Bridging the Gap Between Patients and Providers
Congratulations to our Solutionreach Fall Scholarship essay winner, Elena Thomas! We want to congratulate all the applicants for a job well done. The competition this season was fierce! Check out Elena’s winning essay sharing how technology in healthcare helps to bridge the gap between patient and provider:
Unfortunately, a sense of vulnerability, loss of control, and frustration often accompany the healthcare experience of a patient. Personal health is a scary topic for those undergoing a health crisis to address. Physical health is incredibly personal because it affects one’s future, lifestyle, and very being. It is no surprise that fear, anxiety, hopelessness, and worry often accompany a health crisis. Additionally, when faced with a chronic illness, unexpected disease, or unanticipated health anomaly, patients easily find themselves lost, uninformed, and overwhelmed with medical jargon and confusing terminology.
Many people leave their doctor’s office perplexed and overwhelmed, wondering what was even discussed during their appointment and what their next step should be. As a result, many people resort to the internet for self-medication or self-diagnosis via questionable online sources. However, both options are often unhelpful. Nationwide changes in healthcare have forced severe time constraints on doctors and nurses, with less face-to-face time spent with patients. Realizing this, modern professionals now seek to offer a better alternative: patient engagement technology.
Patient engagement technology is a modern way of directly involving patients with their healthcare experience. Sometimes referred to as “Health IT”, patient engagement technology utilizes software and technological delivery systems to inform patients about their health. These systems provide access to reliable health information and their qualified healthcare professionals. Examples of patient engagement technology are Online Patient Portals, telehealth services, electronic care registries, mobile phone applications, and support systems. These new technology systems have been revolutionary for modern health care.
Studies on implemented patient engagement systems report a dramatic increase in patient satisfaction, time and financial efficiency of services, and an improvement in the quality of patient care. Furthermore, many hospitals, as well as hospital admissions departments that have implemented health IT systems, have observed a reduction in the number of emergency room visits. Insurance providers maintain reports that lower customer mortality rates and a positive impact on the patient experience can be attributed to the implementation of these systems.
The many reasons for the success of patient engagement technology include, but are not limited to, the importance of an individual’s involvement in his or her own health care experience, and the role technology holds for the modern consumer.
Patient engagement technology functions to connect patients with their healthcare providers. Some people may wait weeks, or even months, for their healthcare information. Whether people must wait for doctor appointments or laboratory results by mail, patients feel tossed about by the will of chance, mountains of paperwork, and their doctor’s overbooked schedule. Offices and hospitals that utilize patient engagement technology, however, can deliver laboratory results as soon as a sample has been analyzed. Patients can email their doctor or nurse questions and receive a rapid response.
The recent success of technological health systems attests the importance of a patient’s involvement in his or her own health care experience. When patients can easily access their own health records, laboratory results, list of medications, reported allergies, and immunization records, patients hold the personal power to see what is going on in their body. They feel more in control of their circumstances. When patients feel involved, capable, and in control, they are motivated to engage in a healthier lifestyle, consistently take their prescribed medications, and adhere to the counsel of their doctor; patients have greater chances of effective treatment and success.
The introduction of technology in modern society- cell phones, computers, laptops, and mobile devices galore- has revolutionized the consumer’s daily life. Most people have internet access in a pocket or a nearby purse at all times. There is unlimited online access to information about medical practices, fitness regimes, the latest diets, and homeopathic cures. However, this onslaught of information is more overwhelming than reassuring when seeking health advice. Patient engagement systems use the internet and technology to make medicine personalized. Treatments are no longer generalized, but are catered to the specific needs of a patient.
Those using health technology platforms do not need to worry if the information they receive is trustworthy, because it comes from their own qualified healthcare provider. Patient engagement technology also makes setting up a doctor’s appointment more accessible. Many health IT systems have the option for patients to set up appointments online, via a computer or a mobile application. This is a promising alternative for many patients, who can set up an appointment for themselves in a matter of minutes.
Patient engagement technology can also make medicine more integrated. Data from mobile phone applications, which are used by many smartphone users daily, can be analyzed by doctors to receive a comprehensive analysis of their patient’s health. Many patients can send files, documents, or share data from fitness trackers to their doctors. Ricky Bloomfield of Duke Health Technology Solutions remarked, “You take something that physicians have been doing for a long time without technology, like asking patients to monitor their weight, and you make it more reliable, more instantaneous, more able to reach many more people.” According to Katy Human of Genome Magazine, health care technologies can also further medical research. “For example, research at this broad scale could help doctors identify new gene variants that increase risk for Alzheimer’s disease.
An integrated electronic health records system could help clinicians then quickly identify people with that gene variant, track their disease progression, and test interventions that may slow it, a painstakingly slow and sluggish and costly process in the current health system. Scaling back down to the individual again, a provider could engage electronically with a patient who was dealing with early signs of Alzheimer’s, tracking critical systems.” The data pouring in from patient engagement technology platforms could be used to track trends and health issues that could be used by researchers to advance medical research.
Personalized medicine (via patient engagement technology) will revolutionize modern healthcare. Many citizens in the United States are currently experiencing a large amount of uncertainty regarding the future of their health care, during a systematic healthcare reformation. Thus, the advantages of patient engagement technology are even more necessary.
Patient engagement systems utilize modern technology to give individuals a stronger sense of personal involvement, hope, and stability in their healthcare. Patients understand their conditions more deeply, can ask their doctors detailed questions, make informed choices, and become proactive in the process of their own health care. Professionals can likewise use this data to comprehensively diagnose patients and gain a better overall understanding of the conditions their patients suffer. Thus, patient engagement technology holds a promising worldwide health-outcome for the next decade.
Brief Student Bio:
I am a pre-med student taking classes at Pasadena City College. I plan to transfer to a four year university in the fall of 2016, and graduate with a degree in biochemistry in 2018. I am applying to this scholarship to help me pursue a medical career, so that I can become a medical doctor.
*To find out more about the Solutionreach Scholarship, current essay topic and next submission deadline, click here.
Human, Katy. “Maximizing Your Health Data”. Genome , Volume 2, Issue 02, Summer 2015. 50-57. Print.
Athenahealth. “What is Patient Engagement?” Accessed 8/14/15 via online website at http://www.athenahealth.com/knowledge-hub/patient-engagement/what-is-patient-engagement.
James, J. “Patient Engagement.” February 2013. Health Affairs/Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Available at: http://www.rwjf.org/en/research-publications/find-rwjf-research/2013/02/patient-engagement.html.
A Leadership Resource for Patient and Family Engagement Strategies. Health Research & Educational Trust, Chicago: July 2013. Available at http://www.hpoe.org.