When you enter a hospital ward, or you walk into a medical practice, everything looks it is working just fine. But if you observe closely enough, you will soon realise the administrative costs.
Let’s look at an example. In England, the National Health Service (NHS) is free and available 24/7 to the public, meeting the nation’s health needs. A recent primary care report analysis shows that general practitioners spend 11% of their time on administrative task. This might seem like a small number, but if we put numbers into perspective, things change. If half of the administration efforts were passed on to (non-medical) staff, it would result in freeing up the equivalent of 1400 doctors to attend patients’ needs – and this is the effect in England alone!
Saving time from administrative tasks provides an improvement in physicians’ daily operations by lessening their workload. With less administrative workload pressure, doctors will focus on the care they are providing. In fact, 93% of physicians reported that overwork negatively affects the care they provide. Public health employees deal with mountains of paperwork, with mismatched information, and works with an ineffective communication system.
This is where eHealth can come in handy.
To address those issues, integrated care is a top priority to connect all healthcare providers to strive for better care: less double testing, earlier targeted treatments and fewer complications, just to name a few. Such integrated care initiatives can range from effective utilisation of pharmacists as healthcare advisors to “developing a network of linked hospitals” to supply excelling care.
Integrated care requires connectivity and effective communication. Hence, the first step to establishing integration would be to attain a total digital revolution within the healthcare systems. We are not just referring to patients’ electronic records (EHRs), but to real-time data analytics and integration, digital therapeutics, and telemedicine. The digital wave would create an integrative communication platform, where healthcare providers can access patients’ latest health data, input new ones and track patients’ health.
We believe that two innovations are integral for this digital revolution in healthcare: telemedicine and digital transformation of patients’ records.
Telemedicine is a next-generation trend for both doctors and patients. It provides the ecosystem to facilitate continuous care. First, it allows physicians to optimise their time, and it lowers the impact of no-show appointments. Second, telemedicine reduces the entry barrier for patients as it grants quick access through remote consultation. In fact, it opens up the pool of available doctors by eliminating the need to be physically present. As with all revolutions, it must be taken with a pinch salt. Some cohorts are unlikely to change their behaviour and some others would not benefit from telemedicine. Appropriate targeting is necessary to realise the opportunity of telemedicine. It is indeed a tool offering a win-win situation for both practitioners and patients by saving time and money.
Electronic health records (EHRs)
The adaption of electronic health records (EHRs) via a digital platform is dependant on their accessibility to all the parties, from practitioners to patients and to allied health service providers. If EHRs were to be augmented via the collection of real-time health data (e.g., flu vaccine completed in the pharmacy, blood sugar level checked at home) and, again, if they were to be available not just to doctors, but to paramedics, nurses and pharmacists, to provide the best healthcare possible based upon their knowledge, the overall effectiveness will undoubtedly improve.
On the care receiver side, patients will be able to access their health information, empowering them to “own” their health. Patients will be able to monitor their health status, medicines history, and new prescriptions, upcoming appointments, and check-ups. They will feel empowered about their health: from following doctors’ decision to monitoring their medications. Patients will feel connected with health monitoring rather than something left in the hands of doctors. On top of that, smartphones will make their place into health use case, instead of being reduced to entertainment devices.
There is a thriving health tech scene that offers national health systems smart technologies ready to use. These tools are available not just to insurance companies or to doctors but to the whole system. Change is hard to achieve, but policymakers can play a crucial role in fast forwarding the implementation and acceptance of healthcare innovation.
The promised change will arrive, but will it be fast enough to meet the growing demands of the changing population?
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