By Jean Turgeon, vice president and chief technologist, Avaya.
By 2020, healthcare spending around the globe is expected to reach $8.7 trillion, and as part of this spend, healthcare providers are looking to digitally transform by innovating legacy processes and driving better patient experiences. With recent advances in customer-relationship management (CRM), and electronic health record (EHR) technology, providers have an opportunity to significantly update communication channels for patients to reach them.
For patients, the first point of contact with a hospital is essential, whether they’re seeking assistance for a serious health risk or checking in with a doctor. Communications infrastructure plays an integral role in the delivery of this care. By utilizing popular technologies already in patients’ hands, such as smartphones, social media and instant messaging, providers can easily contact patients and offer support above and beyond the traditional telephony services offered. Beyond this, providers can implement AI to connect these channels and create a holistic profile for patients – seeing where and when they reach out for support, and mapping resources to fulfill these needs.
This connected health approach, creates efficiencies by pooling and analyzing data that is beneficial to both healthcare providers and patients. For instance, AI can be used to quickly match appointments for patients with specialists or doctors who have office hours that best align with their schedule. The benefits of this are two-fold, first in time-savings, second in literal savings, as every missed appointment or open time slot averages $200 lost for the healthcare provider.
In addition, third-party applications can be integrated and used to create a custom service that aggregates data and populates a profile for the patient, including financial information, insurance details, demographics, and medical history into the EHR system. By connecting data-sets, and taking the administrative tasks away from hospital staff, AI elevates burdens and streamlines the appointment and admission process. This intuitive profile building, and patient-physician matching can extend to critical situations, such as an ER visit.
Using connected communication solutions, an ER physician can automatically trigger messages to key personnel when admitting a patient, just by placing an order in the EHR system. For instance, a bed placement specialist will be alerted of the patient-need, and can determine if a bed is available. Or, a message can be sent to the transport team to collect and guide the patient.
Moving beyond the check-in and doctor assignment process, patient alarms and bedside requests can be advanced beyond the simple “click-and-wait” approach of many healthcare providers. Automated workflows combined with AI-enable technology, such as speech enabled self-services, can be used bedside to ensure patient requests are routed efficiently to the appropriate hospital staff. In practice this will mean fewer delayed treatments, and greater patient safety and satisfaction. Rather than the on-call medical staff being alerted to the bedside for a pillow request, a smart workflow could alert hospitality staff to deliver a pillow to the room and eliminate the need to go back and forth. Not only would this stop physicians having to relay messages to other team members, slowing the speed of assistance, it will ensure that appropriate staff are tapped for appropriate patient-needs – streamlining workflows and efficiency.
Much like the admissions process, AI can also be used to assist in the discharge of patients. This would include delivery of discharge guidelines, instructions and medical aftercare to patients in their preferred channel of choice. It may be that some patients would like a phone-follow up or even full collaboration session with a nurse or doctor after leaving the healthcare practice, where some may like to receive updates and check in via text or email. This allows patients to digest after-care instructions at their own pace, in their ideal format, minimizing the risk of any miscommunication.
From the first point of contact, to the last, it’s critical that patient’s needs are heard, addressed and met. By innovating communications infrastructure, and taking advantage of the latest emerging technologies in mobility, IOT or AI to name a few, healthcare providers can revolutionize the patient experience and ensure a streamlined approach to healthcare, where staff are relived of administrative burdens, and patients are met with the care they need from the right people, at the right time.