of diverse communities, particularly those with lower technology literacy, historic experiences of discrimination, or challenges related to access.”
To complete the Telemental Health Counseling Graduate Certificate, students will take four online courses encompassing 12 credits:
The financial implications of the COVID-19 pandemic are generally considered to be secondary to the health crisis, but there’s more overlap between them than you might think. A viewpoint published in the Journal of the American Medical Association cites the challenge of running a financially solvent hospital in the face of staffing shortages, overwhelming demand, and a pause in the outpatient and elective procedures that often make up the bulk of a hospital’s revenue.
While the situation looked dire when the article was published in May 2020, the health crisis across most of the country has only intensified. For health systems themselves to survive the pandemic, they’ll need to take a hard look at revenue cycle management best practices and implement new efficiencies whenever possible.
A proven way to inject much-needed efficiency is to rely on technologies such as artificial intelligence to automate tedious manual processes and improve the speed and accuracy of humans as they perform complicated tasks. One of those complex areas is clinical documentation.
Clinical documentation has always been a bit of a black box, with every provider documenting patients’ clinical issues differently and using shorthand that only they understand. This information is critically important, but it’s all stored in the form of unstructured data, and 56% of healthcare professionals believe it’s obstructing clinical workflow optimization.
Now that almost all clinical documentation lives in an electronic health record, the goal of standardization is pushing facilities to evaluate the documentation that accompanies each encounter. Payers are adding to the pressure, denying reimbursement to providers that fail to adequately prove the necessity of services. New payment models that incorporate risk scoring have also made it critical for providers to document underlying issues during visits, creating an additional layer of complexity — and an additional opportunity for solutions that can facilitate the process.
By Sachin Kalra, vice president of customer success, healthcare, Infostretch.
Are people who use health services patients, or are they health consumers? The reality is that in a world where consumer services can be accessed at the push of a button, our expectations about healthcare have changed. How a healthcare company engages with its patients has increasingly become an indicator of how well they are driving communication, service and value for their consumers.
The “Amazon Prime” mindset might at first seem at odds with traditional health systems, which are often bureaucratic, slow and costly. However, the consumerization trend can be an opportunity for better engagement and competitive differentiation.
If there is one thing health companies have a lot of, it’s data. Learning how to leverage and analyze data better could hold the key to unlocking greater value for consumers in terms of improved outcomes and engagement, but also in terms of operational efficiencies. For many organizations, however, pivoting their systems to deliver patient-centric care means they will need to improve the way they leverage digital technologies.
Prioritizing patient experience (PX)
Great customer experience often involves condensing a hugely complex system into a few simple steps that allow consumers to get where they need to be quickly and intuitively. In healthcare, the array of options is huge, involving a wide range of patient requests, potential ailments and resulting treatments. Getting it wrong can have serious, negative health consequences. On the other hand, getting it right enables patients to access treatment faster, resolve health issues more quickly and be better informed along the way. Intelligent triage and smart scheduling are just two ways that health companies can improve how they engage with their patients.
There’s been a spike in ERs using intelligent triage, accelerated by the pandemic, but this tool does not need to be confined to emergency situations. Intelligent, AI-based triage starts with enabling patients to make contact in a way that best suits them – smartphone, landline, text, desktop or via a virtual assistant. From there, a patient’s identity is verified and the system collects relevant information about their condition before recommending the most appropriate channel to resolve the inquiry.
Smart scheduling completes the initial intelligent triage phase with an appropriate action. This could be booking an appointment, something relating to claims or prescriptions, or recommendations for ongoing self-care. In cases where appointments are required, these can of course be in person, but where appropriate on video, over a chat platform or by phone. Crucially, all the information from this virtual encounter is entered into the patient chart to ensure a complete and up-to-date view of the patient.
Rethinking the patient experience in this way lowers waiting times for patients while ensuring faster, more convenient access to services. Health organizations also reap big benefits, with potential savings of more than 20% on running costs due to the elimination of manual processes and resource allocation.
By Richard Bailey, lead IT consultant, Atlantic.Net.
The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 is a day-to-day concern for medical professionals and healthcare management teams in the United States. HIPAA, and the subsequent Privacy and Security amendments of 2003, were created to protect the confidentiality of Protected Health Information (PHI).
