Over the past few decades, technology has advanced health care in incredible ways. Between robotic surgery, training through augmented reality, and the use of wearables to enhance health data, the industry has embraced numerous advances to improve patient care.
However, the industry’s relationship with technology hasn’t always been seamless. While doctors and nurses work diligently to keep patients informed, more than 50% of clinicians suffer from regular burnout. The leading culprit? Excessive paperwork. The traditional way of handling health records and consent forms desperately needs an upgrade.
The burden of processing documentation and health records doesn’t just affect clinicians. It can also impact the relationships between patients and hospitals — and can sometimes hinder patient education. According to one study, 66% of patients were missing informed consent documents on the day of their surgeries, which led to delays. The consequences? Poor patient experiences, idle time spent in waiting rooms, and anxiety for both patients and clinicians.
While hospitals and doctor’s offices can streamline the paperwork process by switching to an electronic solution, it won’t magically solve every problem. A poor user experience can lead to just as significant a drain on time; in some cases, clinicians spend more than half of their days dealing with electronic health record (EHR) systems. Technology can undoubtedly improve the traditional way of doing things, but healthcare organizations must first ensure the technology is working as it should.
Use the following to create systems that engage patients and encourage them to take active, informed roles in their care — while minimizing waste and inefficiencies.
Fix the Patient Portal and App
Pairing a patient portal with a corresponding mobile app is an excellent first step toward creating an environment that values open communication and easy access for patients. However, not all apps and portals are created equal. If yours is unintuitive, buggy, or slow, most of its benefits will be lost.
Commit resources to create one that is polished, organized, and comprehensive without being overly complicated. That might sound like a tall order — and it can be, depending on how much work your app needs and who your partners are. In the end, you will have an offering that is genuinely dedicated to engaging patients in health care.
Improve Interoperability to Reduce Burnout
The solutions you choose should be easy to use while also communicating with each other seamlessly. If disparate systems constantly require updates to work together, or if nurses and doctors struggle with incompatible file formats, any efficiency gains from ditching paper forms will be largely pointless. The workload wouldn’t be lessened — it would just be different. Look for solutions that can work together effortlessly so that you get the maximum benefit from your EHR system.
Open More Lines of Communication
A patient portal is an excellent tool for coordinating various aspects of patient needs, such as medication refill requests, bill payments, and summaries of each visit. However, you can do even more to make sure you’re engaging patients in health care in any way you can.
Use the portal to give patients choices in how they will hear from you, whether it’s through emails, phone calls, texts, the portal itself, or all of the above. What’s important is that you’re maximizing the ways you can communicate with patients, which can make a big difference when it comes to educating patients and preventing burnout.
Invest in Online Education
Traditionally, patient education has been largely stuck within the confines of a doctor’s visit. While conversations between doctors and their patients will always be an essential part of providing patient education, they no longer have to be the only part. By incorporating online education into your patient portal, you can transform how patients obtain information about health care and their treatments.
With online resources, patients can learn about their health conditions and treatment options on their own time; they can also come back to that information whenever they want for additional review. Online education can incorporate videos, diagrams, and even ways of reaching out with more questions. This gives patients the power to be fully informed about their treatment so they can become active participants in their care.
Implement Home Monitoring
For patients who have chronic conditions and prolonged illnesses, wireless monitoring devices can be lifesaving. Devices such as pulse oximeters, thermometers, and blood glucose monitors can transmit their findings directly to healthcare administrators. Many of these devices even make it possible to store that information in the portal, where patients can review everything for themselves.
This level of detail gives doctors greater insight into the health of their patients, allowing them to create better care plans and spot problems before they become severe. It also helps expand patients’ knowledge of how their conditions affect them and how their treatments are going. This seemingly small change can have a major impact on patient care and education.
In many ways, the healthcare industry has been on the cutting edge of what technology can do. It’s time to extend that approach to the procedural elements of running a healthcare organization. With a patient portal that people enjoy using and internal systems that truly work for healthcare organizations as a whole, medical centers can harness technology to increase efficiency, reduce waste, and improve patient communication every step of the way.
About Dessiree Paoli