By Fabien Mar 22, 2024

IT and Healthcare: How can technology enhance the patient experience?

Long waits in emergency rooms, extended time spent on hold for appointments or surgical scheduling, the challenge of securing a family doctor, and limited access to resources… All those factors contribute to a healthcare system that often falls short of delivering an excellent patient experience.

In Quebec, the healthcare sector represents the largest budget item, with announced investments of $61.9 billion by 2024. Last year, a portion of this funding was allocated for the establishment of the Santé Québec agency. Minister Christian Dubé aims to reform Quebec’s healthcare system, striving for enhanced efficiency.

In a network that still relies on outdated technologies like fax machines or pagers, the integration of new technologies to improve the patient experience is greatly needed. This article introduces diverse solutions that could address the needs of various healthcare institutions effectively.

What is patient experience in healthcare?

The patient experience is not limited to receiving care, quite the opposite! It includes every interaction and touchpoint they may have with healthcare institutions.

Whether it’s booking a first appointment, consulting with a professional, having tests or samples taken, diagnosing a problem, planning follow-up care, or even obtaining prescriptions, every step contributes to the patient experience.

And it’s in considering this entire journey that we see technology’s significant impact unfold.

A medical staff member using modern technology to complete records.

What role does technology play in enhancing patient experience within healthcare?

When it comes to technology in the healthcare sector, we’re likely to think of advanced medical devices that greatly influence the quality of care provided. However, it’s important to recognize that technology also plays a crucial role in enhancing the administrative experience, whether by facilitating smoother communication or centralizing data management.

Successfully integrating new technologies into your operations requires an initial assessment of your needs, followed by prioritizing them based on their significance and feasibility of implementation.

Here are a few examples:

Optimizing Operations with Process Automation

Automation stands as an initial step in any successful digital transformation journey. With tools like Power Automate, the process is quickly deployable and cost-effective, offering substantial short-term productivity boosts and significantly reducing the risk of errors.

In every business sector, automation aims to empower employees to focus on activities with higher value addition. In healthcare, this translates to delivering support and care to patients, a responsibility shared by both administrative and medical personnel.

One example of processes we can automate in the healthcare sector is sending out reminders for consultation appointments, examinations, or vaccinations.

These automatic reminders, triggered by a specific action, fixed date, or periodicity, are sent via email or text message, which include an event link that is automatically added to the patient’s Outlook, Google, or Apple calendar. By doing so, they help prevent missed appointments, resulting in delays that can have unfortunate consequences for the patient’s health.

Another form of automation could involve implementing an option for patients to leave their telephone number for a callback without losing their place in the phone queue when scheduling appointments. This feature has the potential to alleviate a lot of frustration among patients!

Creating Patient Portals and Applications

The creation of a patient portal based on a web application marks a more advanced stage in a healthcare institution’s digital transformation process.

Its implementation is more complex, as it requires considerable development time, but this results in a complete, scalable and flexible customized technological solution.

From the patient’s perspective, the portal offers centralized and secure access to medical data, ensuring availability 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

With just a few clicks, patients can access documents shared by their doctor through the portal. This includes prescriptions or test results, eliminating the need for unnecessary trips to the clinic and reducing administrative calls between staff and patients.

Understanding a doctor’s explanations during a consultation, particularly under stress, can be challenging. The portal facilitates communication by enabling messages to be sent and providing written details that patients and their families can read at their convenience.

Another significant benefit of the patient portal is the ability to book appointments for quick consultations. Many can relate to the inconvenience of waiting in line outside the clinic in freezing weather or repeatedly calling to schedule appointments during busy periods.

In addition to significantly enhancing the patient experience, the ability to autonomously book appointments also greatly reduces the workload on clinic receptionists. It’s important to acknowledge that eliminating all calls is unrealistic, as a significant portion of the population may not be comfortable or able to use web portals. However, this should significantly alleviate the phone line congestion.

Some healthcare institutions may also choose to develop a mobile application, especially those providing telemedicine services. This proves to be an effective solution for handling minor emergencies remotely, thereby significantly reducing waiting times in emergency rooms and clinics.

Integrating a chatbot into medical monitoring processes improves the patient experience.

 

Integrating Chatbot and AI

Incorporating a chatbot with artificial intelligence (AI) capabilities offers another avenue for enhancing the patient experience. Indeed, this technology works by enabling users to quickly obtain precise and reliable answers to specific questions.

Who hasn’t turned to Google to search their symptoms? The vast majority of readers of this article (including the author) likely have! While it’s a common response, it’s generally not a good idea because the information available on internet may not be accurate or tailored to everyone’s condition.

Unlike a search engine like Google, a chatbot can be trained to retrieve information from reputable sources while considering the patient’s condition. This is possible with the data stored in their medical file and the symptoms they describe.

Obviously, the chatbot can’t make a full diagnosis, but it can guide the patient towards seeking appropriate medical attention from a healthcare specialist.

The integration of AI in healthcare also facilitates personalized monitoring tailored to the progression of a patient’s condition. Certain connected devices, such as smartwatches or smartphones, collect data on various aspects of a patient’s health, including sleep cycles, heart rate, and blood pressure, among others.

Autonomous alerts can be sent to prompt the owner to consult a doctor, with suggestions for available time slots. In recent years, numerous individuals have reported being “saved” by their smartwatches, highlighting their proven effectiveness.

In the healthcare sector, the significance of engaging with a human being cannot be overstated. And needless to say, navigating through the countless of options on telephone menus can be challenging. AI can play a crucial role in efficiently directing the patient to the appropriate resource.

With empathy as the heart of the patient experience, the integration of artificial intelligence in the healthcare sector raises many questions and concerns. The oversight of AI practices in healthcare will undoubtedly be a topic to monitor in the coming years, yet we can still appreciate the vast potential it holds.

Improving the Patient Experience with Uzinakod’s Technology Experts

The patient experience stands to gain significantly from various technological innovations. While these innovations may not directly impact the care provided, they facilitate better utilization and coordination of resources, leading to an overall improvement in service quality.

It’s important to remember that technology is not intended to replace people but rather to support them. It should remain a tool accessible to both medical and administrative staff, empowering them to enhance efficiency even in the face of potential resource constraints.

Having worked on projects such as the Government of Quebec’s proof of vaccination and public user portal, the Fondation Jacques-de Champlain’s “AED-Quebec” mobile application, and Prehos’ pre-hospital emergency services application, our digital transformation specialists have acquired strong expertise in the healthcare sector over the past few years, especially in meeting strict requirements and certifications within this domain.

Our experts have also acquired automation skills with Microsoft’s Power Automate product, particularly by configuring automatic email and text reminders for our human resources and administration teams.

Are you in the healthcare sector and looking to optimize your processes? Contact us today to discuss your project. We’re here to help!

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