How digital health affects the patient-physician relationship
The digital health ecosystem saw its highest-ever investment levels in 2018 and 2019. Next-generation digital health technology is bringing seismic changes to the healthcare sector. As for investment levels for 2020, if the global pandemic has highlighted anything, it is the value of high-quality remote care solutions. As doctors and patients alike get to grips with new devices, systems, and ways of working, it is becoming clear digital health is also re-defining the doctor-patient relationship. As healthcare organizations increasingly embrace digital, the doctor-patient relationship should be the cornerstone of your digital transformation strategy.
However, there are some hurdles to overcome. Leveraging data to its fullest potential requires access to data, and as many people and organizations are only too aware, enabling access to digital health records is an ongoing struggle. Recent changes to the data-sharing laws in the US will, however, facilitate access and enable patients and physicians alike to connect the dots when it comes to electronic health records (EHRs). Technical challenges – analytics, AI, and compute power – have largely been overcome thanks to advances in these areas and the mainstream adoption of cloud computing. Attitudes to digital health are also shifting, with many more people are broadly willing to interact with voice and chatbots if it means they get the information they need in a timely manner.
We are entering “perfect storm” conditions for digital health. Here’s how the digital revolution is going to change the most important relationship of all, that between doctor and patient, now and in years to come.
Patients are increasingly referred to as “healthcare consumers.” They are familiar and comfortable with tracking health statistics, due in large part to the success of the fitness, well-being, and health-monitoring apps that have become popular in recent years. It’s a really big shift from the traditional “doctor knows best” approach to something resembling a patient-doctor partnership.
Remote monitoring brings closer ties
This new partnership model has many, sometimes surprising, upsides. Far from offering an impersonal, standardized approach to care, remote monitoring provides opportunities to get to know patients better, as demonstrated when researchers examined the remote monitoring correspondence between people living with diabetes and their physicians. Doctors were alerted when patients’ glucose levels were unsatisfactory. The resulting text conversations improved their knowledge of the patient, the quality of care they were able to offer, and even how triggers such as stress affected insulin levels.
It should not come as a surprise that fostering this kind of ongoing relationship rather than relying on infrequent face-to-face appointments increases patient engagement. In the case of Infostretch’s work with one of the leading US health plan providers, it led to increased patient compliance as well as improved efficiency for healthcare staff.
Operational efficiencies lead to better care
Many organizations have been able to demonstrate how next-generation technology, when focused on improving operational efficiency, doesn’t just save money, it also improves outcomes. John Hopkins Hospital harnessed AI to manage capacity, resulting in a 70 percent reduction in transfer delay between departments, and a 60 percent improvement in being able to take patients with complex needs from other hospitals, among many other impressive improvements.
When Infostretch worked with one of the leading health plan providers, we saw first-hand how consolidating and streamlining information about patient capacity and staffing enabled staff in different locations to monitor patient needs and align resources with those needs. It resulted in better operational efficiency as well as increased patient satisfaction.
Harnessing data to redefine the doctor-patient relationship
As we enter the cognitive era, AI will play an increasingly important role in the patient-doctor paradigm. IDC predicts worldwide spending on cognitive and AI systems will reach $77.6B in 2022.
Cognitive AI will be harnessed increasingly to assist healthcare providers in their decision-making because it has the ability to provide nuanced, contextualized insights as well as sifting through vast quantities of data. For an example of how it’s being used right now, Infostretch worked with Navigating Cancer, the world’s first patient-centered platform for oncology, which supports more than one million patients and thousands of cancer care providers. Using intelligent analytics, its platform is helping improve the assessment of “at-risk” patients, drive down costs for patients, and speed up the overall process.
Any analytics-based solution is only as good as its data inputs. So, resolving issues around data access and data bias should be of paramount importance to digital health pioneers. One of the ways digital health is making a difference is the ability to offer real-time, personalized care, but incorrect data can lead to adverse outcomes. Protecting health data is also crucial, meaning organizations need to digitally engineer data privacy and protection into their systems through the adoption of HIPAA-compliant platforms.