Quality access to patient care is a global concern. A complex interplay of demographic, socioeconomic, and psychological factors have made the delivery of holistic patient care stressful, inconsistent and expensive.
Factors Impacting Patient Care
- The high prevalence of occupational stress and burnouts due to increasing workloads and time pressures has been recorded in the US, Europe, and other regions. Providers even in developed countries are increasingly challenged with limited time and professional burnout. Coupled with a shortage of professionals, the dangers of severe emotional and physical exhaustion among doctors become increasingly grave. According to usnews.com, the estimated shortage of primary care physicians in America will be between 8,700 and 43,100 physicians by 2030. The result is that even those who need medical attention are not able to see a medical professional, when required.
- Outbreaks of virus and communicable diseases are pushing governments and healthcare providers to seek faster and more accurate healthcare data analytics to better manage population health. The WHO website listed more than 80 outbreaks in African, Asian and European countries in 2019. The US government CDC website listed at least 09 infections and outbreaks in US alone till September 2019.
- The continuous migration of people, driven by aspiration or conflict, is making populations and countries increasingly vulnerable to health risks. The Journal of Travel Medicine, in its article [July 2018], reported that more than 244 Million international migrants were living in a foreign country in 2015. It said that “from the health standpoint, newly arrived migrants are mostly healthy (healthy migrant effect), but they may harbor latent infections that need appropriate screening policies. Cultural barriers may sometimes hamper the relation between the migrant patient and the health care provider. The acquisition of western lifestyles is leading to an increase of non-communicable chronic diseases that require attention.”
- An increasing population of geriatrics is asking the question – “can we access healthcare easily, anytime?” The question assumes greater urgency in societies where families are increasingly nuclear, independent and fragmented. The World Health Organization (WHO), in its 2018 update on Ageing and Health said that between 2015 and 2050, the world’s population over 60 years will nearly double to 22% and that all major countries would face challenges to ensure that their health and social systems are ready to make the most of this demographic shift.
- More people are now comfortable about tracking key health indicators like blood sugar, blood pressure, and heart rate using digital health apps and devices.
- Rapid breakthroughs in medicine have prompted a knowledge-quest among patients and people, wanting to know more.
- The widespread penetration of the Internet has brought about a high awareness in the general populace regarding health issues.
- The fast and highly efficient delivery of information, goods, and services by other industries have pushed expectations from healthcare providers as well. Patients want immediate answers to their questions and apprehensions.
What It Means
Collaborative and efficient patient care can no longer be restricted to in-person care. Technology enabled patient care that can also be accessed virtually, is the new paradigm and is here to stay.
‘Always-on’ medical and healthcare accessibility cannot be confined to emergencies, high-risk people or populations. Everyone wants to be empowered with proactive, empathetic and 24x7 patient care.
Access Beyond Barriers - Technology As The Enabler
In this new paradigm, next-gen health services via device-agnostic patient engagement platforms are bridging physical barriers to delivering efficient, empathetic and empowered patient care. However, the benefits are not restricted to patients and their families. When providers embrace patient engagement delivery technologies, the full import of benefits is manifold.
- Online self-scheduling, virtual visits, and omni channel engagement can decrease stress levels of professionals (by reducing readmission rates), improving patient experience, improving the overall health of populations and positively influencing the overall health ecosystem.
- Hospitals and providers also see lowered administrative costs and improved profitability due to a reduced burden on staff and infrastructure.
- Providers become invaluable partners to governments by providing critical data and insights into the general health of the populations, a service that assumes critical importance during outbreaks.
- When technology delivers enhanced care, patient referrals increase, contributing to increased brand reputation and profitability.
Speed of Adoption - The Real Concern
Patient Engagement Platforms have consistently delivered positive outcomes across critical parameters. Therefore, “why health technologies for patient engagement” is no longer the question. The real concern is “does the current speed of adoption match the urgency in patient care challenges?” The operational and financial struggles of delivering consistent continuum care are massive and growing. It is a global concern across developed, developing and under-developed countries. For enhanced patient care and improved health of communities and populations, it is imperative that all stakeholders - patients and families, health professionals, providers, NGOs, governments and technology providers come together to embrace technology-based solutions. However, the obligation to champion the cause of technology-enabled patient care lies most prominently with health providers. They are at the critical intersection of people, governments, communities, and societies and are best positioned to drive behavioral change among people to deliver improvements in the overall health ecosystem.
A careful analysis of the challenges, expectations, and benefits show that quicker adoption and deployment of robust patient engagement technology platforms is not only smart business strategy for providers but also responsible service to patients, doctors, communities and societies. Everyone benefits.