Guest post by Girish Kumar Navani, CEO and co-founder, eClinicalWorks.
In a world becoming more and more connected by technology, we have countless resources that fit in the palms of our hands. Thanks to smartphones, we are empowered to shop, bank and manage our social networks and more – whenever and wherever we choose. And companies are working in new ways to meet our needs by building apps and optimized websites that make our lives easier.
This notion of consumerization – the power of the consumer to drive technological innovation – is taking hold in healthcare. It means giving patients tools to track, understand and maintain their health, and meeting their demand for easy access to their doctors and personal health information. Empowering patients in this way could lead to big changes in our healthcare system.
The combination of rapid digitalization of health data and the growing demand by those who seek better results from the healthcare system, are driving consumerization. Where electronic health records (EHRs) have made it easier for physicians to share, search and analyze a patient’s health information, demand from patients is growing the capabilities of EHRs even further. Increasingly, patients can access that same information, communicate with their physicians and get involved in their own healthcare from anywhere with their smartphones or tablets.
These engaged patients are capitalizing on the power of technology to get better results from the healthcare system. Similar to managing finances using a smartphone, patients are hungry for apps that allow them to manage their health by tracking blood pressure, heart rate, weight and more. A plethora of health-related apps already exists, but in the future the most valuable health apps will be ones that feed data directly to a patient’s EHR. Connected patients will be able to share information with their doctors without setting foot in a clinician’s office. And based on that information, the doctor can let a patient know they need to schedule an appointment, continue with a prescribed medication, or just offer support and encouragement for meeting health goals.
Healthcare innovations that are driven by consumers are a new phenomenon but we’re constantly seeing patient-centric technologies taking hold and becoming the norm. Websites like Vitals and Leslie’s List allow patients to compare physicians, dentists, pharmacies and more for price and quality. There are sites and smartphone apps that allow patients to search for and compare physicians that accept their insurance, schedule appointments that are convenient for them, and fill out paperwork online in advance. The result is less time wasted on the phone and in the waiting room.
And as these innovations continue to evolve, so will the technologies that allow patients to take their own blood pressure, monitor their own heart rate, check their insulin levels, and more, while relaying that data to the EHR. Tools like blood pressure cuffs and blood glucose monitors that connect to smartphones are already available for consumers online and in stores like Walmart and Sears. Imagine the freedom that technologies like these give to patients with chronic diseases such as diabetes: Saving trips to the doctor’s office, providing real time alerts to issues, and allowing immediate contact with the physician.
Access and participation by patients will become increasingly important as healthcare continues to evolve. As providers are increasingly paid based on patient outcomes, rather than strictly based on services rendered, they are incentivized to keep their patients healthy and out of the hospital. Consumer applications that track patient health and encourage patient engagement promote cost effectiveness for both consumers and providers.
Therefore, the transition to consumerization will benefit the overall health system. If Americans become active partners in their health maintenance, there’s a greater chance that they’ll avoid certain diseases—and the high health bills that come with them.
For consumerization to really take hold, it will be crucial in the coming years for EHRs to be interoperable. Vendors like my company are finding ways to help doctor’s offices easily share their electronic patient files so doctors can easily read and add to each other’s notes. Physicians will spend less time re-examining patients and take less time to make good decisions. As a result, there should be fewer medical errors and more hope of reducing the overall cost of healthcare.
Girish Navani is CEO and co-founder of eClinicalWorks. Navani oversees the strategic direction of eClinicalWorks, a market leader in healthcare IT solutions, and leads efforts to grow and expand all aspects of the business, actively managing the sales and development functions for the company. As co-founder, Navani has helped turn the company into one of the leading providers in its market, maintaining high-profitability and more than 80,000 providers, spanning all 50 states, as clients. Prior to co-founding eClinicalWorks, Girish led successful IT and business initiatives at Fidelity Investments, Aspen Technology and Teradyne. He holds a Master’s of Science from Boston University.