Embracing Digital Access to Healthcare
Once upon a time in the healthcare industry, there was no such thing as digital access to healthcare. Doctors relied on paper records, and it took days for patients to receive their test results. If someone wanted to change doctors, they had to go through a lengthy process. If another office needed medical records, they would often have to wait for weeks.
It’s no surprise, then, that medical practices are more and more commonly digitized as technology advances. What used to require hours in the waiting room or doctor’s office can now be completed with the click of a button. There are so many differences it’s hard to list them all:
- Medical records have gone digital.
- Governments require interoperability between different data systems so that all practices can share necessary information.
- Many patients opt for telehealth and remote consultations instead of visiting the doctor in person.
- Merit-based incentive payment systems (MIPS) are creating value-based payment models that reward quality over quantity.
This trend of technological upscaling will not reverse. Medical providers have to adapt because if they don’t, they will lose business to competitors who are more than happy to step up to the plate.
The Evolving Digital Landscape
Less than a century ago, the world was a very different place. The internet was still in its infancy, computers were large and clunky, and polite people would hit “rewind” on the VHS after watching a movie.
As recently as the early 2000s, many health providers still didn’t have digital records. Even when they did, they were often stored in proprietary systems that couldn’t communicate with one another, and doctors would have to manually enter data into each system. This lack of interoperability made it difficult for providers to coordinate care between different hospitals or even within the same organization.
The Difference Electronic Medical Records Made
The first electronic medical record system was actually developed way back in 1972, but it took time for that technology to enter the mainstream. Institutions with more resources adopted the technology earlier, but little by little, it became the norm. Today, essentially all providers have some kind of electronic medical record system in place, though they vary in scope and functionality. Some are able to communicate with other systems, but many still aren’t.
Through this, practices have become better able to:
- Keep records of each patient’s prescription history.
- Record details about tests and procedures performed.
- Store X-rays, MRIs, and other diagnostic images.
- Track insurance payments and contact information.
With EMRs, the healthcare industry was able to create a more efficient system for handling more patient data. EMRs have also led to better portability and communication between doctors and patients, which has helped increase compliance with treatment plans. Moreover, EMRs have helped reduce medical errors, which often occur when doctors are forced to rely on paper records.
Ecommerce: How It Changed Everything
Ecommerce took off in the 1990s, with companies like Amazon and eBay leading the way. These companies offered a new way for consumers to shop and sell, and they were able to do so on a massive scale. The development of ecommerce is a prime example of how technology can change entire industries.
Lessons learned from ecommerce quickly spread across other industries, with companies like Uber revolutionizing transportation and Airbnb transforming the hospitality industry. Ecommerce has also changed how people interact with brands, shifting from traditional advertising to social media and influencer marketing.
Ecommerce allows businesses to:
- Save money on overhead costs.
- Reduce delivery times and increase customer satisfaction by offering same-day shipping.
- Increase customer engagement with personalized content and social media marketing.
- Gain valuable insights about customers using data analytics.
A single person with an internet connection can now create a global brand and reach millions of customers. The internet has also made it easier to market directly to customers, which means businesses no longer have to rely on advertising agencies and wholesalers to reach their audience.
Video Chats: Personalization Without Proximity
One of the internet’s natural limitations has been the de-personalized, faceless nature of it all. Mobile text messages and chats can hardly replace the feeling of connecting with someone in real life.
Enter video calling. High-speed internet lets people teleport themselves into each other’s living rooms with just a few clicks. No longer do they need to be in the same room as someone to talk face-to-face. Kids are growing up assuming that all calls are FaceTime calls.
Video communication allows businesses (and healthcare practices) to connect with their customers in a new way. It allows them to be there when their customers need them, even if they don’t live anywhere nearby.
The Effect of Digitalization On Healthcare
The effect of these technologies on the healthcare industry has been profound. They have fundamentally revolutionized the way practices deliver care, communicate with patients, and interact with the world at large.
The digital revolution in healthcare has impacted every aspect of the industry — from patient care to administrative tasks to financing. Interoperable EMRs allow clinicians to share information seamlessly with other providers so that a patient’s medical history is available to any authorized provider at any time. This is essential for patients and providers to work together effectively in an era of digital health management.
Patients can now order prescription medication refills online. Ecommerce-led innovations also allow them to purchase over-the-counter remedies and other products from home rather than having to make a trip to the pharmacy or grocery store.
Telehealth allows patients to receive treatment from specialists located hundreds or even thousands of miles away without having to travel there themselves, thus saving time and money while improving access to specialized care. Especially in the wake of the COVID pandemic, telehealth has proven itself to be a powerful tool for managing patient care.
Embracing Digital Healthcare Is Inevitable
The good news is that adapting to a digital future is not only possible: It can also be enjoyable and convenient. Today, the best healthcare providers are those that meet patients where they are, which means that practices must embrace digital solutions to survive in the coming years.
A management services organization like TRIARQ Health can help medical practices with their transition into the digital age. They can provide management solutions that allow practices to better track patient information, manage scheduling and appointments, improve customer service, and more!