Technology is undeniably reshaping the healthcare industry by making daily tasks more efficient and effective than ever before — in large part, thanks to the digitization of data over the last 10 years as electronic health record (EHR) adoption has risen.
Before healthcare organizations and hospital systems were able to digitize their health records, doctors and nurses spent most of their day updating patient records with pen and paper and storing physical paper files as records. Even today, as EHR continues to be deployed, this is a common practice. However, for those currently leveraging EHR, those advancements have not only resulted in streamlined processes, but in significant improvements in the patient experience as well. This is because, as healthcare’s digital transformation continues, advancements in technology are also seeking to close certain gaps in care.
Care gap analysis, which refers to the process of pinpointing shortcomings in treatment plans to improve patient care, is becoming of increasing interest as value-based care reimbursement models encourage hospitals to focus on cost-effectiveness and patient engagement. Using technology to bridge certain gaps in care today — like medication adherence and follow-up after diagnoses — also ultimately leads to the improvement of patient care and healthier patient populations, which is healthcare’s overarching goal.
Patient Engagement Holds the Key to Improving Care
According to an August 2018 report by Prescient & Strategic Intelligence, the global patient engagement solutions market generated $8.5 billion in revenue in 2017 and is projected to witness a compound annual growth rate of 16.9% during the 2018-2023 period — with the rising use of mobile health solutions and increasing demand for wearable health technology cited as key factors driving this growth. As technology spreads, patient expectations increase, making patient engagement (and the overall patient experience) of high concern to healthcare systems today.
Finding innovative ways to use technology like unified communications (UC) to close the gaps in care that exist today can help improve patient care. UC, as defined by Gartner, are the products (equipment, software and services) that facilitate the interactive use of multiple enterprise communications methods and integrate communications channels (media), networks and systems. UC solutions deployed in medical call centers, specifically, hold significant power in the ability to transform patient-provider or patient-healthcare system communications to improve care and overall experience in the healthcare system.
UC Technology Increasing Accessibility of Communication
Perhaps the largest cause of many of the gaps that exist in the healthcare system today is a lack of communication between patients and their doctors. One area where this is commonly seen involves patients with chronic conditions, who often experience infrequent communication with their provider while managing and treating their condition. UC technology offers a wide variety of communication modes (chat, SMS, video, etc.) and can be leveraged to encourage more easily accessible communication between a patient and their provider, clinic, or hospital.
Healthcare organizations utilizing UC technology can offer their patients the ability to communicate from any mobile device at any location, vastly expanding accessibility. In a 2018 study on trends in clinical communications and collaboration, performed by Spyglass Consulting Group, 90% of hospitals surveyed had already made or were planning to make significant investments in smartphones and secure unified communications. As security for mobile devices continues to improve, the healthcare industry is certain to see increased use of UC to improve communication and strengthen patient-provider relationships.
By making communication more accessible and available in the modes preferred by patients (options outside of picking up the phone and calling in), patients are more motivated to remain engaged in managing their healthcare – something that is especially important for those with chronic conditions.
Artificial Intelligence Improving Care
As the UC market continues to advance, in tandem with healthcare’s digital transformation, new capabilities such as artificial intelligence (AI) are also emerging as a way to improve the patient experience.
A 2017 report by Grand View Research found that the global chatbot market is expected to reach $1.25 billion by 2025, growing at a compound annual growth rate of 24.3%. In healthcare and a variety of other industries, chatbots are quickly becoming the standard in customer service communications. For healthcare specifically, chatbot technology is being used for appointment scheduling — to enable clinics and hospitals to extend their hours of service in order to meet patient expectations for 24/7, on-the-go access.
Although chatbot technology is still in its infancy, it can be used to support a wide variety of use cases — from appointment scheduling to monitoring conditions to assisting with medical billing. As AI, coupled with chatbot technology, continues to develop and be deployed in healthcare systems across the U.S., its role in improving patient care and experience will become increasingly important.
As healthcare’s digital transformation continues to unfold, there is vast potential for communications and care to be revolutionized. By determining what gaps exist in the current healthcare system, and then leveraging that data through the deployment of UC technology, healthcare organizations (and their partners) will be able to drive higher levels of patient engagement — ultimately leading to improved care for all.