By Adrian Johansen, freelance writer; @AdrianJohanse18.
The healthcare industry has long been known for its lengthy processes and difficult paperwork hoops. Much like the federal government, it has lagged behind other industries in updating technology to meet the expectations of modern system users. The sheer antiquity of the administrative work leaves patients feeling frustrated and like they are feeding information into a black box.
Though it has certainly taken a long time, the healthcare industry is finally beginning to adopt technologies and incorporate them into patient care. In many facilities, patients are now able to see note taking in electronic medical records. Some are now even able to sync health data they have collected on their smart devices with medical information needed by doctors for certain health screenings.
This process of adapting the technologies certainly hasn’t been easy. Beyond the time and difficulty of incorporating tech into a monolithic industry, there are substantial barriers in tech skill sets in healthcare professionals. The adoption of technology, however, has become an absolutely necessary means to connecting with patients and staying relevant in a surprisingly competitive industry.
A New Skill Set
As a healthcare professional, it is imperative to keep up to date on new procedures and findings related to certain illnesses. Many doctors, nurses, and physicians assistants spend years learning all of the basics and training in advanced healthcare practices. This high level of education is expected from all patients, whether their healthcare visit is a simple checkup or a complicated procedure. When it comes down to it, healthcare professionals have a lot of information stuffed up top.
With the advent of technology in the healthcare system, it has become almost essential for healthcare professionals to add one more skill set to their repertoire: healthcare tech guru. For some doctors and nurses who have been in the practice for a long time, the technology changes can be confusing and difficult to adapt to. Keeping personal health data private in an electronic format that is easily shared can be especially challenging.
Some technologies such as telemedicine or patient-centered healthcare have completely changed the way healthcare is expected to be provided. Many recent medical field graduates are being taught different skills that will help them to provide care more effectively in a more tech-based health setting. For instance, they may be taught how to work alongside a healthcare robot, how to communicate with patients effective without seeing them in person, or how to use information collected on smart devices.
Technology has also given another person new healthcare tools — the patient. Patients have a far greater ability than ever before to contribute to and be active in collecting their own healthcare data. This engagement can be a blessing and a curse. It gives patients the ability to track their own information and identify possible concerns, but it can also encourage some to write off going to the doctor completely.
The biggest way this technology has changed the jobs of healthcare professionals is by giving them a bigger window into the day-to-day lives and activities of their patients. Now more than ever before, doctors have the ability to confirm whether or not patients are following health suggestions and can document changes, adjust treatment, and coordinate care accordingly. Because of this, they are likely to need to learn how to better frame patient conversations to accurately convey the urgency and importance of their prescriptions.
On the flip side, technology also gives the patient a greater window into the black box that is their medical information. Electronic medical records have made it relatively simple to compile all medical information about one person and share it with other healthcare professionals or the patient. This means that patients have a greater knowledge base and more control over what happens to their medical information.
Finally, as with most businesses — and healthcare is certainly a business — the adoption of technology is a critical piece of staying relevant. Successfully making the conversion to a technologically savvy doctor’s office can mean the difference between expanding to serve more patients or falling behind the rest of the industry. It is something that health administrators are certainly thinking about, even if the doctors aren’t.
More so than in previous decades, patients are expecting that doctors are able to meet their schedules. A digital and tech-savvy clinic can help make that happen. At this point, the vast majority of potential patients are going online to research doctors and facilities prior to making appointments — which they also greatly prefer to make online.
Perhaps the most important means of making sure the transition to a digital healthcare environment is successful is helping to train doctors and nurses to understand the technology they are going to be using. A greater understanding is critical to accepting and even promoting the changes as positive ones. If the majority of the office is struggling with understanding the purpose and need of going digital, it is going to be difficult to make the transition stick.
Make no mistake, technology is rapidly changing the healthcare world. This means many healthcare professionals are working hard to develop the necessary skills to successfully integrate technology into their practices. Doing so can help ensure they are both getting and giving out the most information to patients, which is better for overall health outcomes.