How Digital Communication Can Improve Patient Outcomes

Healthcare is being disrupted. Healthcare specialists are providing the sector with a shot-in-the-arm, fast forwarding smart ideas and innovations to solve traditional problems. Digital Health companies received a record-breaking $4.5 billion of venture funding in 2015, indicating the level of opportunity available for organisations who are able to adapt and meet these new challenges in the market. Digital communication has a big role to play in this disruption, as patient information and professional healthcare knowledge is being made more accessible.

Getting Ahead of the Ailment

Apps

Apps can play a key role in the shift toward a patient-centric healthcare system. The data tracked in the many health & fitness apps on iTunes and Google Play (over 100,000 to be more precise) can be used to improve the accuracy and rapidity of health care delivery regardless of location. Trusted and proven apps within this field can seamlessly provide vital information for healthcare professionals, giving them a clearer understanding of their patient’s health in real time.

There are bespoke apps already being used in hospitals to help with patient care. A recent example is Relax, a tablet app designed to help calm and distract children who are being anesthetised. It uses profiling information to suggest the best art, music and games to suit each child. Relax has been credited with saving significant amounts of time and reducing the amount of cancelled operations as a result of patient distress.

Relax Anaesthetics

Apps can also be used for monitoring, particularly with regards to activity levels and key health indications such as insulin patterns for diabetics. The integration of apps and devices runs the range: from familiar wearables such as Fitbit-style devices that are worn on the wrist to more elaborate (and more costly) devices, such as graphene-based skin patches used to monitor blood glucose levels. The link with mobile apps and real-time tracking remains the same though, as both ends of the spectrum provide fresh opportunities to provide tailored patient care.

Electronic Health Records

The need for accurate, up-to-date patient information at a moment’s notice becomes more important as the healthcare sector shifts its focus from the quantity of patients being seen to the quality of care being provided. This is particularly true in markets where healthcare is provided at a cost to the patient. The evolution of Electronic Health Records (EHR) and its interoperability with other healthcare systems will play a big role in this transition.

Advanced EHR’s will allow for accurate information to be accessed by patients and practitioners in a way that is unified and up to date. From consultants and surgeons, to care nurses and GPs, the patient’s history will be tracked and can be accessed on a priority and needs basis within secure networks along the chain of care.

Virtual Clinics

Digital transformation in the healthcare sector is gathering pace. From ‘virtual clinics’, where doctors can schedule a video call to have a follow-up with specific patients, to a more in-depth remote analysis where doctors can track a patient’s day-to-day health metrics such heart rate, sleep patterns and activity levels – providing a clearer picture of their overall health. These wouldn’t replace traditional GP appointments, as attentive face-to-face conversations are crucial to modern healthcare, but they would provide an option for doctors who struggle to spend more time with patients in the face of mounting pressures.

These are just a few of the opportunities that digital technology and communication can provide the healthcare sector. And while these technologies are diverse, they all work towards common goals: to make healthcare more accessible, to improve the health of patients and to avoid hospital admission where possible.

There are challenges however, most notably issues of privacy, data protection and patient confidentiality. A unified patient database accessible along the chain of care brings up questions about what information a patient should share, who should see that information and what level of access they require. Closely tracking the day-to-day health of a patient is of course beneficial in the long-term, but it is also important to consider where the line is drawn and how this can be effected by evolving regulation.

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