The U.S. spends about $3.5 trillion annually on healthcare. That’s significantly more per capita than other developed countries, a gap that has widened over the past several decades. Between 21-25% of that could be considered waste from a number of sources, including high costs and operational inefficiencies.
But, there is a tremendous technological shift taking place that is creating new tools that can help reduce that waste while improve efficiency and outcomes. Connected health services, like telehealth, remote patient monitoring, EHRs and more, are driving digital healthcare delivery and patient engagement, helping relieve some of the burden on providers that fuels the inefficiency, and supporting new healthcare initiatives like value-based care and population health.
One of the significant byproducts of connected health is the massive amount of data it generates. Every interaction, every engagement, creates new data that can be used in many ways to improve healthcare delivery and outcomes. RPM devices, telehealth visits, patient portals, mobile and web apps, as well as traditional office visits and lab tests, and other data sources can be integrated into EHRs and aggregate databases. Using artificial intelligence, analytics, and automation, the data produce invaluable benefits to the healthcare community.
Cost Reduction – Data-driven patient insights can help physicians create optimal treatment plans for patients – those with the greatest opportunity for successful outcomes – by combining patient-specific and aggregate data. Increasing the effectiveness of each treatment plan could reduce costs for both patients and providers. Telehealth and RPM services can also help reduce costs associated with office visits or hospital admissions. Timely access to care and real-time data can drive more immediate initiation or adjustment of treatment and reduce additional complications.
Workforce Optimization – Trend data can help providers better predict patient flows into their facilities, allowing them to staff appropriately to maximize staff and physician utilization and optimize patient experiences. A better understanding of resource usage can also help providers more effectively leverage virtual care alternatives and allow physicians to treat remote patients either from clinics or even home offices. In addition to increasing revenue opportunities, this can play a role in reducing stress and burnout.
EHRs and Collaborative Care – Having patient information from all data sources in a single digital record can help physicians better understand patient histories and treatment options. The ability to share digital patient information using store-and-forward technologies combined with telehealth applications can drive effective collaboration between physicians and specialists.
Medical Research – Aggregate, anonymized patient data can be used for enhanced research, helping providers better understand the effects of various treatments and develop new treatments, based on a much broader data set than what has been previously available. This can drive more accurate research leading to better outcomes. In addition, providers, researchers and governments have an opportunity to more rapidly react to new conditions, including widespread diseases, like COVID-19.
Improved Workflows – New data-driven workflows can help improve efficiencies at healthcare facilities. Physicians treating patients suffering from multiple conditions are able to more effectively coordinate care. Both in- and outpatient procedures and services can be dynamically optimized based on real-time information. Automated alerts and reminders can help ensure patients receive care and treatment when needed. And, at least some manual tasks related to data entry and patient records and prescriptions can be reduced through automation, freeing up time for providers to focus on patients.
Patient Engagement – Patients have access to more data-driven insights about their own health, and can use connected health tools to engage with physicians more conveniently than ever. As a result, they may be more likely to seek consultation or treatment, rather than putting it off until it’s more convenient. In addition to using telehealth tools for virtual care, providers can leverage data to deliver timely patient-specific information, from appointment reminders to treatment updates and recommendations, to health trends and tips.
Real-time Intervention – Connected health data sources can allow for immediate alerts for patients using RPM devices, when specific conditions are met. This allows providers to intervene immediately and potentially reduce risk or the need for hospitalization by adjusting treatment.
Continuity of Care – Patients may visit multiple providers, ERs, and specialists for the same or different conditions. The data and insights from each engagement can help reduce repetitive testing or conflicting treatments, saving time and costs, and potentially reducing ER and lab workloads. Knowing patients’ full medical histories can help each provider provide the best possible care.
Population Health – Digital healthcare can enable better identification of and response to trends in larger patient populations. As new trends emerge, at-risk patients are able to be identified based on their medical histories, socioeconomic factors, and other variables that can impact risk levels. Along with improved research, healthcare organizations and government agencies are able to leverage new information to develop and adjust healthcare strategies and legislation as needed to improve care delivery or react to new situations and conditions.
Patient Safety – Patient and aggregate health data can help physicians reduce complications. Knowing what treatments have already been prescribed and how patients with specific conditions react to different treatments can help ensure the right plans are administered and avoid conflicting prescriptions or procedures.
Today’s connected, digital society is generating enormous volumes of data about patients’ health conditions, trends across population groups, and provider resources. If that information can be collected, stored, analyzed, and turned into actionable intelligence, providers have an opportunity to improve the quality of care they are able to deliver while more efficiently managing their resources.
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