Over the last decades, general healthcare has evolved as much as other areas of life. Healthcare has become more accessible and easier to administer, and the entire experience has improved for all parties involved. When we consider the major proponent of these advancements, all fingers point at digital technology.
In the last few years, particularly since the introduction of digital technology into healthcare, people all over the world have experienced a new wave in the healthcare industry. Digital technology has fast become an integral aspect of healthcare, and every day, a new level of revolution is introduced into the practice of medicine.
In different ways, digital technology has significantly upgraded operational efficiency as it relates to the standards of medicine and medical care. This transformation has considerably improved the general experience of all the parties involved – healthcare professionals, patients, the government and private individuals. One important aspect that we need to look into is how healthcare workers are affected by these changes.
There has been a lot of speculation on how digital technology will affect the healthcare workforce right now and in the future. Do current healthcare workers need to gain more expertise than they already have to maintain the status quo as the world of healthcare is evolving? Are there specific things they should keep in mind? In this article, we break down the effects of digital technology on healthcare in recent years and touch on how these effects will impact healthcare workers, now and in the future.
Improved access to medical information and data
When we consider one of the major advantages that digital transformation has on healthcare, it is that it has improved the capability to access and store information. Healthcare specialists can now access or recover patient data from places even outside the clinic. This is possible because the internet and intranet now allow healthcare workers to communicate medical information swiftly among themselves. This ensures that there’s more efficient patient care.
Also, numerous grave medication errors were due to healthcare workers not having adequate information about patients or their conditions. However, technology, through information technology, has radically improved access to information and data. Healthcare workers now have a large range of drug-related information available to them through their handheld devices, quick access to other databases, and online medical references.
Enhanced communication lines
Communication in the healthcare industry has come a long way from the period when the major form of communication was beepers until the present day, when healthcare professionals can quickly communicate through texts, phone calls, emails, and other means.
As a matter of fact, doctors no longer have to use physical mail to remind patients of their tests or appointments. Digital technology has made it much faster, easier and cheaper. Aside from patient-doctor communications, it is now possible for medical specialists to use social media and other online platforms to communicate with other experts and share their knowledge with the public, making healthcare even more accessible. This is referred to as teleconferencing, and with it, healthcare can reach people irrespective of time, space and vicinity.
Gone are the days when hospital shelves were overflowing with large paper files that contained medical records of patients. Now, with digital technology, there’s no need to transport these files through several departments. Some of the major problems during those times were missing, damaged or complete loss of files. In these situations, the process becomes tedious for healthcare workers to navigate and may delay how fast they can attend to patients, even in some emergency situations.
However, with the introduction of digital technology, specifically electronic health records (EHRs), the process has become easier for healthcare workers and their respective patients. What EHRs do is centralize the storage of all patient data, making it faster and easier to access better-quality care and even better outcomes. Also, EHR Software ensures that the medical billing process is much easier, faster and smoother.
This is one area of healthcare that’s still developing and will become high level in the next few years. This is because different parts of the world still don’t have access to fast healthcare providers, even for emergency situations.
However, with video conferencing, more people can have better access to healthcare providers. Telemedicine refers to the practice of using technology to deliver care at a distance, in a situation where the healthcare worker can be in one location and deliver healthcare services to a patient in a different area with the use of telecommunications infrastructure. Telehealth is the broad term that refers to using electronic and telecommunications technologies to provide a variety of services from a distance.
Not only is this method cost-effective, but it also comes in handy during emergency situations. We can now have medical counseling delivered to patients at a distance. Thanks to telecommunication technology, healthcare training can also be made available to healthcare workers who reside in isolated areas.
Another important advantage of digital technology is that it makes online education available for short training and even as far as degrees. No longer are prospective students restricted to getting healthcare training and studies physically. Now, pursuing a career in healthcare, whether completely or partially online, is possible. Prospective students can now earn their Rockhurst online AGACNP-PMC
Without the need to commute or permanently move from home miles and miles away. As a prospective student, you can do study whenever you want, wherever you want, on your terms.
More and more apps are being developed every day, including health apps. With these apps, almost every patient can monitor their health condition, provide their medical information, get early prompts for check-ups, and get access to test results when necessary. On the other hand, healthcare apps ensure that healthcare workers can monitor their patients faster and more effectively.
When patients use these apps to keep track of their medical records and share them with their healthcare provider, it allows the doctor to get a more holistic view of their patient’s health and make better-informed decisions.
In another vein, digital technology is useful to healthcare as it allows healthcare workers to collect big data in the least amount of time. There are certain areas of healthcare that require the instant collection of data to be able to make progress. When healthcare workers conduct research, epidemiological studies and clinical trials, digital technology can fast-track the collection of data from a wider population.
Healthcare professionals can use the data they derive to remain on top of new trends and techniques. Another aspect of this is that access to big data allows healthcare professionals to take more effective steps in identifying the necessary steps to prevent issues.
Improved patient safety
Lastly, digital technology, particularly information technology, has a significant effect on the safety of patients. The most important aspect of healthcare is that patients feel safe and that quality service is delivered to them.
To ensure that this happens and that they’re thoroughly satisfied, it’s important that patients are made to feel like a part of the process. The way that this can be made possible is through technology, from encouraging thorough communication between the parties by means of texts, online portals and emails. Better access to information also ensures that medical records are available to the patient so that they conveniently monitor themselves.
