Monday, 5 November 2018

How the Right Technology Can Fix Healthcare


Advancements in technology have undoubtedly improved our daily lives, yet in healthcare they have failed us miserably. The medical field is riddled with technology that is more hindrance than help. Healthcare IT, predicted to grow to be a $280 billion industry by 2021, is often far too complex or cumbersome to provide what we truly need from it: a way to better connect with patients who need our care.

Guest post by Samant Virk, MD, CEO and Co-Founder of MediSprout

The need is enormous. Our country spends more on healthcare than does any other nation, a staggering $3.3 trillion annually. Money is largely going toward chronic—often preventable—diseases, including diabetes, heart disease, and back and neck pain. Until now, technology has been aimed at reducing costs by leveraging data collected from government mandated electronic health records (EHR), rather than toward actually making patients feel better by addressing the diseases that impact their well-being.


There’s a tremendous need for patient-driven technology that can be used to improve the relationship between patient and provider, replacing broken financial models, helping create better care scenarios that enable doctors to spend more time focused on patients and easing constraints and workload to promote a more fulfilling profession. Virtual care may be the place to start.

HealthTech Can Fix Financial Anomalies

Good care isn’t necessarily data driven, and it doesn’t have to be expensive for patient or providers. Providing care that prevents disease rather than treating it depends on building strong patient relationships and providing a reliable continuum of care that meets their changing needs. Traditionally this level of care has required providers to connect with patients beyond office hours, time that is largely non-billable. This time spent providing the care our patients need can contribute to $45,000 or more lost revenue per year. Leveraging the right technology can create the change we need, enabling us to provide accessible care while being compensated.

Consider the telemedicine model: patients needing routine or non-emergency care request to meet with their doctor via video conference. Providers set the fee structure for an easy-to-implement video appointment, choosing whether to charge for video consultations—which can happen in the office or from home after-hours. Unlike phone calls, which don’t qualify for reimbursement from insurance companies, video calls do. If an insurance claim is denied, a pre-set charge direct to the patient can be used. The model enables providers to be compensated for the time spent interacting with patients— including traditionally non-revenue generating time spent providing medical advice after-hours—and patients know exactly what they will be billed.

Better Care Prevents Reactive Care

We need technology, too, that is going to bring the best out of doctors—free us to doctor—and help maximize our impact instead of burying us under time-intensive obligations (forms, and more forms!) that keep us from interacting with patients. It’s estimated that half of doctors’ time is spent documenting care on EHRs, the time demand to document so high that we sadly often spend just minutes interacting face-to-face with patients.

When doctors aren’t available—physically and/or emotionally—patients turn to sources that almost inevitably fail them. Technology and new ways of thinking have led patients to seek healthcare advice or to self-diagnose through Google searches that often lead to black holes, revealing sometimes accurate, yet often irrelevant information. Urgent care centers and freestanding emergency departments play an important role and offer convenience, yet provide reactive care from medical providers who do not know those seeking their help.

A five-minute conversation with their primary care physician could easily prevent nearly three-quarters of all patient trips to the ER. HealthIT needs to make that care more accessible, offering virtual care for level 1-3 visits—for instance, helping a patient manage hypertension before it reaches crisis level. Video visits make it easier for doctors and patients to stay connected, and allow doctors to devote more in-office time to patients with moderate to high severity needs.

Telehealth Creates a More Fulfilling Role for MDs


Our broken healthcare system is affecting providers as much as it is patients.

The American Medical Association reports that “the current state of the healthcare system is clearly driving increases in physician burnout at a higher rate.” Every specialty studied reports all-time high burnout rates, some physicians questioning their career choice and considering leaving the profession. Much of the burnout is caused by frustrations we discussed, like time spent on paperwork and the non-billable time required of us to stay connected in order to provide the continuum of care patients need. The right technology can give us back control of our profession, reduce those frustrations and stress levels, and enable us to be the providers we worked to become.

Conclusion

Clearly, our patients need us more than ever: Our population is aging, half live with at least one chronic illness, and the medications we prescribe to help them are more complex. As their doctors, we need to embrace new technologies, like telemedicine, that empower us to provide the care required while also building rewarding, profitable practices. Unlike many healthcare changes in the past, telemedicine gives us the unique opportunity to prioritize our interests and the health of our patients.

Dr. Samant Virk is Founder & CEO of MediSprout, a company focused on connecting doctors with their patients through innovative technology solutions. He is also a physician having practiced clinical medicine for almost 15 years, with a specialization in Neurology and Interventional Spine.

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