The Breach Notification Rule was added in 2009 to include specific laws about how to respond to a breach, and the Final Omnibus Rule was added in 2013 to harden the enforcement rules and response requirements.
A HIPAA breach is a serious concern, it can be very costly, instantly creating financial and reputational damage. A breach must be responded to appropriately by the HIPAA-covered entities and any impacted Business Associates.
The threat landscape has definitely changed in 2020/2021, COVID-19 has changed the way front-line healthcare is delivered, and it has also put great pressure on upholding the data integrity of PHI, despite some concessions being offered by the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) during the pandemic.
Between March 2020 and March 2021, there have been 530 reported data breaches to the OCR, this includes both confirmed data breaches, and breaches that are currently under investigation. These figures suggest that 26,023,940 patient records have been exposed in data breaches in one single year, quite a staggering figure.
What is a HIPAA data breach?
There are two types of breaches classified by the U.S Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). A breach that does not disclose PHI is considered “not a breach.” A breach that does disclose PHI must be classified as either an intentional or unintentional disclosure. Deliberate disclosure is considered a very serious breach and typically involves significant penalties.
The primary cause of breaches is usually a lost or stolen computing device, such as laptops, cell phones, and tablets. Many losses are attributed to employee carelessness or employee mistakes or unintentional actions. The other major cause is third-party involvement, this could be hackers, malicious actors, and so on.
Communication is one of the most important parts of the healthcare industry, but as it stands it may be the most challenging element as well. To reach the best patient outcomes, it is critical for patients, doctors, hospitals, and facilities to communicate with one another seamlessly, securely, and digitally.
The incredible amount of information that needs to be accurately communicated presents a challenge by itself, but the extensive regulations create an added layer of difficulty. The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) strives to protect the private data of a patient but creates challenges when having to quickly communicate critical information from different parts of the medical team.
Currently, many organizations are decentralized and use multiple digital outlets. There is company-sponsored email, instant message, and portals, plus personal email accounts, mobile and messaging applications—all with the potential to complicate and compromise the quality and security of communication.
Software has the ability to automate certain administrative tasks, enabling medical professionals to focus on patient care and improving patient outcomes. In a notoriously and widely distributed workforce where communication is essential, introducing an effective unified communication tool will increase operational efficiency, decrease infrastructure and maintenance costs.
A unified communication tool needs to connect all personnel across distributed locations, divisions, departments, and functions. A unified system should:
Be flexible and extensible—enabling adaption to future needs
Support multiple communication methods (voice, text, data, video)
Integrate with existing systems. Put the user experience at the forefront rivaling widely-used mobile communication platforms (WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger)
Cater to user requirements by including unique, job-enhancing features based on real scenarios.
Increase operational efficiency while being secure and HIPAA compliant
Tips on how to create an effective communications system:
Diagnose the problem: Run a discovery phase to identify organizational issues and opportunities for improvement through story mapping workshops with stakeholders, interviewing end-users, and conducting surveys. Then, create a service blueprint noting your findings. Ensure all stakeholders are aligned.
Define the minimum viable product (MVP): Prioritize the most significant issues and tackle those first to define the goals for the MVP. Validate your wireframes and prototypes with the original group of individuals who determined the problem space to inform the solution. Allow the test group to try the product early and often, allowing them to guide the solution and feel involved in the process.
Have you ever wondered about being operated on for surgery without anesthesia? Or, have you ever thought about what life would have been for the disabled if there were no prosthetic or artificial limbs? Also, could anyone even think about a successful health procedure without the use of imaging techniques? Indeed, such a scenario does not even seem close to being possible.
That is the power of medical science and innovations today. However, it wasn’t always like this; there has always been a gradual process towards the objective. Like every other sphere or area of life, medical science also has been through stages to reach an excellent status and make life convenient.
It is also fascinating to know about the professionals at the helm of affairs who control it all today. The industry could not achieve its success without the frontline workers’ undying commitments and administrative workers’ diligent contributions. In the most straightforward terms, healthcare administration experts manage the entire operation in any hospital. From routine matters, staffing, financing to planning, they are the ones driving it.
