Digitalization in healthcare empowers patients

In today’s digitalized healthcare environment, keeping the best outcomes for patients at the center of all activity increasingly depends on the smart use of medical data.

The exponential growth in health data from a variety of sources, such as electronic medical records and image databases, makes it difficult to integrate information for optimized decision-making that meets the highest possible standards of care. A digital platform that assembles and structures a wide variety of data in a user-friendly format has the potential to remedy this situation. If the platform can provide interoperability between different systems, it becomes even more useful.

Facilitating this improved decision-making process while simultaneously responding to diagnostic and therapeutic questions from an increasingly tech-savvy and medically literate patient population requires the efficient use of resources and coordination of information with all interested and responsible parties.

Challenges for healthcare professionals along the patient pathway

Medical professionals have little time to sift through the vast amount of data that accompanies any one patient on their journey from illness to wellness. As a result, a substantial quantity of stored data is never used in either inpatient or outpatient settings.

If physicians and other healthcare professionals cannot leverage that data into actionable insights, the data is meaningless. Analytic expertise is required to help prevent “information overload” and provide healthcare professionals with the tools for integrating and using the data for the betterment of that patient. An urgent need exists for advanced digital solutions that automatically analyze patient data and present it in a user-friendly, clinically meaningful way. By providing ready-made, suitable selection and processing applications, innovative medical technology providers can help healthcare institutions prevent the kind of “filter failure.” This occurs when the data that is available is not properly assembled and structured in a comfortable format.

Furthermore, ensuring that therapeutic decisions comply with clinical guidelines is front-of-mind for all healthcare providers. Failure to adhere to guidelines can increase the risk of complications, drive up costs and lengthen hospital stays.

Roles in healthcare are changing

Adding to the complexity, patients increasingly use the Internet to research their own conditions and seek out community, particularly in the case of chronic illnesses and cancers, and return to their physician with ideas and questions. As a way to harness the motivation behind this self-guided research, digital health applications can be used to assist patients in improving their self-management and reducing their fears, empowering them and giving doctors a better-equipped ally in shared decision-making. Ideally, digitalization can contribute to an overall cultural shift from traditional to collaborative care, making shared decision-making the new norm.

Research suggests that digital health solutions in conditions such as chronic heart disease can support patients in health-promoting behaviors, improve their medication compliance, empower them and enhance their communication with healthcare professionals. This might reduce the number of hospital stays.

A good example of this is a telemonitoring program for heart failure patients at the Heart and Diabetes Center North Rhine-Westphalia in Germany. Patients are equipped with mobile ECG monitors and blood pressure sensors. The data collected is combined with the patient’s self-description of their health and well-being and transmitted via smartphone to the care team in the clinic, which is able to access the information on a user-friendly dashboard. In addition, doctors are able to reach patients directly via text messages. One of the primary goals of the project is to prevent cardiac decompensation and hospital admissions through early intervention and therapy adjustments, improving patients’ quality of life.

Other applications to advance remote communication with patients could include a patient portal for uploading and downloading medical data and an application that enables video consultations. Regardless of the specific application, the digital involvement of patients has the general effect of generating a constant feedback loop between the care teams and the patients, creating a positive cycle of care.

Staying flexible is the key to digital transformation

Medicine is not data science, but medicine in the future cannot ignore a data science perspective. A flexible platform that is capable of integrating more and more data is vital to this progress.

The digitalization of the healthcare environment, like the tech sector itself, is in a state of continual development. Innovative medical technology companies must supply healthcare providers with digital infrastructure that is simple, versatile and adaptable. This requires a growing number of intelligent applications that deliver meaningfully prepared networked data for operational and clinical questions to fulfill this need. Yet, the current pace of digitalization is also changing medical decision-making. Therefore, all newly developed digital solutions must be flexible enough to adapt in accordance with the growth and needs of this new data-driven environment.

The continual advance toward this accessible, functional smart data healthcare environment is propelled by integrative, interoperable system- and vendor-neutral solutions. In implementing such solutions, healthcare providers can minimize the isolating effects of data silos and achieve the goal of holistic decision-making to benefit patients and improve the efficiency of healthcare services.

To learn more about holistic decision-making in a digital world, read the full whitepaper here.

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