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Embracing technology to deliver better patient care

The COVID-19 pandemic has fostered new patient expectations around technologies including telehealth and data interoperability, paving the way for a future in healthcare centered on consumerism. While the pandemic has highlighted challenges hospitals across the country were already facing due to resource constraints, it has presented an opportunity to find tech solutions that will drive the best engagement levels from patients.

There are strong toolsets that are available today that do not have large barriers of entry and that can be deployed to help serve patients. Now that patients have experienced telehealth, they are open to continuing virtual visits where possible. This is necessitating that hospitals and health systems increasingly transition to a single EHR with the ability to engage with patients at home. To accommodate an increased need for EHR interoperability, EHR vendors and hospitals must allow their platforms to openly communicate with different systems. Patients want to be in control of their own data, so their information must be made available, no matter what providers they see. FHIR, or the data sharing standard must allow health data and medical records to be exchanged electronically, and be an important next generation of how the industry deploys decision support and tools on top of the EHR.

Another healthcare delivery challenge that health IT users will have to tackle is patient identification; the industry needs a universal strategy, so that regardless of where patients receive care, they can own all their confidential protected health information on a computer mechanism they can share with any provider at any time.

The healthcare information systems (HIS) market has progressed over the years to a thriving one. Quick adoption of healthcare information systems and demand for them from large as well as smaller healthcare organizations is now the order of the day.

Digitization of healthcare records has created a far more informed, innovative, and personalized care paradigm. Digitized records enable physicians to recognize warning signs for individuals who are on the edge of major health issues, thus preventing expensive treatments and hospitalizations. Healthcare information technology has been shown to improve the quality to care management by enhancing disease surveillance, increasing adherence to guidelines, and decreasing medication error. The global healthcare information systems market has expanded rapidly over the years, and there has been a noticeable rise in adoption of healthcare information systems in recent times. Continued increase in the cost of healthcare over the last few years has forced healthcare institutions to adopt healthcare IT systems in order to cut costs. About 30 percent of the healthcare costs arise due to clinical insufficiencies.

Advancements in healthcare information systems have led to significant expansion of the market in recent years. Use of healthcare information systems in medication management, electronic prescription, intelligent wearable technologies to curb lifestyle diseases, and smart robots to automate repetitive tasks is expected to significantly reduce healthcare costs and boost the market. In addition, rise in government initiatives and increases in healthcare expenditure across the world are anticipated to further propel the market in coming years. Governments across the world are increasing their spending to provide better healthcare services.

The healthcare industry is undergoing radical change disruption globally. New and emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence, powered analytics and diagnosis support, edge and secure cloud computing infrastructure, the internet of everything, and blockchain information exchange and interaction enablers, as well as practical technologies such as 3D printing and robotic surgery, are all changing how, where, and when healthcare can be delivered.

These developments combine to enable a fundamental shift toward coherently integrated health systems, in which multiple stakeholders (providers, patients, insurers, researchers, and regulators) interact in a continuum, with a combined focus on enhancing both the care delivery methods and the outcomes being achieved. These shifts in healthcare delivery are characterized by some key features.

Emergence of population health management. Patients are no longer just treated as individual cases. With digital information exchanges, health data is being aggregated at community, national, and regional levels. All stakeholders in the health ecosystem are creating mechanisms to access and share essential health-related information from disparate sources, allowing detection of key medical trends with greater speed and accuracy.

Patient centricity. Delivery of care is being tailored toward specific needs, preferences, and patient values through increased digitized engagement models. Providers are focused on building personalized treatments, which create positive impact on outcomes and the overall patient experience.

Preventive- and lifetime-care approach. Advancements in medical knowledge and abundance of information dissemination methods are increasing patient awareness and participation in the management of their own wellness. Providers and regulators alike are focused on increasing people’s knowledge of medical conditions, symptoms, and care options to encourage them to take a more proactive approach toward health management. Moreover, medical scientific advancements are going to make curative treatments available to patients with severe conditions.