Over the past year or so, the need for telehealth services has risen dramatically. In fact, there was a 154 percent rise in telehealth visits for the last week of March 2020 compared to the same period for the previous year. Patients were unable to attend their regular doctor visits in person, necessitating some form of replacement. Luckily, thanks to technology advancements, it’s now possible to communicate with healthcare professionals from the comfort of your own home.
However, not every medical practice is doing all it can to provide telehealth services to its patients. In the future, it’s likely that more people will come to enjoy the convenience of telehealth services and prefer them over traditional visits. Therefore, it’s important for medical practices to start implementing telehealth services and doing so in the right way.
The Importance of Improving Your Telehealth Services
Telehealth encompasses several forms of communication, such as phone calls, video conferencing, conducting virtual visits and even monitoring patients remotely. To give your patients the best possible experience, you need to account for as many telehealth methods as you can. By providing more ways for patients and medical professionals to interact, and by ensuring you are doing your best with each of those methods, you can take better care of your patients and ensure they are happy with your services.
Below you’ll find some of the best telehealth practices you should consider implementing. Go through each one and see if it is something you can begin to do for your patients.
#1 – Protect Patient Information
The most important thing you need to do is protect patient information. As you will be sending out sensitive information over the internet, it’s essential that you take proper care to manage the security of this information. For example, you need to ensure that this information is encrypted properly and that only authorized people are able to view it.
There are certain standards you’ll need to adhere to, such as FHIR, which describes the security and privacy protocols you need to have in place. FHIR, or Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resource, includes things such as how to create URLs and how to present patient information online in a secure and standardized way. As you add more telehealth options to your practice, ensure they meet all privacy requirements before implementing them.
#2 – Promote Your Telehealth Services
In many cases, medical offices offer telehealth services but their patients do not know about them. You should make it a standard practice to not only let each of your patients know about their options but provide clear instructions on how they can make use of them. For example, instead of just sending an email to each patient alerting them to your telehealth options, you can also include a telemedicine guide on how they can get started with it. The more you promote your telehealth services, and the easier you make them to use, the more popular they will become.
#3- Upgrade Your Equipment
Providing telehealth services requires modern technology equipment. If your office is running older equipment, now is the time to upgrade. For example, you’ll want devices that can handle video calls, including a high-quality camera and a stable internet connection. You may also need to upgrade your patient database software so that it can interact seamlessly with your new telehealth services, which may require getting new software or a faster machine. Look at upgrading your equipment as a solid investment for your future.
#4 – Fix Up Video Surroundings
When conducting video conferences with patients, you should pay attention to your surroundings. Set up your camera and area in such a way that you provide a professional experience when someone is video conferencing with you. You still want to give off a welcoming environment despite the fact that you are both in different locations.
To do this, start by improving your lighting. Ensure you have plenty of light in the video conferencing area and that it sufficiently lights up the speaker’s face. Beyond that, pay attention to the background. Instead of just a blank wall, try adding in some artwork on the wall or some plants. Improving your video chat background can go a long way towards providing a better experience, even if it seems like a small adjustment.
#5 – Prepare Before Telehealth Meetings
Even though telehealth meetings are more convenient for the patient, you still want to avoid wasting any of their time. Once the video conference begins, you shouldn’t spend time going through their file and reviewing their past patient history. Do this before the meeting starts, so that once you connect with the patient, you can get right down to the matters at hand. This demonstrates not only preparedness and professionalism but ensures maximum convenience for the patient by using less of their time.
#6 – Remember the Fundamentals
Finally, remember the fundamentals of doctor visits. Even though you are connecting over the internet, you should still keep these fundamentals in mind. For example, you can work to develop a rapport with the patient and spend time asking about their medical history. Telehealth medicine is meant to be efficient but that doesn’t mean it has to be impersonal. People need to trust their doctors so whatever you do to establish trust in person, look to do the same things through telemedicine.
Start Improving Your Telehealth Services Today
If your medical practice doesn’t already offer telehealth services, now is the perfect time to add them. For those of you that already offer telemedicine, spend some time reviewing how it operates. You may find that there is significant room for improvement, both for the medical professionals and the patients.
If you’re not sure of which areas you need to improve, try asking your patients. Ask them for feedback about their telehealth experience and what areas they would like to see you improve. Between the best practices above, and direct feedback from your patients, you should find plenty of ways to improve your telehealth services and establish a high-quality standard of care for a long time to come.