Role of Technology in Connecting all Stakeholders to Improve the Patient Journey in a Hospital

Amit Sharma, Head - Strategy & IT, Cytcare Cancer Hospital | Tuesday, 12 December 2017, 09:46 IST

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Don’t make use of excellent tech­nology, rather make excellent use of technology”

This should be the guiding principle for the CIO of any hos­pital. Technology can be an ena­bler in solving some of the more classical issues faced by hospitals while also empowering patients to better care for their health.

Today, healthcare patients view themselves as cus­tomers of the hospital, and hence not only expect treat­ment but a good all round experience. In order to cater to such demands, hospitals are making concerted efforts to deliver on a patient-centric business model. A large part of these efforts involve leveraging technology–the right systems and right solutions–to improve patient outcomes and experiences and cultivate long-term rela­tionships between patients and hospitals.

In a nutshell, the endeavor of any healthcare provider is to efficiently manage an individual’s hospital journey. This journey can be broken down into pre-treatment, during treatment, and post-treatment phases.

Similar to most buying decisions, the pre-treatment phase of the patient journey sets the stage for a patient’s entire interaction and experience with a medical facility and its staff. Just as a traveler might research multiple hotels before booking a room, medical consumers also wish to have options and access to all the information they will need to arrive at the best possible choice(s) for themselves. Hence at this critical decision making stage, it’s imperative for hospitals to effectively communicate with prospective patients, educate them on the facility’s superior care and reputation for excellence, overview the staff’s qualifications and experience in various dis­ciplines, and highlight specialty areas of care relevant to the patient’s needs.

In today’s digital era, the first interface of a patient with a hospital is the website. This has led to medical centers’ populating their website with detailed informa­tion, enabling the prospective patient to access medical conditions similar to theirs and develop insights into the specialty departments, the medical procedures and the treatment involved.

Once the patient is registered with the hospital, the organizations provide them access to Patient-portals; wherein patients can access their personal record of illnesses, on­going medication, treatment, pro­gress and personal communication with their doctors while also availing of their doctor’s advice in real time. All details viz; from the patient’s first visit to medical tests to the cur­rent ongoing medical treatment are available to the medical expert treat­ing the patient. They are thus able to monitor the patient very closely and offer changes in medication/treat­ment and even instruct the patient about following a distinct regimen, if required.

Within a hospital, there are sev­eral examples of technology usage, such as Hospital Information Man­agement System, Laboratory Infor­mation Management System, Queue Management Systems, Medical Im­aging Systems, among others, which all contribute to providing an en­hanced patient experience. Many of these systems also include different types of messaging systems to coor­dinate with patients as well as health­care providers to keep them updated on various developments such as appointment updates, test results, critical value alerts, drug reminders, etc. A simple example of technology interface in this scenario is a drug prescription resulting out of a doc­tor’s consultation flowing directly to the hospital pharmacy, resulting in immediate drug dispensing, thus avoiding manual interpretation er­rors. Linkage of online Drug Infor­mation Databases with Hospital In­formation Systems enables sharing of critical information such as Drug Interactions and Contraindications with the patient, thereby avoiding drug interaction cases.

During the hospital stay, tech­nology plays an integral role in en­suring quality patient care. There are multiple touch points within a hos­pital where technology support is making a huge impact. An updated electronic medical record of the pa­tient being available to the medical and nursing team is extremely help­ful in ensuring timely decision mak­ing with regard to any treatment modality while also ensuring a good patient experience.

A fully functional and responsive Customer Relationship Manage­ment System (CRM) is another such example where any feedback from in-patient can be collected in real-time and acted upon by respective stakeholders, ensuring high custom­er satisfaction indexes. CRM systems can also give patient-facing staff de­tailed information on the patients’ personal information, preferences, concerns and previous feedbacks so as to ensure real time addressal of these issues.

Another example of the role of technology in Cancer care is the Physical or Virtual Tumor Boards. Such tumor boards are globally rec­ognized by Oncologists and were in­troduced to enable communications among medical specialists who are a part of the Cancer Care Network. It involves a physical as well as vir­tual discussion amongst individuals from multidisciplinary teams who are linked in real time through video conferencing. They discuss the spe­cific case, exchange notes and define the most appropriate treatment, ir­respective of geographical territory of the patient and the care team. The uniqueness of tumor boards is that they also offer guidance on new treatments which emerge from clini­cal trials

Even after discharge from hos­pital, a technological interface can ensure ample opportunity for im­proving patient experiences and thus building long-term relationship with the patient. This could be through establishing a post-care journey, which comprises of post-care educa­tion, coordinating care with other provider groups (physiotherapists, dieticians, rehab specialists, etc.), automating appointments and fol­low-up care reminders, among oth­ers.

In the current scenario, as hos­pitals continue moving towards patient centric models, technology will play an increasingly important role in helping create a stronger patient-hospital bond, improving patient outcomes, and solidifying a hospital’s business operations. With the right approach, hospitals can empower patients and their care providers to work more collabora­tively in planning each of the care stages, thus freeing doctors to spend more time on the human element of care by educating, engaging, and treating their patients instead of trying to juggle time-intensive administrative tasks.

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