Our industry has undergone a remarkable technological transformation since the required adoption of EMRs a decade ago. In the past year, alone, we have seen technology alter the way we care for our patients and operate our businesses. New advancements and growing acceptance and implementation have helped us deliver better care, improve time-draining inefficiencies, and even curb escalating costs.
While it has enhanced care, technology has also presented us with new challenges. Let’s take a look at five important HealthTech take-aways from 2019 and how they will help lead to the change our industry needs to see in the coming year:
● Virtual visits are becoming an everyday reality.
Virtual visits, often conducted via smartphones or personal computers, have jumped 340% in recent years. Their use continues to rise rapidly as providers adopt the technology to meet growing patient demand, and policies and regulations evolve to support its use.
Virtual visits offer patients convenient access to care, saving them the time and expense of traveling to an appointment and providing care to those who have limited access to it. They allow providers to stay connected with their patients, and to provide information—for instance, test results, prescription refills, clarifications of treatment, and answers to common questions—that would otherwise take up valuable office hours or be delivered via non-billable emails and phone calls, often happening after office hours. Televisits are reimbursable and free providers to spend more time with the patients that need them most.
While a remarkable innovation in healthcare, one of the challenges virtual service presents is that it can drive a wedge between patients and providers. Often times, patients schedule a virtual visit with a service they find on a Google search, rather than with their own doctor. Medical visits conducted with a provider who is unfamiliar with a patient’s medical history pose risks to both patient and physician. As more physicians embrace telemedicine, they’ll be able to not only deliver to their patients better care and convenience, but also protect their patient relationships and, in turn, their businesses.
● Care has become more accessible.
The explosion of both consumer-focused telemedicine and retail healthcare facilities, such as urgent care centers and minute clinics, are a reflection of healthcare changing to meet the demands of patients. Convenient access to care is a top priority. In fact, more than half of patients surveyed said it is the most important factor in choosing care. Nearly half (45%) of millennials do not even have a primary care doctor. Patients are willing to pay a premium for urgent and occasional care offered at retail walk-in care facilities.
What does it mean for providers? Many physicians and healthcare organizations are losing business to facilities that offer care from providers who are unknown to the patients they treat. Primary care doctors can strengthen relationships with their patients by making it more convenient for patients to see them.
● Artificial Intelligence and machine learning are empowering providers.
Research shows that emerging technology, such as AI, machine learning, and predictive analytics are making headway into healthcare: 39 percent of provider executives are investing in the technologies and 75 percent plan to invest in the next three years.
It’s for good reason. Machine learning and AI, for instance, can be leveraged to track and analyze complex, valuable data and enable providers to better know their patients. It can process information beyond human capability, such as massive sets of lab test results, family history, socio-economic factors and clinical trial data, to help monitor patients’ well-being and assess their risks based on their own history and others like them.
These powerful technologies can also help to flag signs of preventable, chronic diseases—including diabetes, heart disease, and even cancer that attribute to 86 percent of our nation’s healthcare costs and are responsible for so many deaths each year. They provide clinical insights to aid in the planning and providing of care, leading to more accurate, personalized treatment.
The challenges the technologies present are simply a lack of understanding of what they can do, and how to adopt and integrate them with current healthcare systems. Combining these new tools with the subjective insights providers have of their patients can unveil a powerful new frontier in how we see and treat patients, much like the transformation that occured when we went from diagnosing with x-rays to leveraging CT scans, and then, MRIs.
● HealthTech is shifting focus to the patient (and simplifying adoption).
Undoubtedly, providers continue to struggle with technology that impedes, rather than enhances care. Adoption of healthcare systems, like EMRs, have left many providers feeling burned out by the process of innovating and hesitant to embrace additional change. A focus on patient-centric technology gives new hope and an opportunity to offer our patients more personalized care that benefits providers, as well.
Some of the latest healthtech advancements are as simple as downloading an app or plugging in a device to monitor health. The devices empower patients to take responsibility for their well-being and communicate more easily with their doctors for proper treatment. For instance, the MyDose Coach app tracks fasting blood glucose and contains an insulin dose calculator function to use with physician-guided dose recommendations. My company’s V2MD telemedicine app that patients use to connect with their own doctor can seamlessly connect with medical devices to share data and better guide treatment decisions.
● Administrative burdens and inefficiencies still drain our time.
Lastly, a major take-away from healthtech in 2019 is that it has not yet improved the quantity of time providers have with patients. The amount of time a physician sees patients continues to decrease. According to the Annals of Internal Medicine, doctors spend, on average, just 27 percent of their time treating patients and more than 70 percent of their time on administrative, non-billable tasks, such as answering patient calls and returning messages or replying to emails.
We need technology to empower providers to better control their time and enable office administrators to create greater efficiencies, like reducing wait times and scheduling visits. This will improve patient experience and also boost job satisfaction within provider offices.
It’s been a remarkable year for healthtech, delivering innovative products and services that transform the access and delivery of care and improve outcomes. With a continued focus on patient-centric care and a clear understanding of the challenge of leveraging technology to offer high quality, convenient care that is more effective and affordable, healthtech innovation is well positioned to deliver on our needs in 2020.
Samant Virk, MD, is Founder & CEO of MediSprout, a company focused on connecting doctors with their patients through innovative technology solutions. He is also a physician having practiced clinical medicine for almost 15 years, with a specialization in Neurology and Interventional Spine.