With digital transformation, comes a revolutionized approach to the healthcare sector and helps the patients to have a better understanding of the subject health and the various medical services provided by the hospitals. In a country like India with a huge population and considerably fewer medical healthcare professionals, it is essential to have a robust system which allows doctors to attend to the maximum number of patients in a day without compromising on the quality of healthcare offered. Similarly, patients must be able to consult doctors and resolve their ailments without facing an extended waiting period which prolongs their discomfort. Adoption of IT and technology in the healthcare sector has been able to enhance the relationship between the doctor and his patients.
Technology has played a key role in the development and advancement of healthcare services over the course of time, especially in areas such as treatment methods, surgical procedures, scans and development in medicines. However, the greatest technological developments in the field of communication- smartphones, the internet and digital media have been adopted only in more recent times, despite the huge potential they offer. Mobile phones are proving to be useful for healthcare professionals as they combine computing with communication (through the internet and social media) in the form of applications. These applications can be customized to address and improve the entire doctor-patient experience as well as the quality and efficiency of healthcare offered.
Mobile devices and applications in healthcare
Medical healthcare mobile applications offer a huge variety of upgrades and benefits across all aspects of healthcare. These areas and the respective advantages can be grouped into-
● Health Record Maintenance and Access- Data and patient information recording is one of the most crucial components of the medical industry. The amount of data for even a single patient is huge and includes medical history, family history, past procedures, diagnostic tests undertaken, medicine prescription, follow up procedures as well as financial data such as bills, health insurance documents, consultation fees and medical costs. Medical coding and EMR’s (Electronic Medical Records) are a significant upgrade on physical copies and files and completely remove the potential for errors such as loss of files or damage of records and also make data safe, secure and accessible easily on multiple devices simultaneously through cloud storage.
● Communication and Consulting- Efficiency and timeliness are major factors in medical healthcare. Mobile networking apps and websites provide instantaneous services by connecting a patient to a doctor through the mobile application. Patients can avail medical services and consultations from the comfort of their homes and share information such as pictures of symptoms, description of side effects etc through video calling, text chats and multimedia messaging. This allows patients to receive aid and support as soon as possible and doctors to tend to the maximum number of patients a day without the patients having to go through the discomfort of travel to a medical institution and delay in meeting a healthcare professional.
● Clinical Decision Making- Mobile applications offer doctors access to databases and information pools which contain the latest updates in medicine, treatment methods and procedure. When dealing with a patient, healthcare professionals can view new treatments for the particular ailment, extraordinary cases in the past and latest medicines. This ensures increased accuracy in diagnosis and identification of ailments. These apps are also used to prescribe laboratory tests, medical examinations to patients and interpret the results as well without wasting time in travel and physical copies.
● Patient Monitoring- Follow-ups are vital to successful treatment of conditions. For a particular period, doctors need to monitor patient rehabilitation, collect clinical data, regulate patient activity and observe functions to ensure that the patient responds to treatment and does not suffer complications or a relapse. Applications allow patients and doctors to follow up with each other quite easily without the hassle and delay of physical hospital visits.
● Medical Education and Training- Countries like India face an acute shortage of qualified healthcare professionals, due to the massive population. Mobile apps and websites host competent medical courses, offer basic advice, hold examinations, contain relevant information and studies. Through these, aspiring prospective healthcare professionals can attain a degree of competence and working knowledge to help, aid and support the needy around them. Mobile technology makes it significantly easier to spread medical knowledge across large areas and offer education and training to produce high quality healthcare professionals.
Mobile phone based services and applications is proving to improve all areas of medical healthcare, as they offer benefits across all scales, ranging from minor services such as connecting a patient to a doctor to book an appointment to major improvements such as allowing doctors to monitor and check up on a newly discharged surgery patient. Slowly but surely services, applications and websites revolving around the computing and communication capabilities of mobile phones are bringing about widespread changes and positive effects in the medical healthcare field.
The role of digitisation in improving quality of healthcare
The benefits of digitisation are visible across all areas of medical healthcare. Digitisation enables quicker healthcare as well as better healthcare. The quality of healthcare provided receives a significant boost through methods such as E-diagnostics, analytics and predictive algorithms which create accessible pools of data through which the risk of incorrect diagnosis and errors is reduced, the accuracy and speed of identification of disease is improved. Doctors are given increased access to a large amounts of important information such as similar cases, past occurrences and special cases. This allows them to deliver quality healthcare as soon as possible.
Digitization also provides doctors with a wider range of latest medicines and treatments by giving them access to databases which are regularly updated and edited to keep medical professionals up to date and aware of the newest developments and introductions in medicine and methods. This in turn, enables them to heal patients quicker and allow them to interact with and attend to a larger number of patients in a specific period of time.
Digitization through Health Information Technology (HIF) streamlines, simplifies and accelerates the current model of healthcare services, while simultaneously opening new options and opportunities to move the industry forward to a new system. Most importantly, it improves the patient experience by reducing the time involved as well as their discomfort. A few seconds is the difference between life and death, digitization is saving lives as well as helping the medical industry fulfill it’s the primary and most urgent goal- providing a world class level of healthcare to each and everyone who needs it, in the fastest and most efficient way possible.
(Disclaimer: Writer is Dr Manish Mattoo, Zonal Director, Fortis Hospital, Bengaluru. Views expressed are a personal opinion.)