Healthcare Technology Bridges the Gap between Providers and Patients

Editor’s Note: Today’s guest blogger, Patrice Wolfe, is Senior Vice President and General Manager at RelayHealth in Atlanta.

There is so much discussion around health care reform, and it can often be hard for the general public to keep up with all the angles on this complex topic. Ultimately, the business of healthcare should be about the business of creating healthier patients.

One of the buzz concepts in healthcare is “patient engagement.”  Patient engagement is different than patient satisfaction in that it is defined as actions that individuals must take to obtain the greatest benefit from the healthcare services they receive. So, patient engagement means an active and responsible patient, not a passive patient. This engagement spans across both a patient’s care and financial responsibility.

The topic of patient engagement has many nuances. One of those is the technology needed to transition our current healthcare delivery system to one that better involves the patient as an active participant in their care – more of a co-pilot than passenger.

Your providers, primary care physicians, specialists, hospitals, etc., have already begun implementing technology to help them to securely exchange information about their patients’ care amongst themselves. The other side of that equation is that patients are also beginning to get access to their complete healthcare history.  This places providers in a better position to engage their patients in more meaningful conversations about their total health picture. It also empowers patients to become more actively engaged now that they have access to their medical history. Patients can then have the power to say to their physician, for example: “I just had lab work done by my internist. Can you please check my health record to see if you can use the same information?” which can cut down on insurance expenses and save us patients from another needle stick!

In addition to actively involving patients in their care, healthcare providers are also extending that engagement to helping patients better manage their healthcare financial responsibilities. Health insurance coverage can often be confusing for patients, so many hospitals and health systems are having pre-service discussions with patients to help them understand their financial responsibilities and even give them online access to manage bills and set up payment plans.

Healthcare technology already enables a number of positive benefits for patients today:

  • Access to your patient health record (PHR), so you finally get to see what your physicians have placed in your medical history.
  • With all of your healthcare providers accessing the same file, you don’t have to remember the name of that complicated pharmaceutical term for the medicine your specialist prescribed – it’s in the record!
  • Tools that better position you to manage and discuss with your physicians chronic conditions such as diabetes or hypertension.
  • You can better manage the financial side of your healthcare, because you access online what your provider billed, what the insurance paid, and what you now owe.

The foundation for the secure exchange of health information among providers and patients continues to expand, which is positioning the healthcare industry to give patients the freedom of choice to manage and access the various facets of their health information. As our mobile, social society continues to evolve, we are demanding changes across all industries, including healthcare.  The healthcare technology being put in place today addresses a number of the challenges with creating a more patient-centric health system, and it will be able to expand with the changes needed to encourage patient engagement and improve overall community health.

Patrice Wolfe is senior vice president and general manager of RelayHealth’s Patient Solutions business.

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