Connected Health. Technology Enabled Care (TEC). Mobile Health (mHealth). Digital Health (dHealth) Health Technology (HealthTech). Telemedicine. Telehealth.
The healthcare industry’s list of digital buzzwords is long but have two things in common: They all refer to health and the power of connectivity. Paperless billing and electronic medical records, digital health monitors, health apps, simply put, it’s all about - engagement, ease efficiency and outcomes.
And where is the doctor in all of these? That doctor who checks medical records on his paper-clipboard, who crudely draws on paper how your heart looks and where the stent will be placed - he must have evolved. That doctor can’t remain analog in a digital world. All these tools (and more) at his fingertips assist him digitally now, they make him more efficient, a better provider and help shape the eReady “eDoctor.”
This “new” doctor is not the bots we see within the medical websites, which conduct consultations in a chat box. He is not the online resource we run to when a rash appears on your neck. Tweeting and blogging also don’t make him an eDoctor. He is not a system of algorithms that analyze terabytes of medical data, pore through medical journals and academic research papers to attempt to diagnose an illness and recommend possible treatments.
The licensed doctors on 24/7/365 e-Duty within an online technology platform may be semantically called eDoctors, but doctors replacing their stethoscope for headsets while sitting in call center may be a step too far for the imagination or desire.
The eDoctors of the the 21st century are our doctors, the doctor you know, but now digitally assisted and connected.. While he is connected to you in more ways than one, he still provides that human touch, straightforward answers to simple focused questions, sometimes hope or assurance in words we understand, tone we know and feel.
In an article published by the Journal of Health and Medical Informatics , the “eDoctor” is one who can skillfully leverage mobile technology to provide timely, high-value healthcare at point-of-care. The same study concluded that:
Managing information on the go is becoming essential to delivering timely, high-value healthcare in this modern world. Mobile technology is a powerful tool that can be used by doctors to optimize information management, augment day-to-day clinical tasks, enhance patient communication and education, advance medical knowledge, and facilitate scholarly conversation. With refined integration of mobile technology into daily practice, eDoctors will be able to enhance the efficacy, efficiency, and safety of their care and learning.
According to research on Doctors and Digital: The Current State of Digital Health, “doctors are increasingly digital.” The research shows that “an increasing number of technologies designed to increase the reach of doctor-patient engagement will change traditional healthcare business models.”
Doctors are going digital, and not just for personal or educational purposes. While they need to be connected to keep abreast on the latest clinical studies and product news, a growing number are embracing connected technologies as part of their clinical experience to connect better to their patients, improve patient outcomes, and build strong patient satisfaction scores. Doctor-patient communication technologies are now helping the eDoctor with everything from collecting and monitoring patient information on a regular basis to preparing them for surgery, to monitoring post-operative care.
Healthcare is all about patient engagement, whether analog or digital. Communication is key to that engagement. And it is unforgivable to have a cancelled surgery or doctor visit wasted because of an uncoordinated referral or a lab test result yet to be faxed.
Meet Dr. Gregory Davis, an anesthesiologist of 20 years. Been there, through that. And day of surgery cancellations still persist.
“The biggest problems that I still see plaguing lots of organizations across the country are communication errors. A surgery is cancelled when patients may not have communicated effectively their health history or there was no lead time to collect the appropriate medical information about the patient to do anything about the problem that’s discovered,” said Davis.
“It is a huge labor-intensive effort to try and coordinate care preoperatively,” he added. “These intermediary channels, such as nurses or medical assistants, are spending a significant amount of time on the phone trying to talk to doctors’ secretaries, to patients, leaving messages, calling back, trying to collect the information. Then there are release forms that need signing, faxing, waiting for the transmission to come through.”
Davis suggests that nurses and medical assistants collecting pre-surgical information rarely have all the required tools to detect and interpret potential red flags affecting surgeries or manageable conditions. In his practise, this leads to a greater number of day-of-surgery cancellations.
A cancelled surgery sets off a whole domino effect of inefficiencies that plague the system, which leads to lost revenue, delays across other surgeries, greater cost, and additional resource issues. But the present day healthcare industry, transformed by existing technology, creates the modern eDoctor through which they can help eliminate day-of-surgery cancellations, cost overruns, and improve patient outcomes.
Almost everything is now done digitally, or in progress to be so, managed electronically. And doctors - anesthesiologists are not exempted because their requirements to be efficient in patient management now have “eSolutions”. As there are eDoctors who are connected and assisted digitally, so are there ePatients who are empowered and engaged digitally.
Patients, like customers in other industries, are ever engaged and empowered digitally; their preferences are formed by technology, they expend and demand more control over their health care experience. Their access to the Internet and the “cloud” means access to the latest information, they are more informed. Monitoring their health through cloud-connected communication and wearables continues to train people to engage their health digitally, and so it’s not unexpected that they react positively to eDoctors who provide them that same opportunity.
A potentially life-saving detail from your medical past may be unintentionally obscured when doctors rely on patient’s memory instead of retrieving that health history via an easily accessible online file. In our digitally connected age, patients deserve more and better, and they demand just that. Healthcare should neither be restrained by geography, communication or cost.
“A direct, electronic communication link to the patient could cut out much of the human component on that gathering that is a wasteful, time-consuming process because now technology can give you what you need and the cost to afford the technology is available,” said Davis.
As they say, everything is possible under the sun, or in this discussion, accessible through the cloud. Davis and his partners at the East Carolina Anesthesia Associates have used just that - a cloud-based communication platform that closes the communication loop between doctors and patients, LifeWIRE.
The anesthesia protocol in LifeWIRE has enabled ECAA to get the information they need before any surgical process can begin. It allows them to communicate to the patients and get their answers back in real-time, monitor them - optimizing them for surgery. Davis said the use of this technology has led to a cancellation rate that's less than half the national average now. They had a tenfold decrease their cancellation rate because of that anesthesia protocol in LifeWIRE.
“The fact that that information with LifeWIRE can be delivered to the appropriate provider instantly in advance is going to dramatically reduce the cost of care. And of course when you reduce the care and improve the efficiency, then you can take of more patients within existing resources and that's ultimately the goal of where healthcare is going and the challenge we face with an older population, and as a result, with surgical procedures on the rise,” Said Davis.
An eDoctor has spoken, he has leveraged technology to communicate care and enable engagement, it is a patient’s lifeline.