Improvement in digital technology has vastly enhanced various areas of our daily lives. From work-related activities to sports and fitness and many others, digitalization has caused a great leap in what used to be and what is now.
Just as every area of our lives has experienced a shift, the health aspect is also not left out. With the dispensation of new technologies to match specific and general needs, healthcare accessibility is now easier and better with the simple push of a button or a quick surf through a website.
Thanks to emerging technologies, patient engagement and communication have improved vastly in a variety of areas such as diagnosis, follow-ups, improved communication, patient experience, reduced operating costs, and many others.
Patient Communication And Engagement 101
Before we examine how emerging technologies improve patient communication and engagement, let’s begin by understanding what patient engagement and communication are and how it works.
Patient communication and engagement implies a strategy or method that encourages and allows patients to actively participate in managing their health. The method allows patients to play a more active role in all aspects of their healthcare journey from gathering information about their conditions, symptoms, and experiences to making decisions about their preferred treatment options.
Patient communication and engagement ensures continuous and active participation and feedback on the part of the patients in terms of their health and how to improve it. This strategy is carried out and made possible through technologically advanced means such as video conferencing, mobile healthcare applications, patient engagement software like relatient.com, wearable devices, virtual reality (VR) technology, telemedicine platforms, online support communities, and many more.
Now that we understand what patient communication and engagement is about, here are some ways emerging technologies have helped improve all of that and much more:
1. Virtual Healthcare Management
By 2020, healthcare providers had to develop means of interacting with their patients and providing healthcare services without having patients come to the hospital to avoid further risks. While that seemed quite challenging at the beginning, certain emerging technologies helped to facilitate the entire healthcare service while also improving patient communication and engagement over time.
To match the functionality of the video conferencing, the advent and further development of medical practice management software made patient engagement even more participatory. With the software in place, patients were and are still able to access all aspects of healthcare without leaving their homes so much. The practice management software which acts as a website or an all-encompassing virtual healthcare center for patients allows for interactions between health caregivers and patients with ease.
Further integration of the video-conferencing technology with improved clinic practice management software would allow the patients to:
- Conveniently schedule appointments
- Have all their medical details and information in a digital safe file for easy dissemination and use
- Access test results faster
- Make payments
- Easily connect to care managers and providers in a short time
- Access health records and information faster
- Reduce the need for frequent visits to the hospital
Another addition to the medical practice management software is the patient portal. Patient portals are online websites designed to give patients 24-hour access to their health data. These websites can be accessed from any computer or mobile device and provide up-to-date information about the patient’s health such as allergies, recent visits or consultations, medications, immunization, results from tests, and much more.
In addition to that, these portals also allow patients to schedule appointments, request prescriptions, and much more. These virtual healthcare management platforms allow patients to have a more wholesome experience and encourage more active participation in their healthcare journey.
2. Improving Data Collection And Analysis
Before the advent of certain emerging technologies like the practice management software, many healthcare facilities required patients to head down to their physical buildings to carry out tests and examinations while all the records were kept manually and couldn’t be easily disseminated. While all of this was time-consuming, it also hindered quick and proper healthcare provision in cases where different hospitals had to wait for patient files to be sent down or brought by the patient before they could provide services, invariably stressing the patients, and leaving them unsatisfied.
Luckily, with the advent of emerging technologies like practice management software, data collection and analysis aren’t only easier but also faster. With patient management platforms, healthcare providers can gather all the information necessary without the need for physical appointments and have them transferred. Not to forget other technologies such as the Internet of Things (IoT) which allows the likes of mobile fitness apps and wearable monitoring devices to gather, record, and report data which also helps easy analysis, dissemination, and use of medical information.
3. Improved Data Security
Health data is just as sensitive as any form of data known to man. Healthcare centers in the past have been known to have breaches in their data security with confidential data being carted away and used against patients. This situation has often made patients skeptical about providing valuable information about their health conditions, symptoms, and much more with fear of security breaches and others.
To solve the problem of patient data security, one of the emerging technologies incorporated has been blockchain technology. Blockchain technology allows all healthcare professionals and management officials to protect the confidential and sensitive information of their patients through a secure and efficient network. This network not only protects sensitive information but also restricts access to such information to a few medical staff.
Another way blockchain improves patient communication and engagement is the dissemination of patient data to relevant providers. Through blockchain channels and networks, specific patient data can be shared with the necessary parties for a better understanding of the patient’s condition and to avoid redundancy in consultation and healthcare experience.
Blockchain is both a safety vault and an efficient data-sharing network, providing patients with the privacy they desire while also encouraging them to provide vital information that can help improve their health as well as that of others.
4. Efficient Communication
One of the many deterrents of good medical treatment at times is a lack of proper understanding and communication. Many times, patients can’t fully describe how they feel or express themselves well enough in terms and ways that’ll aid a proper diagnosis of how and what they feel to spur adequate treatment.
To improve communication, artificial intelligence (AI) technology and Natural Language Processing (NLP) has been incorporated into the healthcare industry to better make sense of the data provided by patients and help improve the overall results of the care provided in response to the data available.
AI technology has so far served as a proper translator and communication streamer with which patients can interact and express themselves with an assurance of proper results at the end of the day.
Furthermore, another reason for the integration of AI technology into the system is to drive convenient and frictionless access to care. For this, there has been the introduction of AI chatbots which serve as first responders to patient phone calls. The chatbots are designed to help filter the data derived from the phone calls and refer the patients to relevant resources to avoid holdups in service provision. Apart from utilizing them as first responders, chatbots serve as first aiders. They’re designated to sift through patient clinical needs, symptoms, and complaints; the results generated can recommend actions for first-hand care.
Finally, AI technology is also being used as a risk-assessment tool and an outreach tool to provide extra and continued care to patients outside the walls of the hospital. With proper data, the AI system identifies high-risk patients through available data and then pushes out automated outreach messages via email, phone, or text message to remind patients of medication, health state, and other needs.
5. All-Access Care
Video conferencing or telemedicine became one of the first emerging technologies that allowed for improved interaction between the patients and doctors on a virtual platform. It went a step further with the screen-sharing technology that created a full-on consultation effect where doctors could display and share diagrams, images, scans, and so on to encourage a better communication channel between both parties for optimum care. With its features such as video conferencing via any communication appliance, telemedicine has helped healthcare professionals provide services to patients from all over the country.
With telemedicine, patients are introduced to primary and preventive care and are also given room to freely interact with doctors in a more relaxed and convenient way. Because telemedicine transcends borders, time and location it makes it a more direct and preferable means for patients to interact with their caregivers and get the best solutions while intimating their caregivers of what is best for them as well as their progress.
In a bid to improve healthcare services and clinical operations, the healthcare sector has been digitalizing various areas and processes. These emerging technologies such as practice management software, the Internet of Things (IoT) system, telemedicine, patient engagement websites, online support communities, artificial intelligence (AI), and Natural language processing (NLP) technologies, among others, have facilitated and improved patient communication and engagement in a bid to provide an overall improved healthcare service outcome and satisfaction.
While these emerging technologies are performing greatly in their functions, there’s still more room for improvement for a better future in the health sector.