What Healthcare Technology Will Do The Most To Improve Patient Care?
In healthcare, we need to change what has always been done. We need to start empowering our patients. And this attitude is translating into more digital health tools for patients.
But what does patient empowerment look like?
One of my partners performed several studies on whether or not patients need formal physical therapy following a specific surgery. In the studies, one group had a physical therapist come to their home for the first two weeks after surgery. Then, for another eight weeks, the same patients went to an outpatient physical therapist.
The other group had a self-directed home exercise program that they did by themselves for ten weeks. It was literally just a paper manual with images and an explanation of the exercises.
After ten weeks both groups had the same outcome. One group had a much more convenient program but had similar results as the formal physical therapy group.
Studies like these lead me to believe that digital health tools can hand power back to patients.
1. Comfortable Recovery
No one wants to make daily trips to a hospital or outpatient facility for physical therapy after surgery. But until recently, they didn’t have another choice. Now, digital health tools allow patients to go through this process from the comfort of their own home.
If an issue does come up while recovering, the patient does not have to make an appointment or work around the doctor’s office hours. They can ask questions through a digital health app and get quick responses. This helps patients feel less anxious because they have all the information they need. They can get answers to their questions. And they’re more comfortable recovering at home.
2. Efficient Appointments
It would be great if every patient who needs to make a doctor’s appointment is going to have a great experience. But as a practicing surgeon, I acknowledge that’s not always the case. The process can be more efficient for patients. And most importantly, the digital connection between patient and provider can be drastically improved.
But we are seeing new apps that make it easier to find and book an appointment. Digital health tools likeand give patients convenient ways to book appointments with available physicians. This is crucial to making patients feel in control of their health from step one.
3. An Improved Patient Experience
Our patients are living in a connected world, and most of them are ready to use digital tools to improve their healthcare experience. But they need to know these tools are out there. As doctors, we need to start showing our patients how these tools improve their experience.
New technology always starts with younger generations and filters upward towards the oldest generation. This means health tools must provide a better experience for patients of all ages. I’m 35, and I still have trouble navigating an app on my phone every now and then. We know patients have varying degrees of digital literacy, and that’s why creating a great user experience is always essential.
4. Access To Convenient Care
No one has time to sit on the phone and wait when we need a question answered. Got a quick question? You probably text instead of calling if it’s an option. We value our time, and we’re always looking for ways to save more of it.
Digital health tools are disrupting the well-established relationship between patient and doctor that has existed for decades. These tools are working to make communication convenient between patient and provider, rather than making the patient struggle to get answers.
We always want to leave the patient thinking, “Wow, that was easy.”
5. Proactive Approach To Health
Digital health tools also allow us to make an important switch in patient behavior. Instead of being reactive, we want patients to take a proactive approach to their health and recovery.
Sometimes, I have a patient who recovered from a surgery before we launched our Pulse app and went through a second surgery recovery using the app. To get unbiased feedback, I don’t tell them I was a developer of the platform. I just ask whether it’s working for them.
What I hear most often is that they appreciate the educational element, and they’re happy that it teaches them what to expect while recovering. Many patients tell me that they wish they’d had Pulse for their first surgery.
They look forward to reading the notifications each day and checking to make sure they are on track with their recovery. It helps them feel calm about the process, because they aren’t overreacting to an issue when it arises. They learn about what’s going to happen. When it does, they’re ready.
Digital health tools offer a tremendous opportunity to improve our patients’ experiences and empower them to be proactive about their health. These tools are already valuable assets for delivering the best care possible–and the innovation is only getting started.