The week of the nationwide health IT awareness is just on the verge of its completion and we all are once again left with the same question- “What now? What is the future?”
Last few days were quite intriguing with lots of activities from across the nation from events like ‘Connecting the Healthcare Dots’ to ‘Enterprise Imaging Governance 2.0: A Primer for the HIMSS-SIIM Community.’ This week-long celebration comprised of partner-driven activities and events which were led by the efforts of the nation’s health stakeholders. The main theme of the week was to promote stakeholders collaborate towards generating actionable outcomes and to demonstrate the power that IT has to bring the biggest revolution ever in the healthcare space.
Amidst such a big week of celebration, it is important that we take some time out to look at the current state of the US healthcare and understand where we are headed.
The healthcare dilemma— Global and the United States
Healthcare globally is facing a serious workforce deficiency. The WHO’s Global Strategy on Human Resources for Health: Workforce 2030 reports that the shortage of physicians, nurses, and other healthcare executives could count up to 9.9 million. The United States is not behind in this trend— the nation could see a lack of 120,000 physicians by 2030.
Additionally, about 60% of the US population suffers from at least one chronic condition, and many of them fail to adhere to their treatment regimes. A great number of patients are not able to follow-up on their physicians after an episode or a surgery. This condition is far worse in the US than the global average.
The biggest challenge that we are facing is that data systems do not communicate, and in turn, obstruct the connectivity among different members of healthcare including payers, providers, nurses, patients, and others. There are many inefficiencies existing in the healthcare space that needs to be dealt with— one at a time.
The days of writing on paper are gone. Now, we need something new.
We all have seen those old days of doctors writing all details on a notepad and patients keeping every medical file or a paper safe in a folder. Undoubtedly, those hand-note days are over, yet the inefficiencies which existed before are still looming around.
The National Health IT week made us all focus on the important role that technology plays in the healthcare space. Conferences, events, webinars, discussions, patients sharing their health IT stories, and whatnot. The week brought out the true meaning of ‘IHeartHIT.’
As we move forward with technology, ‘the something new in healthcare,’ it is important that we understand the true meaning of technology in healthcare. What aspects does health IT cover and what is its future? The week’s major points of engagement in themselves cover the entire scope of technology in healthcare by focusing on:
- Supporting healthcare transformation
- Expanding access to quality healthcare
- Increasing economic opportunity
- Making communities healthier
The future of healthcare with automation and machine learning
Automation is among those terms that may create mixed feelings of hope and fear. Artificial intelligence and machine learning are concepts which are new and quite trending in healthcare. To define these concepts in simple words for the healthcare space— they are the tools for reducing the valuable time providers drain away into managing bundles of papers and relaying orders all across the fragmented network.
Automation is just the method to save nearly half of a physician’s time which is consumed by computer screens and not utilized by the patient.
Technology does not believe in just passing down the raw information. Automation in healthcare is about three processes:
- ‘Understanding’ the situation and the people
- ‘Determining’ the best possible solution
- ‘Implementing’ to change the way we deal with the problem
All it wants is a small step away from the old practices and towards the new era of beginning.
What is the value of Health IT for healthcare?
Irrespective of the condition, healthcare organizations and providers always strive to provide the best quality of care to their patients. It is just the complicated processes and age-old systems that hinder their processes.
With the right technology, providers and care teams can actually track the health status of their patients. Their appointments, medication adherence, tendency to visit emergency departments, or whatnot— everything could be just a click away. Moreover, reduced administrative burdens, pre-planned workflows, and freedom from hectic paperwork are an additional treat for them.
Health IT is all about the comfort and value we provide to the patient. Simpler experiences are the result that health IT can give. There will be practically no need for patients to carry their medical information with them because their physicians will already have that data. With true healthcare interoperability, whether it be a primary care physician or a specialist to whom the patient is referred— their computer screen is the exact replica of the information they need at the point of care.
Guiding the path to the other side of true efficiency
Healthcare is not just built with providers and patients. Many other stakeholders including payers, administrative staff, nurses, and many more are an integral part of the system which we call as healthcare. Not just their patients’ health but they can track other performance metrics such as expenses, financial status, inventory, administrative activities.
Health IT can open new ways to new insights and with new insights, they can tap into the right opportunities crucial for making their network robust and support all-around growth and development.
What is next to this week of Health IT celebration?
Just a week of celebration is not enough— it never was! This week answered so many questions and has also highlighted many challenges in our way. As a sector, we have made tremendous growth but still, we have a very long way to go. There is no other sector that is brimming with such a huge amount of data, as much as the healthcare is generating. Every single bit of this massive amount of data holds the information which is crucial to improving the population health. The National Health IT week puts forth among us the challenge to explore the new dimensions in healthcare and move beyond our general definition of efficiency. And no time can be better than now to actually start our journey to the ‘Dream Healthcare.’
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