Decentralized care. Patients now have access to high-quality care well beyond the confines of traditional geographical boundaries. Increasing use of telemedicine is creating a decentralized model of operation among health facilities. Increased availability and adoption of technologies in home care are extending care interaction well beyond the confines of the traditional hospital. This is transforming the traditional hospital based care-delivery model into an integrated but dispersed model of care management.

Non-invasive treatments. Advancements in medical technologies are creating a new generation of minimally invasive treatment options, thereby reducing dependence on complex physical infrastructure needs and reducing the duration of care delivery. Such treatment options, coupled with those to deliver such care outside the confines of the traditional hospital setting, are fundamentally altering how patients will experience health services in the future hospitals utilizing hospital information systems traditionally included 14 core modules to run their operations.

A number of factors have contributed to this rapid shift in the health management and care delivery paradigm – rising costs of service delivery, the need to improve access to care, greater patient involvement in health management, and underlying technological advancements to improve outcomes.

Moreover, health-service providers are facing challenges with health information exchange. Sharing health information can help health providers reduce readmissions, avoid medication errors, and even decrease duplicate testing.

However, there are continued concerns about how to efficiently and effectively access data/ information for health professionals to conduct their jobs efficiently and safely. This also holds for other stakeholders, such as pharmaceutical companies and research institutions. In addition, there are growing concerns regarding how to keep data secure, ensure interoperability of various systems, remain competitive (e.g., sharing data among competitor health-service providers), and successfully implement the transformation program for the paradigm shift towards a digitally enabled era.

These factors have been strengthening with a shift in global demographics and increased demand for health services. Dramatic changes in lifestyle and increased average life spans that exponentially raise the demand for health services are making the underlying imbalances escalate.

Hospitals aiming to digitize and evolve along the healthcare paradigm shift should aim to build hospital information systems beyond the core modules by moving toward adding more specialized modules (laundry, kitchen, anesthesia, and more), as well as connecting their existing HISs to external systems (HIE, telemedicine, bio-sensing wearables, etc.), depending on their needs. These updates pose challenges to healthcare providers in selecting products and vendors and implementing changes.

The first challenge that a hospital needs to address is identifying its current and future needs. Technology is ever-evolving, and a proper study of requirements is necessary to ensure selection of the right products.

The hospital should then assess which service and outsourcing models are most suitable to its operations in terms of cost and flexibility (on-premises, IAAS, PAAS, and SAAS). Health providers must also look into vendor selection, adhering to single vendor options for all their systems versus going for a best-of-breed approach.

Advanced HIS platforms are heading in the direction of becoming more open in their architecture, allowing for direct integration with third-party tools and systems (for example, home-care solutions), and providing these to their patients through their websites, applications, etc. This concept will also align with the emerging patient-journey model. Hospitals could also evaluate partnering with providers such as online pharmacies, online consultation tools, and wellness management platforms, which would have a significant impact on the way they enable their service-delivery models to both patients and insurers.

Next, hospitals must address challenges that accompany implementation across the technology organization. These include adapting system organization and workflow to suit the existing operating models or vice versa, reducing system downtime to a minimum, training staff and mitigating resistance to change, as well as ensuring data security. Addressing the challenges will require an integrated planning and design framework that includes not only technology, but also strategy, operations, and infrastructure planning.

Finally, implementing HIS is not an IT project; rather, it is a large organizational transformation project requiring involvement of various stakeholders. Moreover, it is critical to involve the various stakeholders (such as health service providers) already at the outset of the HIS implementation (i.e., during the strategy development or supplier selection phase) to ensure a smooth, effective, and successful HIS implementation.

