Keeping the “care” in healthcare – with help from tech

Many consumers have access to a wealth of their medical information online, thanks to huge strides made by providers and healthcare organizations in electronic record-keeping. But in spite of this widespread accessibility, recent research from Health Affairs found that only about 10 percent of patients are actually retrieving their data. More than 70 percent of hospitals give their patients this ability, but two-thirds of them reported less than a quarter of their patients actually made use of their online portals. In counties with a large population of patients that lacked internet access, were Hispanic, or were eligible for both Medicare and Medicaid, use rates were even lower.

Meanwhile, providers are reporting that the time they spend entering data into EHRs and using the computer during patient visits detracts from the attention they are truly giving to that patient. A survey of over 1,000 physicians in October showed that nearly half the respondents said their practice’s quality of care was harmed by their current EHR system, rather than benefiting from it.

Some nurses might agree – co-founder of DocsDox Suneel Dhand, MD, estimates that many of these dedicated professionals spend most of their day glued to their portable computer screens, entering and updating information. To help them provide the direct care and compassion they have always given to their patients, he suggests that the next wave of healthcare technology be “quick, easy to use, and fully integrated with frontline clinical workflow.” This mindset could lead to technology designs that allow nurses and other healthcare providers to keep the human element in healthcare at the forefront.

Some solutions are already on the way, both to engage patients more fully with their healthcare data and to help doctors and nurses give patients more face time during their time together.

As part of a multi-pronged approach to reduce physician burnout from the National Academy of Medicine, co-chair Pascale Carayon, PhD, noted that “Clinicians should not be spending time on low value activities, but on activities that have meaning, purpose, and contribute to patient care.” For doctors, this could mean using voice-enabled technology to help take the documentation burden off physicians and nurses during appointments, and employing tools being developed to streamline care delivery for doctors and caregivers.

Patients are already benefiting from expanded use of telehealth technology, which allows them to communicate with their doctors remotely and provide health information via monitoring tools to assist providers with managing their care. And healthcare organizations are hoping to empower patients to take greater ownership of their personal data, leading to increased engagement and improved use of that data to make better healthcare decisions.