How Does Technology Help Today’s Medical Professionals Collaborate with Patients?
Healthcare providers and patients who share access to electronic health information can collaborate in informed decision making through better technology configurations. Patient participation is especially important in managing and treating chronic conditions such as asthma, diabetes, and obesity. But, there are many ways the right use of technology helps today’s medical professionals collaborate with patients.
How EHRs and Healthcare IT Fosters Patient Collaboration
Electronic health records (EHRs) can help providers do such things as:
- Ensure high-quality care. With EHRs, providers can give patients full and accurate information about all their medical evaluations. Providers can also offer follow-up information after an office visit or a hospital stay, such as self-care instructions, reminders for other follow-up care, and links to web resources.
- Create an avenue for communication with their patients. With EHRs, providers can manage appointment schedules electronically and exchange e-mail with their patients. Quick and easy communication between patients and providers may help providers identify symptoms earlier. And it can position providers to be more proactive by reaching out to patients.
Personal Health Records
A personal health record, or PHR, is an electronic application used by patients to maintain and manage their own health information (or that of others for whom they are authorized to do so). A PHR differs from an EHR in that patients themselves usually set up and access the PHR. Patients can use a PHR to keep track of information from doctor visits, record other health-related information, and link to health-related resources.
PHRs can increase patient participation in their own care and today’s medical professionals collaborate better with them. They can also help families become more engaged in the health care of family members.
With standalone PHRs, patients fill in the information from their own records and memories, and the information is stored on patients’ computers or the Internet.
Tethered or connected PHRs are linked to a specific healthcare organization’s EHR system or to a health plan’s information system. The patient accesses the information through a secure portal.
With tethered/connected PHRs, patients can log on to their own records and see, for example, the trend of their lab results over the last year. That kind of information can motivate patients to take medications and keep up with lifestyle changes that have improved their health.
Ideally, patients will be able to link their PHRs with their doctors’ EHRs, creating their own health care “hubs.” Most doctors are not ready for that kind of change quite yet, but it is a worthy goal.
The Patient’s Perspective
Information technology is at the heart of modern life. It touches different people in different ways. Some are comfortable with new technologies; others may be intimidated, at least at first. EHRs, PHRs, and other health IT developments tend to make many patients more active participants in their own health care. As providers adopt new technologies such as EHRs, it’s important to keep the patient’s perspective in mind.
GDS helps today’s medical professionals use technology to collaborate with patients in safer, more secure ways, enabling them to secure their patient data and ensure their continuance as a healthcare practice.
Further Ways Technology Helps Healthcare Providers Collaborate with Patients
- Crunching data to offer a better diagnosis and treatment: Just call the computer “Dr. Watson.” Researchers at IBM have been developing the supercomputer known as Watson (which, in February 2011, beat out “Jeopardy” champs Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter to win $1 million, which was donated to charity) to help physicians make better diagnoses and recommend treatments. Doctors could potentially rely on Watson to keep track of patient history, stay up-to-date on medical research and analyze treatment options. Doctors at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York are expected to begin testing Dr. Watson later this year.
- Helping doctors communicate with patients: Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC) has developed Omnifluent Health, a translation program for doctors and others in the medical field. The suite of products includes a mobile app that lets doctors speak into the app — asking, for example, if a patient is allergic to penicillin — and translate the message instantly into another language. Given that there are 47 million U.S. residents who don’t speak English fluently, the program could be a boon for doctors who would otherwise need to rely on translators and medical assistants to communicate with their patients.
- Linking doctors with other doctors: Could social networking help doctors work better together to take care of their patients? That’s the premise behind Doximity, a social network exclusive to physicians. Through Doximity, doctors throughout the United States can collaborate online on difficult cases. It’s received $27 million in funding and counts among its board members Konstantin Guericke, a co-founder of LinkedIn.
- Connecting doctors and patients: New York City startup Sherpaa offers patients medical consultations online and over the phone, potentially saving a trip to the ER. The medical advice doesn’t come from just anyone but from some of the city’s top medical specialists. Employers such as Tumblr have signed onto the service.
- Helping patients stay healthy: A growing number of mobile apps and gadgets aim to help people stay active, sleep well and eat healthily. Among them are Fitbit, a pedometer that tracks daily sleep and activity and uses social networking and gaming to motivate its users. Lark is a silent alarm clock and sleep monitor that tracks and analyzes a person’s quality of sleep over time, offering suggestions to help the person get better rest (it has since expanded to track daily activity, too). And there are dozens upon dozens of calorie-counting, food-monitoring, and menu-tracking apps to aid the diet-conscious.
It’s clear that technology is giving the healthcare industry a much-needed upgrade, from medical translation tools to mobile apps that help patients live healthier lives. Though much is still in the early and experimental stages, the advances in technology could help save money in health care costs and improve patient treatment.
Patients who can connect with their doctors more easily, for instance, won’t need to make expensive and perhaps unnecessary trips to the ER or specialists. Doctors will be able to collaborate with other physicians and experts in new ways and use computers to analyze patient and medical data, allowing them to provide better and more effective treatment for their patients. As technology continues to expand the horizons of medicine and medical interaction, it’s becoming clear that we’re entering a new era of healthcare — or as some people are beginning to call it, Health 2.0.
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For further consultancy and technology that helps today’s medical professionals collaborate with patients in safe, compliant ways that guarantee total data protection, visit GDS and contact us at (888) 849-6818 or info@GDSConnect.com for more information.