Wed | Jan 20, 2021

Doug Halsall | Technology improving workflow in healthcare

Published:Sunday | December 20, 2020 | 12:22 AM
Another important benefit of a digitised system that would no doubt improve workflow is the removal of the need for paper-based patient medical records and other analogue files.
Another important benefit of a digitised system that would no doubt improve workflow is the removal of the need for paper-based patient medical records and other analogue files.
Doug Halsall
Doug Halsall
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In any organisation, large or small, how quickly and efficiently departments can communicate with each other can directly impact how well that organisation performs. Already, we rely a lot on technology to operate businesses and to get work done but largely this is treated as a ‘matter of fact’ phenomenon.

Imagine what we’d do today if we couldn’t get a hold of a business via telephone or if we couldn’t do research by simply clicking to a website on our computer or cellular phone. These are just some simple ways in which technology has improved services and increased efficiency over time.

The importance of ease of workflow in healthcare can never be overstated. In a healthcare environment, an effective and efficient workflow becomes even more crucial when healthcare workers well-being and patients’ lives and well-being are at stake. Technology can facilitate this, no matter the size or structure of the healthcare facility.

A digitised facility like the University Hospital of the West Indies will likely see vast improvement in their operations and improved services to patients, resulting in greater customer and employee satisfaction.

BENEFITS OF EMR

One of the ways that this can be achieved is through the use of electronic medical records (EMR). EMR can provide several benefits such as overall improvement in patient care across the public and private sectors, especially if it becomes a national initiative.

Other benefits include:

• Improved communication between medical providers, leading to more timely, safer, efficient and accurate diagnosis.

• Creation of individualised health profiles to carve out specific healthcare pathways for patients.

• Lower costs associated with the ability to truly take advantage of preventive medicine and healthcare.

• Reduction of waste and the need for multiple testing to assist diagnosis.

• Coordination of healthcare services and providers.

• Better clinical decision-making.

• Health forecasting and analysis through the use of the available data.

• Overall improvement in health outcomes.

Another important benefit of a digitised system that would no doubt improve workflow is the removal of the need for paper-based dockets and other analogue files. Immediately this would eliminate many of the risks associated with lost or inaccessible health records and administrative documents.

Paper is at risk of burning, water damage, fading text and crumpling because of age. These files often get lost or misplaced and then duplicated, resulting in incomplete information.

There are several examples in many health facilities of one patient having up to three dockets, with the information in each segmented. In addition, problems may arise due to the fact that information can be changed without any kind of audit trail. An electronic system would largely resolve these issues as well as make these files easily shared among only those who should access them, thus ensuring a more efficient flow of patient information across each department.

INCREASED OVER THE YEARS

The use of artificial intelligence (AI) in healthcare has been on the increase over the years to, among other things, improve communication within and between healthcare facilities.

Information from https://enterprisersproject.com indicates that “the AI healthcare market is on track to hit $6.6 billion by 2021, according to Accenture data”. The research notes, “According to Accenture analysis, when combined, key clinical health AI applications can potentially create $150 billion in annual savings for the US healthcare economy by 2026.”

We do not have local figures for this but it can indicate nonetheless what the potential is for this market in the healthcare sector if widely adopted locally.

AI can be used to streamline information and personalise content, depending on the requirements of each department, patient or physician. It can also efficiently analyse and extract relevant data from clinical information. Once this is available digitally, especially if the systems within and outside of a facility are interoperable, it can easily be shared across departments for better clinical workflow and thus decision-making.

Apart from the overall improvement in patient care that a digital system that facilitates improved workflow can bring, there are other results to be gained by healthcare facilities, including a more efficient workforce, lower costs, increased revenue and increased productivity.

- Doug Halsall is the chairman and CEO of Advanced Integrated Systems. Email feedback to editorial@gleanerjm.com