Technology is entering our lives in new ways every day, and some of those technologies are providing significant benefits to certain industries. Among those is the healthcare industry, which is increasingly using digital health to solve some major challenges the industry is facing.
The problems healthcare organizations have with technology fall into two major categories: keeping up with trends to stay competitive and implementing appropriate regulations to maintain compliance. Ironically, some of the very digital solutions that make healthcare organizations more vulnerable are exactly the ones that can be used to help.
Here are three ways digital health is helping improving healthcare for everyone.
1. Improving Quality of Care
Many discussions in the healthcare industry revolve around improving the quality of patient care and reducing the number of errors in treatment plans. Medical errors do happen, and perhaps more frequently than people think, particularly in less developed parts of the world. For instance, being treated at a hospital in Latin America carries about a 1 in 10 chance of harm caused by inappropriate medical treatment or errors, a significant percentage. Digital health solutions could change all that.
Electronic medical records can be used to reduce mistakes in medication dosages, for example. One relevant study has shown computerized decision support systems have the potential to improve the accuracy of medication dosing by as much as 13 percent. Another showed a similar tool leading to a 59 percent decrease in pharmacy interventions correcting doses.
Other solutions allow medical professionals to consult each other to confirm diagnoses by accessing online networks of other healthcare providers sharing information about their diagnoses and treatment plans. Telehealth and virtual doctor visits can help provide access to specialists for patients living in underserved areas or who routinely struggle to take time off work to get to a doctor.
Technologies like big data analytics, machine learning strategies, and artificial intelligences will soon be leveraged even more. These technologies have the potential to identify patients at higher risk of certain complications or who might benefit from a particular targeted treatment method. It’s no surprise that, when used in combination, these methods have the potential to significantly improve patient care.
2. Increasing the Use of Targeted Treatments
The age of medicine we live in now relies on the use of pharmaceuticals that will benefit the majority of the population. This sounds fine in theory. In practice, it has increased our dependency on broad spectrum antibiotics, created antibiotic-resistant viruses and bacteria, and led to serious complications for some patients.
Patient specific or targeted treatments, drugs, and even therapies are likely to be the medical solutions of tomorrow. With the ability to collect and interpret vast amounts of patient data, doctors and healthcare providers will be better able to note the efficacy of specific drugs or treatment plans for specific patients.
In this way, treatments will be more effective. This is an important development for such debilitating diseases as cancer.
3. Reducing Inefficiency
The healthcare industry features an unusual mix of high-tech solutions along with low-tech processes. This often makes for waste and inefficiency. In fact, administrative expenses are a large part of overall rising healthcare costs. Estimates show that approximately half of the money spent on healthcare administration is wasted in the end. Reducing these inefficiencies by modernizing some of administrative processes could ultimately help lower overall healthcare costs.
For example, in some cases the sharing of patient records still must be done on paper by finding and scanning patient records and then faxing them to a new doctor or hospital. The extra time this takes is not only inefficient, but potentially harmful and dangerous to the patient.
Electronic medical records are helping with this problem, but blockchain technologies also show great potential to address this issue. Storing and sharing patient records by using blockchain allows for secure transmission, protects the patient’s privacy, and complies with HIPAA while ensuring the data’s integrity.
Troubles with supply chain mismanagement are similar in nature to these types of inefficiencies. Initially, they might not be seen as problematic for patients. However, such inefficiencies can result in mismanaged medical inventory or potential shortages of drugs or equipment.
In the end, these troubles cost the healthcare industry—and indirectly, the patients—thousands of dollars and put patient health at risk. Data management systems, when utilized appropriately, can help give providers immediate access to inventory numbers and budget allocations.
The Future of Healthcare Is Digital
Overall, digital health solutions do seem poised to have a huge impact on major problems facing the healthcare industry today. By providing technological solutions to some of these fundamental problems, patient care will improve, and healthcare costs may eventually decrease. Stay tuned for upcoming changes in digital health.