Many times, technological advancements will drive improvements when introduced to existing systems. However, that may not be the case for electronics in healthcare. Are these technological advancements really improving this important sector?
Electronics Forge Connections
Electronic tools make it easy for those providing care to connect and communicate with patients. Electronic health records can give practitioners at a range of healthcare facilities access to shared patient files. Practitioners can also use electronics to connect and brainstorm solutions to patients’ health complaints.
Electronics Improve Efficiency
Electronic healthcare records have become a key part of the health industry as providers seek to improve patient outcomes. These electronic files are easily searchable, so they can be accessed quickly when practitioners need them. By providing a more comprehensive view of patient health, electronics can help practitioners offer more effective, targeted care, and can even help lower the number of office visits. This is significant for patients without easy access to health care, including people living in remote communities and those without transport.
Education Remains a Big Barrier
Electronics are only effective if the people who come in contact with them understand how to use the technology. This includes clinicians, doctors, nurses, clerical staff, and hospital administrators as well as patients. Some electronic developments have become so prevalent that students now learn about them when getting their healthcare MBA degrees, but what of healthcare workers who haven’t recently graduated?
A 2013 RAND study found many physicians have difficulties with electronic health records. Many of those surveyed found the systems were difficult and time-consuming to use. They also complained about unnecessary alerts and felt the systems interrupted workflow. As doctors and patients try to adapt, these electronic systems could end up being viewed as a hindrance.
What the Future Holds
A U.S. survey of doctors conducted just a year before the RAND study found that nearly four out of five doctors believed electronic health records help their practice function more efficiently. Around 82 percent said e-prescribing saved them time, while three-quarters of respondents said they received lab tests more quickly. Seven out of ten doctors said that electronic health reports made it easier to keep patient records and other sensitive information confidential. These dramatically different results show that while the integration of electronics in healthcare facilities hasn’t been seamless, physicians are seeing a range of benefits.
Electronics have great potential to improve the healthcare sector. However, while widespread problems exist, there’s still work to be done for them to deliver on their promise.