Technology Solutions as Healthcare Needs Increase

Technology Solutions as Healthcare Needs Increase

The sweeping provisions of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and the increase in insured Americans will continue to force healthcare providers to become more efficient in providing care. Although investing in IT can be costly up front, we will see the importance of having these technologies when it comes to providing care for more people.

The North American healthcare information technology market is forecasted to reach $31.3 billion by 2017 according to Research and Markets’ North American Healthcare IT Market Report. But is money worth spent, especially when increasing the number of patients in the system?

The more systems adopt electronic record systems, the more healthcare itself will become more effective and efficient. The impact of IT on healthcare in the past decade has been modest, despite the huge potential. About 85 percent of hospitals now have electronic medical records (EMRs) in place or almost in place, and about 60 percent of doctors’ offices. Such records are the first step in developing systems and  give clinicians real-time access to patient data, provide them with support to make the best possible decisions and streamlines processes and reduces administrative overhead.

Electronic access will also change the way healthcare professionals work, the types of positions needed and allow physicians to focus on those who need their help the most. According to a November 2013 article in Health Affairs, a range of health information technologies (EMRs and more) alone can free up more physician time (up to 9 percent) to spend with patients.

Those increased IT technologies could also increase the care provided by physician assistants and nurse practitioners, also giving physicians more time with serious cases. Generalists could also provide some of the care now being provided by specialists and technology could also help improve outcomes where there are regional shortages of physicians, by allowing care to be delivered remotely or asynchronously by physicians in other locations.

Other electronic tools—like secure messaging with patients or clinical decision support can also improve outcomes and increase productivity. Together these systems can improve outcomes, reduce redundant communications and increase the focus of physicians’ time on complex patient care.