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Health + Tech | Improving hospital business processes with IT

Published:Sunday | July 14, 2019 | 12:00 AMDoug Halsall
Hospitals are in a great position to leverage technology for best outcomes in patient care.
Doug Halsall
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The opportunities for the development and use of technology in healthcare are vast. Knowing how to apply the technology to make hospitals a consumer-friendly and viable business is important. We are generally a population that is ‘technology suspicious’, and in some cases, downright afraid. This cannot stop us from making the required changes to improve healthcare generally, and the hospital experience, specifically, with technology. I often use the fact that I was told years ago that ATM machines would never work in Jamaica, but look where we are now.

I am as confident in my pronouncements then about ATMs as I am in the fact that healthcare digitisation is our future, and that must be a part of the strategic direction of all hospitals – private and public.

Hospitals are in a great position to leverage technology for best outcomes in patient care, business processes, efficiency and speed in healthcare delivery and improved clinical practices. The most obvious benefit of having a technology-driven hospital is that workflows remain consistent and efficiency managed. This way, there is better tracking and monitoring, more consistency and improved accuracy. Hospital standards are maintained, reducing the likelihood of risky and costly errors.

Lengthy waiting time is a major complaint at hospitals. With the technology that is available to us today, there is no way a patient should be waiting 12 hours or more to see a doctor. We have telemedicine available to us, which means a doctor – regardless of location – can consult with a patient. If there is a situation where a hospital requires more clinicians, doctors can ‘dial in’ using the telemedicine platform, saving time and perhaps lives as well.

We have a system in government institutions where doctors are on call. What if that is incorporated into a virtual consultation rather than having the clinician always physically present? Telemedicine can facilitate this, resulting in improved patient satisfaction, clinician productivity while reducing work burnout.

Hospitals are becoming more patient focused and the technology is right here to support that. Having electronic medical records (EMR) is one way to facilitate this, along with added technology such as remote care management tools. The rate of repeat patient visits for the same issues can be dramatically reduced by adopting a prevention model.

An EMR can track past issues and predict future ones through an analysis of patient history, healthy or unhealthy practices and family traits. Couple this with remote care management tools, and a clinician can provide consistent care to a patient, while having them involved in the maintenance of their health. Invariably, this will result in a reduction of repeat admissions, saving the facility well-needed resources, which, in the case of public facilities are surely needed.

PROPER SCHEDULING MECHANISM

Another way to achieve more efficient management and increased patient satisfaction is for hospitals to have a proper scheduling mechanism. The data available via using the technology can allow for trend analysis that will allow clinicians to properly determine the average amount of time they will need for each outpatient. Instead of having everyone come at the same time, resulting in frustrated staff and frustrated patients, proper scheduling can result in a seamless and more satisfying visit on both accounts. Scheduling tools can predict the rate of cancellations and no-shows, allowing the facility to adjust accordingly.

Often, we think of health technology but do not realise that it also incorporates financial management at all levels. One area to consider is insurance pre-authorisation. If a patient is denied coverage for a specific procedure, having a system can mean immediate approval or denial. Insurance claims denied can be costly on a hospital’s budget and has high likelihood with manual and paper-based claims submission.

Other processes such as purchasing/procurement, warehouse and inventory management can all be done via this means. In the case of pharmaceuticals, the technology would significantly reduce the possibility of wastage because of expired medicines, which can have significant positive impact on a hospital’s operations.

These are only a few of the areas in which technology can bring immediate positive outcome to a hospital. A complete health information management system will incorporate every aspect of hospital management, bringing greater efficiency to all areas while reducing cost.

- Doug Halsall is chairman and chief executive officer of Advanced Integrated System. Email feedback to doug.halsall@gmail.com and editorial@gleanerjm.com.