Healthcare and the digital world go together like hospitals and doctors — but adapting and transforming existing systems takes time and effort. The pandemic caused sped-up transitions into new technology with even more success than expected. However, these changes don’t come without growing pains for digital health.
Patients and healthcare providers alike rely on software more than ever before. Implementing new technology into the medical system is no longer a trend, but an evolving reality. API integrations, remote patient monitoring, machine learning, and other innovations make daily wellness a more attainable goal.
How did we get here, and what technology has evolved healthcare? What happens next? Let’s take a look at what digital health entails and what software is supporting this digital healthcare evolution.
What is the digital evolution of healthcare?
There are two pillars in the digital evolution of healthcare — innovation and implementation. The former is mentioned often, but without the latter, organizations would be overrun with new technology they don’t know how to use.
Universal Adapter points out that an evolutionary approach doesn’t worry itself with transforming the whole system — doing so would lead to interruptions, which isn’t possible in an industry where patients need constant attention. Instead, digital evolution updates one component of a system while the other areas pick up the slack in the meantime.
The key to the process is in the word itself: evolution. The goal is to evolve what already exists to ease the transition of healthcare into the digital space, then use these improvements to implement new technology and innovate even more.
The evolutions of software for digital health companies
This evolution isn’t a distant idea; it has been happening for years and will continue for the foreseeable future. Note how healthcare has changed during the pandemic alone. Rather than discuss changes that might come in the future, let’s find key areas that your organization can focus on right now.
A big benefit of digital health evolutions is data transfer and storage. Before digital technology, patient records, inventory, governmental records, medical research, and other information had to be stored and sorted through physically. Now, with all of this data in one place, there’s a potential to enable more informed decisions.
“Big data” like this can interact and create a smoother all-in-one experience. APIs, or application programming interfaces, took off in the 1960s and 1970s. They allow two programs to communicate with each other by processing information between platforms. Data can then be used in different formats, and can also act as a filter so that only relevant information gets passed.
In practice, this means medical professionals get the right information in a much more efficient amount of time. Say a doctor needs a patient’s medical records. An API acts as a communication tool between the database with the patient’s history and the doctor’s own medical records software, pulling only relevant details.
EMRs, CRMs, and Care Management software
The first electronic medical record (EMR) was developed in 1972 by the Regenstrief Institute and was welcomed as a major advancement in medical practice. Now, decades later, EMRs have completely changed the way that traditional medical records are housed and managed. You can manage patient information in one place and share it with other physicians, and their uses continue to evolve.
Similarly, customer relationship management (CRM) and Care Management software act as the next step forward from EMRs. Now care teams aren’t limited to just storing patient information — they can use it to create and document a patient’s personalized care plan. Care Management platforms track where the patient is in their journey, letting their care team know the best opportunities to reach out.
Care Management software like Welkin Health takes it a step further, interacting directly with patients to map care with their team. Care teams can automate care programs, coordinate, create custom care plans, streamline multi-channel communication, log patient encounters, and integrate third-party applications to make a custom environment tailored to their organization.
Firewalls and breach detection
Of course, digitizing patient information is only beneficial when it’s safe. First developed in the 1980s, firewalls stand as a block against attackers who try to access sensitive data online. If they fail, breach detection lets those affected take action as soon as possible.
According to the health and human services breach report, over 15 million health records have been compromised by data breaches.
Personal health information (PHI) is more valuable on the black market than credit card credentials or other sensitive data. Firewalls and breach detectors keep both the patient and care provider safe against any potential threats. As organizations go through digital evolutions, safeguards must be implemented alongside new tools.
Approximately 1,629,000 telehealth encounters occurred in the first 3 months of 2020. Logging onto your phone, computer, or tablet for a doctor’s visit has become a new norm in the midst of COVID-19.
Telehealth visits increased by 50% from 2019 to 2020. It may seem new to us in the landscape of the pandemic, but virtual medical visits were already picking up steam. The potential for these online encounters is only growing in the midst of digital evolution.
Online therapy sessions, discussions with specialists in other parts of the world, and more accessible research participation all create promising potential for the online space beyond standard check-ups.
Remote patient monitoring
Health software innovations also lead to better monitoring, which can improve patient outcomes and experiences. If healthcare providers catch red flags as or even before they happen, they can improve appointments and contribute to a better understanding of a patient’s needs and experiences.
When most people think of remote patient monitoring, they think of devices like the Apple Watch, which tracks data like your heart rate, movement, etc. But RPM offers far more than that. The University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, for example, reduced the risk of hospital readmissions by 76% — and held patient satisfaction scores over 90% — by equipping patients with tablets and RPM equipment.
AI and machine learning
The evolution of software for digital health companies is gaining new traction through artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning. These are two of the most significant technological advancements of our generation, and they will create more opportunities for growth in healthcare.
There are countless ways this technology could support patients and their care teams. The Mayo Clinic has teamed up with IBM’s Watson AI to help doctors reach better, faster diagnoses by tapping into a vast reservoir of academic journals and medical records.
AI will play a key role in clinical decision support. It will allow clinicians to identify diseases earlier, tailor their treatment plans to individuals, and educate patients on potential disease pathways and outcomes. It will also help institutions improve their care delivery efficiency while reducing the cost of care.
AI and machine learning can not only ease hospital patient flow, but it can also help develop pharmaceutical drugs, analyze patient records, and weigh potential diagnoses based on a patient’s data.
The future of software for digital health companies
The future is bright for digital health companies and patient care. Digital health companies have so many more out-of-the-box options to build and support their healthcare programs. Using technology platforms with built in functionality such as APIs, AI, and Care Management automations enables you to get your care plans up and running more quickly. It also allows you to deliver medical care that improves patient experiences as well as your ability to treat them.
But with so much potential, it’s difficult to know which tools are truly beneficial, and which only add complexity to your workflow. After all, a tool is only effective if it makes life easier for your care teams and patients.
Taking the first step toward digital evolution is a lot easier with someone to get you on board. You and your team members can start the process with Welkin Health. Learn about the best ways to support your program and get your team up to speed with an integrated Care Management platform.