Digital technology has become an essential aspect of healthcare today. From the above, we can see that the right technology can go a long way in assisting with improved quality, increased efficiency and decreased costs. How exactly does this help the present and future healthcare workers though?
The current impact of digital technology on healthcare workers
As much as digital technology is helping to process medical information and data, and improving the outcomes of patients, one specific area that cannot be overlooked is how much of an impact digital technology has on healthcare workers.
How are healthcare employees faring? Has work become more rewarding or more daunting? Are employees in this industry now at the risk of losing their jobs?
Better employee engagement
The healthcare community, according to studies, has always lagged behind when it comes to engagement levels for employees. For a lot of reasons, ranging from wage stagnation to late adoption of new technologies, employee engagement in healthcare has been poor.
However, the introduction of technology into the system has made a huge impact on employee engagement. Now, healthcare workers feel more empowered to work in their roles because they have better hospital administration systems to work with. The different practical ways that these work include the following:
- Easier communication between doctors and all healthcare workers through voice and video means, irrespective of distance.
- Location-based technologies for staff management during emergencies.
- Unified, compliant and secured healthcare regulatory systems that make for better patient privacy and data systems.
- A reduction in the rate of workplace violence as a result of better communication systems.
Many of the improvements that we see today are hinged on better communication systems among healthcare professionals.
A better chance for continuous education
With new improvements showing up every day, it’s important that healthcare workers have the opportunity of continuous learning so that they stay on top of their game. While it is well-known that healthcare workers are one of the busiest sets of workers, and making time to learn more may almost be impossible, the latest technology makes it possible for them to create time to advance their existing knowledge, specialize, or become more eligible for lucrative opportunities.
Every healthcare facility, no matter the size, has a handful of compartments and stages that need to be catered for. From patient rooms and worker areas to storage facilities and labs, every area has to be properly accounted for.
One way that new technologies are making this feasible is through the use of the Internet of Things (IoT). IoT makes facility management better, faster and more personalized to fit the required functionality. It also extends to staff members, as a better-connected facility will easily alert them of any replacements or repairs that need to be made.
Augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) visibility
Even though AR and VR in healthcare aren’t premium yet, it’s a step in the right direction. From Google Glass and HoloLens to heads-up display (HUD), a number of applications in this field are gaining traction daily.
Surgeons now have better visibility while performing surgeries, making way for better chances of perspective and success.
These improvements are pushing the healthcare industry towards success and making it much easier for workers in this sector to navigate their responsibilities.
The future of digital technology for healthcare workers
As the days go by, technology is evolving and will continue to increase the level of automation in different industries. In a lot of ways, automation increases the level of work that can be done and the general performance levels within organizations.
Understandably, several organizations are making plans to include the exponential changes that technology is introducing into the workplace. One area that’s looking to expand technologically in the near future is the healthcare industry.
According to current data, at least 69% of healthcare providers in the US are interested in augmenting their workforce to be ready for the future workforce. Although just about 33% of the entire workforce is currently putting plans in place and implementing areas such as cognitive computing, robotics and artificial intelligence, indications are that there will be more of this in the coming years. When we consider the future of healthcare workers, especially in relation to digital technology, here are the things to look out for.
An infused healthcare technology and talent workforce
In the coming years, any organization that chooses not to fuse healthcare technology with its workforce talent will indeed be missing out on the level of engagement and efficiency that can be reached when they’re fused.
The future of healthcare workers lies in an engaged workforce. Things such as shortages of talent, burnout levels, and a dispirited workforce will be replaced with skilled professionals who can engage with all the requirements of a tech-savvy workspace.
Strategic adoption of technologies for improved working systems
Aside from the general output of healthcare workers, in the future, new technologies will ensure that the administrative and redundant work are totally taken care of.
Take diagnostic radiology as an example. There are indeed a lot of redundant activities involved in this area, and new technologies can help to take some of the burden off the shoulders of radiologists. In the coming years, a radiologist will no longer have to interpret radiology, and they will not have to experience an overdependence on the work distribution system, limited access to patients, and declining reimbursements.
Nurses also have several gains to make with technology in the future. When technological disruptors such as cognitive technologies, robotics and AI are introduced, the roles of nurses will become more augmented and more efficient. With this, nurses will be able to focus their energy and time on educating and engaging patients, all with the aim of maintaining safety and quality for an exceptional experience. In the coming years, the role of a nurse will evolve and no longer be restricted to location, documentation and patient education.
The truth is that the future of digital technology in the healthcare sector is already here. The only thing left is that the organizations in question take advantage of the opportunities, include this future into their plans, and find ways to implement them.
Any health organization looking to infuse digital technology into its workforce strategy will have to be open to growing exponentially. The healthcare workforce will not evolve in a solitary linear path, but rather work in response to an assembly of forces.
It should be seen as a step-by-step process where organizations consciously and proactively look out for opportunities to augment and automate their clinical workflows in a way that will benefit both the workforce and patients.
There are indeed a lot of benefits that the healthcare industry can get from implementing digital technology. It can help curb existing workforce problems, even those that may arise in the near future. There really will be a great deal of change in the healthcare industry if it can indeed take advantage of these opportunities.
One important thing to have in mind is that ideas on how every stakeholder in the healthcare sector will benefit from new technologies should always be highlighted. To fully grasp the advantage of new digital technologies for the healthcare industry, particularly healthcare workers, it’s important to see how it plays out in reality.