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Top 3 Digital Innovations that Transformed Healthcare

Patient engagement is the next frontier in healthcare and single-platform patient portals created the digital foundation for this ongoing transformation. In today’s technology-driven world, patients now expect a seamless healthcare experience, which translates to a digital “one-stop shop” for managing their personal health information. 

Many patients already use patient portals for tasks such as scheduling appointments and requesting prescription refills. However, today patients are increasingly utilizing existing technology to participate in their own health journey more actively. 

The Progress of Digital Transformation

Digital transformation occurs when positive changes in health information technology improve interactions between providers and patients. Legacy EHRs, while transformational for early adopters, were designed primarily for the safe exchange of patient data between providers. 

Today’s EHRs have transformed the healthcare landscape by providing patients unprecedented – and long overdue – access to their personal health information. Legislation regulating patient data also favors transparency, since providers, developers, and health information networks now are prohibited from engaging in practices that would prevent patients from receiving personal health data or inhibit an exchange of data at the patient’s request.

The following three innovations created the foundation for current – and future – digital transformation.

1.) Removal of Barriers to Patient Data

The information blocking rule of the federal 21st Century Cures Act requires that certain clinical notes created in an EHR must be immediately available to patients through a secure online portal. The rule mandated the use of API-enabled EHR technology and encompasses eight categories of patient data: 

  • Consultation notes
  • Discharge summary notes
  • History and physical exams
  • Imaging narratives
  • Lab report narratives
  • Pathology report narratives
  • Procedure notes
  • Progress notes

Access to this information enables patients to have immediate – and far greater – transparency into their health records. This kind of knowledge provides crucial insights and gives patients the ability to participate more actively in decision-making regarding their health. 

2.) Consumer-Driven Telehealth

Telehealth, particularly virtual appointments, has already opened doors to make healthcare more accessible to many patients, particularly those who live in rural areas or are immunocompromised. However, as healthcare consumerism continues to shape patient expectations, conveniences such as telehealth are becoming an essential accommodation for providers who want to remain competitive in a saturated healthcare space. 

The benefits of telehealth for both patients and providers are plentiful. Telemedicine not only offers cost savings and convenience; but it also can drive improved quality of care and better outcomes overall. When integrated with practice workflows, telehealth operations can reduce administrative burden, allowing providers to devote more time to improving patient care quality. 

3.) Remote Patient Monitoring 

Remote patient monitoring (RPM) technology transformed the patient experience and continues to drive innovations in interoperability. RPM devices such as digital scales, step counters and blood pressure cuffs are just a few of the options that allow practices to collect data on vital signs, weight, blood pressure, blood sugar, blood oxygen levels, heart rate, electrocardiograms and more. Increased integration with EHR systems makes remote patient monitoring solutions even more instrumental in optimal patient outcomes. 

As a result, patients who use RPM can enjoy greater freedom – especially those with chronic health conditions that require ongoing monitoring, such as diabetes or hypertension. By taking advantage of RPM technology, patients can avoid the time and expense of unnecessary appointments. RPM also can be lifesaving, as it alerts both patients and providers to dangerous situations, such as low blood sugar or dangerously high blood pressure. 

While RPM is sometimes considered interchangeable with telehealth, it is important to note that there are key differences between the two. While both services use technology to provide remote healthcare services, telehealth providers must follow strict reimbursement guidelines from CMS. Since CMS does not consider RPM a telehealth service, reimbursement procedures are more flexible.

Bridging the Communication Gap Between Patients and Providers

If the Cures Act is any indication, we can expect to see future federal regulations and CMS guidelines in favor of transparency and equity for patients, which is digital transformation at its very best. Plus, thanks to past digital transformations, EHRs can continue to evolve.  As a result, patients and providers will benefit from increased trust and more collaborative relationships – and ultimately better overall health outcomes.

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