Technology has created the opportunity to comprehensively track the realities of global health. In developed countries, billions of dollars are spent annually on treating obesity, cancer and chronic diseases. In developing countries, pandemic illnesses and poverty erode economies and shorten life spans. Presentations at this year's World Economic Forum explored how technology is revolutionizing global healthcare services by reducing costs, increasing access to medical services and improving patient outcomes.
In the U.S., today's technology can lower the cost of providing services, but many practitioners are concerned about the cost of doing so. However, a 2012 study done for the U.S. Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (HealthIT.gov) revealed that making the transition improved practice efficiencies and saved money. The costs saved were both administrative and clinical. Administratively, mobile technology in the billing office and the patient rooms replaced human-oriented activities, such as records transcription and file documentation checks. Resource utilization also improved due to staff access to current data regarding supplies, workflows and clinic performance.
Technology that facilitates improved patient care offers the best cost-saving opportunities. Digitally integrating all aspects of a patient's care team reduced the amount of time and resources that were previously expended to obtain data, enter it into document fields and analyze it for relevance. Primary patient files can receive check-in and discharge data simultaneously as the patient moves through ancillary systems, like radiology, labs and the pharmacy, and thus eliminating the need for follow-up document and data retrieval. And the shared information gives each team member the information necessary to make better decisions for the patient.
Truly Personalized Care
The combination of sensor technology and the "Internet of Things" (IoT) promises to keep many patients out of the clinic altogether, even while their healthcare services improve. Telehealth systems remotely connect the patient to the care team, allowing the person to stay in their home. Programmable devices with embedded sensors attach painlessly to the body. IoT technology--machines communicating with machines with no human interaction necessary--transmit data directly to companion mobile apps. Programming the sensor and the app to the patient allows the creation of individualized treatment plans that respond to that patient's specific conditions. Consistent monitoring of symptoms, vital signs, activity levels, diet and even medication adherence keeps medical professionals informed of patient welfare. The devices can also be programmed to sound an alert when patient data reports physical anomalies or distress.
The technology should prove particularly significant for patients with chronic conditions. The real-time stream of data can indicate when medication levels are inappropriate, the occurrence of adverse responses to therapy and, most hopefully, even the reduction of symptoms.
Improved Patient Outcomes
At the World Economic Forum, presentations indicated that previously unimaginable gains in global health will result from the digital integration of medical services, and the instantaneous sharing of data across specialties and disciplines. Medical professionals will no longer have to rely on potentially inaccurate oral histories, gaps in case histories or patient inaccessibility to services. A single doctor/patient visit can set in motion a home-based treatment plan with digital tools collecting and reporting data, informing the entire team of progress and monitoring the status of the patient. Mobile clinics will have the capacity to treat more people with increased efficiency and at reduced costs, especially in remote communities where health services are slim or non-existent.
Medical professionals can save money and improve administrative functions through the use of emerging technology. The mobile device and app pairing improves medical services in profound ways and will revolutionize the future delivery of healthcare services. Creatix builds custom software designed to respond to the precise needs of their healthcare clients, including mobile apps for staff and patients, fully functioning web technology including forms, and even IoT technology to streamline processes reduce the possibility of human error.