Industry Focus: Patient Experience
The healthcare industry is undergoing a gradual but significant metamorphosis as it becomes more and more digitized. With customers, health providers, and vendors for digital health platforms all becoming more actively interested in bridging the gap between technology and healthcare, there is an endless pool of possibilities for the different parties at all stages in healthcare. We had a look at how patients have been affected by advancements in digital health.
What is Digital Health?
Digital health can be described as the product of convergence of traditional healthcare and life sciences with the ever-developing world of digital technologies. The end result is often and ideally healthcare that is delivered in a more efficient way, with a larger population having access to more precise and useful information and treatment. At the forefront of this revolution is the expansion of the Internet of Things, which refers to the connection between the myriad devices that have the ability to connect to each other through the internet.
With handheld devices like smartphones, and wearables like smart watches and fitness trackers becoming more widely used, the availability of data for both healthcare providers and patients has exponentially increased. Not only does this give patients and/or individuals wishing to keep healthy more control over their knowledge and decisions, it also provides healthcare personnel with a better ability to make decisions for these patients. Innovations in digital healthcare are allowing for easier diagnosis and more personalized treatment; with data from the general population as well as the patient easily available, these patients can get customized treatment that could improve the chances for better outcomes.
How Does Digitized Healthcare Improve Patient Experience?
Digital Healthcare without a doubt holds benefits for different groups in the healthcare industry, but does it improve the patient’s experience throughout the course of their diagnosis and treatment? A clear answer here is that yes, it does; or at least, it has the ability to. Digital healthcare has evolved with two major goals in mind: convenience and efficacy. These are both in the best interests of the patient, since they gain higher chances of enjoying positive health outcomes while investing less time, effort, and money in the process.
Digital healthcare can be better understood in terms of the four major modalities in which it is expressed, each of which can be linked to better patient experience.
Telecare refers to the use of digital and medical technologies to maintain the safety, health, and wellbeing of patients from a remote distance. For example, it allows the elderly or the physically disabled to function well in the comfort of their own homes, such as by using electronic sensors and aids as well as monitoring devices so that healthcare providers can evaluate their condition and provide feedback through telephone technology.
Telehealth refers to remote delivery of healthcare, using options such as the telephone or the internet and related devices such as web cams, video links, and smart devices to give the patient access to the required information and materials. These facilities are attractive to patients because they reduce the need to be present at a medical institution regularly or at all times, and the care they need is delivered more speedily than it would have been traditionally.
Mobile health apps
Another option, more suited for lower-level health needs, are mobile health apps, which can deliver essential health information to providers and consumers and also act as a portal for communication between the two parties. For instance, administrative tasks from booking and scheduling to sending reminders can become a lot easier with the use of apps.
Finally, telemedicine refers to the use of telecommunications to provide remote consultations and diagnostics, either between two or more clinicians or between patient and clinician. Examples can be the use of videoconferencing for consultations, or store-and-forward telemedicine with practitioners sharing patient information with other physicians in a different location.
These methods help save time and connect patients securely with their health providers as and when required. The net result is that patients are more empowered and all involved have access to relevant data for better decision-making powers. Patients can expect more tailor-made solutions to their problems as digital health develops, which can only enhance their experience and expected outcomes.
What Are Some Opportunities in Digital Health and Patient Experience?
There is a lot of scope on the current market for companies who can come up with cutting-edge, highly personalized digital solutions to healthcare problems. The challenge lies in introducing solutions that are meaningful for customers and are simple enough to be implemented widely. Developers or job-seekers may be able to find demand for solutions or positions within different subsets of patient-centered digital health:
- Although already functional at various levels, one key area to improve would be patient interaction through digital platforms. This would let patients take their health into their own hands at a higher degree, with the elimination of long waiting times and slow booking. Furthermore, it would enable them to access relevant medical data securely and coordinate more seamlessly with multiple care providers.
- Wellness tracking too can be developed to become more valuable for healthcare purposes. Wearables designed for those with chronic illnesses or for those that might encounter emergency risks can help professionals intervene at the correct time and prevent negative outcomes. These can also be used to ensure that patients are adhering to medication or diet and exercise plans, or apps can be used to track recovery so that likelihood of future admissions can be reduced.
- Another possibility is through enhanced care coordination. Solutions that allow for more efficient, real-time communication between two or more providers, between providers and patient, and between providers and different medical personnel such as specialists or caregivers can improve outcomes dramatically. Another example is online health communities that focus on specific illnesses; patients and their families can benefit from relevant information and support from those going through similar situations.
- Trends in digital health have proven that analytics or data aggregation or digital administration management tools are also highly sought after. Smoother operation through technology can help indirectly enhance patient experience.
Job profiles Connected to Patient Experience
From a professional standpoint, there is demand for workers that can aid in developing or implementing these solutions. Examples of real-world jobs and necessary qualifications include:
- mHealth app or software development. With mHealth expected to be worth USD 118 billion by 2025 with a compound annual growth rate of 44.2%, skills in programming, computer science, or software engineering can be of great use.
