by Julie Campbell, Director, Healthbox
Most of us have seen a blockbuster movie that threatens robot world domination: The Matrix, Transformers, Terminator, etc. Technology is often portrayed as a force to be feared; it will take over our jobs, our lives, and even our humanity. But in today’s world, can technology actually help us return to a more human experience, even in healthcare? I believe that we have the potential to bring together the best aspects of technology and humanity to democratize healthcare delivery.
It is true that some technological advances in healthcare have reduced our human to human interaction. Implementation of Electronic Health Records (EHR) is a prime example. Physicians today are only spending 27% of their time on direct clinical face time with patients, while 49% is spent on EHR and desk work. And physician frustration with the EHR is cited as the leading cause of physician burnout. In some instances, healthcare professionals are using text messages, emails, robocalls, and chatbots as a substitute for human interaction (e.g. enrollment information, explanation of benefits, appointment reminders, discharge instructions). This often leads to misunderstanding, confusion, and disengagement. It is imperative to bring back a sense of human connection and empathy in healthcare. Many companies are now starting to move in this direction, toward a digital-driven and human-enabled value chain, where technology and humans must work in concert for optimal outcomes.
Digital health solutions can promise improved provider and payor experience, when implemented strategically.
Digital health can reduce administrative or time-intensive tasks that clinicians and administrators take on, allowing more time for face-face interaction. Some companies are improving physician charting through Artificial Intelligence (AI) powered dictation tools. MDOps simplifies clinical documentation and navigating the EMR through dictation to your mobile device straight to the EMR, as well as a voice controlled virtual clinical assistant.
Intelligent automation can supplement (not replace) a provider’s ability to reach the right conclusion faster. Zebra Medical Vision provides time-constrained physicians with automated, accurate, and timely medical image diagnosis. Zebra is working with radiologists to improve reading accuracy through AI, while escalating high-risk patients earlier.
AI can also help payors and providers create hyper-personalized care plans based on information about the person as a whole- zip code, social habits, community support, genetic code, health history, etc. Companies like Socially Determined can turn what in the past was a generic, uninformed plan of care in to a highly tailored plan driven by insight, aimed at improving care for the specific individual.
Digital health is already redefining improved patient interaction in healthcare delivery.
By putting health data at the patient’s fingertips, remote patient monitoring solutions are engaging consumers more than ever before. Patients are empowered to understand their health trends and make better health decisions. Taking it one step further, companies like Livongo and Movn Analytics provide on-demand counseling when a patient’s health data exceeds personalized thresholds. Patients who weren’t seeing a provider until too late now have easier and earlier access to care.
Digital health is also about meeting the consumer where they are, when they need it, and how they feel most comfortable. The increasing use of telemedicine is an indicator that patients want access to healthcare on-demand, in a more affordable setting than emergency care. While there is concern about how telemedicine may reduce the opportunity for empathy (and empathy is tied to improved outcomes and satisfaction), it can help relieve apprehension by reducing the wait time to see a doctor or get test results. It is critical to design these interactions specifically to optimize for privacy, focus, lighting, etc.
The world is increasingly digital, and many consumers are demanding a way to engage digitally in healthcare. One company did a study comparing the outcomes of behavioral counseling in person, versus telehealth, versus an avatar powered by AI. And the avatar powered by AI actually had better outcomes and the lowest cost. And they found that it was by far the preferred option for Millennials. Some studies even show that people are more comfortable opening up initially to chatbots. Woebot is an example of a company that is taking behavioral health — an area that has significant shortages as well as negative social stigma — and finding a way to engage consumers who otherwise might not have been treated.
Technology is not a replacement for human interaction, intuition, or empathy. However, health technology can allow our healthcare specialists to focus more on the mission of improving the health of the community. And digital solutions, in particular, support the democratization of healthcare, creating a platform for people to have access to the leading care everywhere.
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