The global HIS market is estimated to reach USD 521,682 million by 2026, says Transparency Market Research. An increase in the incidence and prevalence of chronic diseases and a growing aging population have increased the rate of hospitalization across the globe. The acceptance of technologies to support healthcare facilities has increased in the past few years, which has entirely transformed the industry. Healthcare IT is the primary significant factor fueling the growth of the global hospital information system market. According to the World Health Organization, proper collection, management, and use of information within healthcare systems will determine the system’s effectiveness in detecting health problems, defining priorities, identifying innovative solutions, and allocating resources to improve health outcomes.

Uprising need in the healthcare, high medical costs, and rapid advancement in the IT leads to development of the hospital information system rapidly through the past decades. Moreover, to increase efficiency, effectiveness of the hospitals, and patient satisfaction, all this contributed toward advancement of IT in healthcare. With rapid change in the economies of the globe, the major focus is shifting toward healthcare IT. Government policies and advent in technology are also major considerations. Because of this paradigm shift, the focus on automation of hospital facilities is increasing day-by-day. Hospitals are mainly focusing on the data analytics to reduce the errors in the management, quality of the services, cost, and medical procedures.

The addition of hardware or installation of new medical units in hospitals is improvising the techniques and processing of medical records, which help physicians to monitor and treat patients accurately. This has developed interest among many governments, especially from emerging countries, to improve the hospital infrastructure through the use of advanced science and technology. A hospital information software achieves excellent quality scores in terms of administration services that include management of patient data, medication, and other such documents.

Also, a hospital information system can assist medical officers and staff in avoiding common errors that certainly cannot be afforded in healthcare by tracking every single data needed. The best part of HIS is that it can incorporate better revenue management with a customized hospital management software solution. Electronic health record (EHR) software is another type of healthcare software that contains detailed information about patients. Typically, electronic health records contain data about a patient’s demographics, medical history, laboratory results, and allergies.

Cloud-based technology and web-based medical services (WBMS) such as eHealth, mHealth, and telehealth seem feasible with vast usage in the hospital industry. Private cloud service provides exceptional control over patient data that proves convenient to internal or outsourced hospital staff and increases its preference for escalating industry growth. WBMS is considered as one of the most innovative services in medical technology in the 21st century.

However, promoting these services is still a challenge. There are three impediments-perceived usefulness, behavior change, and medical law limitation.

North America dominates the global hospital information system market due to continuous innovations in technology with a growing aging population followed by a fast-moving lifestyle. The US and Canada have been successful in implementing electronic records in their healthcare system, which as a result, would boost the overall market growth.

Moreover, the presence of developed IT and healthcare infrastructure, promising government initiatives in executing a hospital information system in the current healthcare infrastructure, and constantly improving reimbursement scenario would further propel the market growth. Europe is anticipated to be the second-largest region in terms of revenue share owing to the presence of several medical device manufacturing companies that provide a huge marketplace for various hardware and software. Asia-Pacific is expected to be the fastest-growing regional market for hospital information systems owing to the increased incidence of chronic diseases.

Major industry players in hospital information system market are Cerner Corporation, Comarch, Meditech, McKesson, Epic System, Siemens Healthcare, CPIS, Eclipsys, GE Healthcare, Carestream Health, and Wipro. Industry players focus on product launch as their main strategies to expand existing product portfolio and capture potential market share.

Health technology’s ability to improve patient outcomes and experiences has led to rapid and impactful changes. In addition to updates that have gradually rolled out over the years, the health technology landscape that has developed during pandemic response efforts is pointing toward a quick embrace of new systems.

Being forced to use new systems has made care providers less hesitant to use these solutions on a permanent basis. In addition to the exponential increases in telehealth visits, hospitals are also embracing solutions such as data analysis performed on large, anonymized information sets.

With barriers falling to digital healthcare acceptance — among patients and providers alike — the future will likely see the emergence of still more powerful technology tools such as Artificial Intelligence and machine-learning algorithms for clinical decision support. From the front desk to the operating theater, healthcare organizations are moving on from their pre-pandemic norms and using this moment to catch up with tech adoption rates in fields such as consumer goods.

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