- Innovation and entrepreneurship. With the healthcare market ripe for digital disruption, start-ups have a promising future. Qualification in healthcare innovation and entrepreneurship, business, or biotechnology and life sciences can be of use.
- UX designing and management. Companies offering mHealth apps or web-based solutions look for user experience architects or managers. Those who’ve taken a UX Design course or have sufficient experience can find positions.
- Security and data-breach prevention. One of the biggest concerns for patients and providers is that sensitive information might be accessed by data pirates. Certification in cyber law or data security can be useful.
- Designing digital communication strategies. Solutions often involve creating content using multimedia tools to relay healthcare information effectively. Degrees such as in Digital Health Communications are of use.
- Research and development consultancy. A lot of work usually goes behind these new digital healthcare solutions. Qualifications in IT and other technology-related fields will be helpful.
- Data management and analysis. Digital healthcare involves massive amounts of data, thus creating the need for management. Qualification in IT or systems engineering, with skills in business intelligence is normally a prerequisite.
There are many universities offering programs that can lead to qualifications suitable for a career path in digital healthcare. The following is a list of some (among many) examples of relevant programs in universities or other institutes around the UK:
- University of Derby: MSc Mobile App Development (UK)
- University of Kent: MSc Mobile Application Development (UK)
- Swansea University: BSc (Hons) Software Development (UK)
- Edge Hill University: Software Application Development MComp (UK)
- Kingston University: MSc User Experience Design (UK)
- University of Portsmouth: MA Data Visualization Design (UK)
- Cardiff University: MSc Data Science and Analytics (UK)
- University of Warwick: MSc Data Analytics (UK)
- City, University of London: MSc Cyber Security (UK)
- SANS Institute: Cyber Security and Data Protection Training (UK)
- Imperial College London: MSc Healthcare and Design (UK)
- University of Edinburgh: Computer Science (Informatics) (UK)
- Southampton Business School: MSc Digital Business and Entrepreneurship (UK)
What are the Leading Digital Solutions in the Industry?
Statistical reports predict that the global digital healthcare market, already valued at USD 80 billion, will be worth more than USD 200 billion by 2020. Investors, innovators, businesspeople, and health providers alike have realized the positive impact that bringing together healthcare and technology can have on patient experience. Still a budding industry, the world of digital health sees many companies—big and small, old and new—coming up with relevant solutions and partnerships. For graduates and job seekers in digital health, these companies represent a window for professional gain. While there are hundreds of companies operating in this sector, the following stand out especially in terms of improving patient experience:
- Bivarus Inc provides a cloud-based analytics platform to identify service issues, evaluate provider performance, track quality improvement efforts, and measure employee engagement.
- NarrativeDx enables reputation analysis based on patient experience measures so that healthcare providers have actionable insights to boost quality of care and patient experiences.
- MedStatix offers real-time online insights into help providers, administrators, and practices make improvements in provider communications, practice operations, and customer service.
- AppliedVR provides a virtual reality platform for patients so that they can immerse themselves in enjoyable experiences rather than painful or otherwise unpleasant hospital experiences.
- Gozio Health is a tool for smartphone-based indoor navigation and wayfinding that helps patients navigate their way inside the hospital buildings to improve safety and satisfaction.
- Clockwise MD enables online self-scheduling and queue management services so that patients can skip long waiting periods.
- WiserCare is an interactive patient decision support platform that delivers useful perspective for providers about patient goals, preferences, and barriers to an ideal patient experience.
- Wellframe helps mobilize health plans with a mobile-enabled care management approach. It provides patients with a daily health care plan and securely shares data with their clinicians.
- Zocdoc. provides online medical care scheduling service, with information about medical practices, doctors’ individual schedules, and pricing differences.
- Omada Health uses behavior science to help patients at risk of chronic diseases lead healthier lifestyles.
On top of these, there are more and more companies getting recognition as they launch their projects and find end-buyers in healthcare providers or patients. With the right qualifications, those looking for a job in this niche will be able to find positions in such vendor firms.
What are Some Challenges in Developing Patient Experience?
While there are many ways in which patient experience can be further improved, the hurdles of digitization still remain. The proliferation of digital health solutions, if not regulated and standardized, can be counter-effective and actually deteriorate patient experience. Systems introduced must be scalable, accurate, and secure so that they can accommodate growth, provide factual and relevant information, and also be free from threats of data piracy or mismanagement. Patient experience in digital health is also bound to be different across regions depending on the quality and spread of network connectivity, competence of health providers in incorporating these solutions into their plans, and the ability of patients to make proper use of the available technologies. Digitally transforming healthcare therefore might involve more friction in certain regions than others. However, these are challenges that can be overcome with the right insights and steps.
Digital healthcare is a nascent industry, so not all of the benefits may be visible immediately. For digital healthcare vendors and collaborators, there is ample opportunity to work on different facets of this blossoming industry and make not just personal but collective gains as healthcare becomes more streamlined and effective. As technologies become more sophisticated and the demand for and supply of digital healthcare rises up, we as a community can expect patient experience to continue improving.