How digital tools connect physicians and patients for better care
Fundamentally, the healthcare journey is based on a partnership between a patient and a physician. Though there are many supporting cast members along the way, these two parties must work together to reach a health goal.
Together, they try to first understand the source of the problem and once identified, work to either treat the underlying condition or symptoms. This process can be complicated and frustrating, moving from (1) assessment to (2) intervention, and sometimes back again, repeatedly.
The accuracy of the assessments and the effectiveness of the identified interventions have historically defined the ‘quality’ of healthcare. Physicians are well educated, trained, and are supported by a massive industry of diagnostic, medical device, and pharmaceutical companies equipping them with tools.
However, there is a third element that is often overlooked when evaluating the quality of healthcare and that is the healthcare process itself. In most of the world, the fundamental healthcare process has remained largely unchanged for a very long time, based on constraints of trial-and-error and logistics.
Patients will start with a symptom and may not recognize it or even ignore it for some time. They finally make a doctor’s appointment, typically many weeks if not months later. The patients present the provider with symptoms, usually loosely documented or understood. The physician, with typically little context in a first appointment, spends—optimistically—30 minutes with the patient to understand what may turn out to be a simple or complex case. The doctor may prescribe an intervention, recommend testing, or send the patient home to continue to monitor the situation. The physician will see the patients again in some number of weeks or months to continue to run the process of healthcare. This process, though well worn, is far from optimal. The rate of interactions is slow, and the resolution of data is coarse and unstandardized. The individual process is defined more by the gears of the healthcare system than the actual needs of the patient.
How would healthcare change if we applied technology to optimize the process of healthcare to complement its practice? Could we improve the quality of each interaction through better resolution and tracking of symptoms? Or in the early communication of this information with the physician team in real time? This is the role that digital care management companies aspire to serve in the practice of healthcare.
As smart devices, internet access, and digital health tools become available to the greater part of our population, more opportunities become available to positively impact care. Imagine a future where the patient records their symptoms into an application on a smart device for a period of time before they arrive at the physician’s office. The physician, similarly, is presented with a streamlined review summary of the patient’s condition prior to their arrival so they are better equipped to conduct their initial assessment. Then, following the visit, the symptoms are continuously monitored as interventions are applied and the caregiving team is notified if the patient is not improving as expected. Rather than waiting the weeks or months until a follow-up appointment, the physician could trigger an earlier follow-up visit or call because the patient needs the attention.
Digital care management tools have the potential to augment the process of healthcare, help physician practices run more efficiently, and ultimately provide better patient care in several ways:
Today, we are very early in this journey into the digitization of healthcare; over time, more of the industry will become better integrated and streamlined with the intent of providing the best care, more efficiently and effectively.
As the CEO of Nile, I and my team fundamentally believe that through the digitization of the healthcare process we can significantly improve the journey of epilepsy patients. We are one of many companies aspiring to partner with all of the stakeholders in the healthcare system to improve outcomes while simultaneously reducing costs. My wife is a neurologist, and I believe that these improvements will ultimately make her job and those of other physicians easier.
Great healthcare should be affordable, easy, fast, engaged, accurate, and efficacious. This should not surprise any readers here. By working together as technologists, clinicians, scientists and industry, we can bring the wave of digital innovation that has transformed our world to transform healthcare next.
Leo Petrossian is the CEO of Nile, a digital care management company focused on making the journey of every epilepsy patient predictable. He specializes in venture initiation and innovation within healthcare, served as the CEO of Neurolutions, Inc., and founded and served as the CEO of Nova Signal, Inc. (formerly Neural Analytics, Inc.).