It’s been a decade since the creation of the HITECH Act – federal legislation designed to spur implementation of electronic health records (EHR) and supporting technology throughout the U.S. While most healthcare providers now rely on electronic systems, there’s still plenty of untapped digital potential across hospitals and medical offices. The same is true in clinical trials. Despite much progress in digitizing long standing processes, sponsors and CROs still have significant opportunities to transform trials using mobile technology and the Internet of Things (IoT).
In considering digital transformation, the healthcare and life sciences industries may be understandably cautious given the literal life-and-death nature of their work. And yet, they may be “misdiagnosing” potential downsides of digital. Here’s a quick recap of some of the most common misconceptions.
Misdiagnosis #1: Digital is too risky for patients, participants, or subjects.
There’s no question that healthcare and clinical trial sponsors face stringent requirements when it comes to protecting personal health information (PHI). But it’s shortsighted to use those and other regulatory requirements to create a digital dead end. In fact, it may be more dangerous NOT to embrace digital.
The Office of the National Coordinator of Health Information Technology previously estimated that remote patient monitoring alone could save up to $36 billion globally over a five-year period. The ONC continues to advocate for this digitally enabled approach to healthcare and research, among others. Meanwhile, the Food & Drug Administration is undertaking the Digital Health Software Precertification Program, which aims to put certain software-enabled connected health solutions on a faster track to adoption.
Misdiagnosis #2: Going digital will make it difficult for clinical staff to do their jobs well.
Digital will make work different – but not necessarily difficult – for clinical staff. In many instances, digital solutions can eliminate repetitive, time-consuming tasks that detract from the core focus on patient interactions and care delivery. Beyond automating the mundane, digital technologies are also forging new ways to train clinicians. These can range from insightful (think: telehealth courses being integrated into medical school curriculums - in the 2017-2018 school year, 60% of medical schools included telemedicine either as a required course or an elective option) to lifesaving (surgeons using VR to accelerate and advance their skills without putting real patients at risk). Looking to the future, virtual reality may even aid in pain relief, including use of a “virtual world” of ice and snow to reduce the activity of pain receptors during a dressing change for someone with severe burns.
Misdiagnosis #3: Big data puts us at risk.
“Big data” is the phrase used to describe the ability to aggregate and analyze massive quantities of structured and unstructured data. Until recently, there wasn’t enough computing horsepower to crunch data sets of such proportions or to analyze them to describe or predict important trends.
When healthcare providers and clinical trial enterprises have access to big data and machine learning, they can, in fact, reduce risk. Improving their understanding of patient populations helps enhance the ability to diagnose, to assess treatment efficacy, and, in the case of clinical trials, to identify and track subjects over long periods of time.
Misdiagnosis #4: Technology slows down clinical processes.
The rise of electronic health records also led to what can feel like increasingly impersonal interactions with healthcare providers. When a nurse or physician is constantly looking into a screen, it can feel like technology has “taken over” the patient experience. But by integrating conversational AI into EHR systems, we can bring the best of both worlds – enabling a return to more human-focused exchanges without losing the efficiency and accuracy benefits that electronic systems enable. The same is true in other clinical settings, such as the operating room, where voice can help surgeons and supporting clinicians to more quickly prepare for and complete surgical procedures.
Misdiagnosis #5: The elderly won’t use digital solutions.
How many people are eager to give up their homes and independence so they can move to an assisted living or skilled nursing facility? Not many! Fortunately, digital solutions can help. From wireless fall monitors and medication administration robots to voice assistants for calling for transportation, refilling prescriptions, or ordering grocery delivery, digital is making it possible to age in place safely. In fact, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services this year expanded approved reimbursement categories for remote care services – a clear sign that more innovation and adoption are to come.
As we look to the not-so-distant future, digital will enable much more than better safety, lower costs and improved coordination. With the rise of chronic diseases, global doctor shortages, and longer life expectancies, society will need digital innovations to transform the way we uncover new treatments and deliver healthcare around the world.
What steps can you take today to unleash the power of digital in your healthcare or life sciences enterprise? Reach out to Mobiquity today to discuss how you can unlock new potential at your organization.
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