Not more than 10 or 20 years ago, doctors used to carry around little charts for each patient that they used to keep notes and records on. Patient medical charts were kept on the outside of examination rooms or at the foot of hospital beds. It was also commonplace for these charts to go missing, get switched up, or just lack the most up to date information on patients. Since then, HIPAA laws mandate a certain level of accuracy as well as patient privacy. While doctors may have done the best that they could do to protect patient records in the past, it has been technology that has changed the game. Here are just some of the ways that technology has transformed the entire healthcare sector.
Everything is Online
Patient monitoring equipment such as blood pressure monitors are now coming fully equipped to work wirelessly. When you walk into the standard modern patient hospital room, all equipment is not only working in tandem to keep patients healthy, all information is being made available to healthcare professionals in real time. The result of this is that doctors don’t have to physically go into a recovery room in order to assess patient. Nurses don’t have to listen for alarms in order to react to medical emergencies. In short, changes in technology have made things safer for patients overall.
Improved Communication Between Medical Professionals and Healthcare Facilities
There was a time when doctors had to wait until they physically received patient medical histories and charts before any substantive treatment could occur. This is because patients could have interactions with medications or complications because of allergies. Doctors helped to protect patients and themselves by erring on the side of caution. At the same time, not all patients could wait for their records to arrive via snail mail for medical treatment. In those cases, medical professionals might depend on oral histories, try to get other medical professionals on the phone, or rely on faxing partial medical records. In the interim, information was lost in translation. Now that technology is a bigger part of the healthcare sector, there is better communication between doctors, hospitals, medical clinics, and others in the industry.
Patients Have a Better Understanding of Medical Treatment Plans
People are supposed to visit their doctors once or twice a year for preventative healthcare services. After having gone to the same doctor a few times, patients pretty much know what each visit is going to entail. They will have their blood pressure taken, a nurse will take their weight, they will be examined and then get to talk to the doctor for a few moments about any pressing concerns. If all goes well, they’ll be given a take to come back in the future. Things are different when a patient learns that he must undergo an aggressive cancer treatment plan, or even if he or she finds that being referred to a specialist will be necessary. Technology in general has helped to break down complex medical terms and generally make information on health more accessible. Patients may go online, visit websites devoted to health care, and find out what happens during a particular treatment. They don’t have to wait or wonder what their experience will be like to understand what will happen to their bodies.
Diseases and Illnesses Diagnosed with Better Accuracy
There are some illnesses that are so rare that only a handful of new cases are diagnosed each year. On average, most doctors will never see patients with these illnesses in person and only cursory information is available in medical journals. A general lack of information can lead to misdiagnosis as well as patients not being able to receive effective treatment plans. With technology enabling doctors to be able to connect with one another the world over, they can more easily share information. Medical professionals who need a second opinion or just want to confer with colleagues can use modern advancements in technology to their advantage. In the end, a patient who may have a rare disease can be diagnosed faster and with better accuracy. Likewise, patients can have more peace of mind knowing that their treating physicians have more tools available to help them with accuracy.
Digital Medical Record Storage
Physicians used to have a big problem when it came to storing patient medical records. HIPAA laws require doctors to store the records of patients in a location where they are secure but also easily accessible. So, if a small medical practice became popular, the staff could outgrow the space rather quickly. Doctors would have to secure adjacent commercial space just to store patient records. And if their filing system wasn’t accurate, a patient file could easily become lost in the fray. Companies such as Medinformatix make it so that patient records don’t have to be stored physically. Additionally, making patient medical records available on computers helps doctors to retrieve and add to them quickly. You have likely seen the technology in action at your last doctor’s visit. Physicians only need to spend a few minutes on their tablets, laptops, or PCs to review patient histories and add notes where appropriate.
Patient Records Are More Secure
In addition to needing to keep patient medical records in a location where they are easy to access, they also have to be kept secure. So, while putting medical records on computers is nice in theory, it also exposes patients to digital threats. This is why technology has responded by requiring doctors to be prudent about how digital medical records are stored, created, shared, and accessed. In other words, doctors can’t use standard word processing software to make create files for patients. There has to be a layer of security to prevent hackers from gaining access both to computers used in the healthcare sector as well as individual patient records. This is why there are only a small number of companies that medical professionals trust for patient record keeping purposes. In addition, healthcare providers are subjected to periodic audits to ensure that they are following the law and keeping the safety of patients in mind.
People Are Becoming Healthier
Not more than 20 years ago, someone who wanted to embark on a weight loss journey would have to do a lot of guessing. There were few websites that had healthy ideas on low calorie meals, and they certainly wouldn’t be able to figure out how many calories were contained in their favorite meals. Other than attempting to starve themselves, there was just no way to keep good track of caloric intake accurately.
The story is pretty much the same when it came to people looking to start exercise. In short, there wasn’t much in the way of modern and accurate information available within arm’s reach. Since hiring a personal trainer as well as a private chef is expensive, it was simply harder for people to be healthy. Now, with Fitbits and pedometers, there is no way that a person who is determined to drop the pounds won’t lose weight. You can use the internet to find forums where you can talk to others trying to lose weight. There are so many tools and gadgets that you can use to track your results and keep you motivated. Even exercise equipment has become technologically advanced, with built in heart rate monitoring and estimates on how many calories are burned during each workout.
Better Accountability Overall
Historically speaking, positive changes in technology in the healthcare sector have led to longer life expectancies. When patients know what doctors want them to do and they follow directions, they are rewarded with longer, better quality lives. While doctors continue to be rewarded for their work by attaining some of the highest paying salaries in the world, patients are also happy to be able to better avoid diseases and ailments. Technology is making medical professionals and patients alike more accountable for their actions. Doctors are able to more easily avoid claims of negligence. Patients are taking their health into their hands, quitting smoking, losing weight, and managing diabetes with the help of technology. More improvements are expected to be made, but what has already been seen is very, very promising.
When you visit a modern healthcare facility, you are likely to see medical professionals walking around looking happier and more relaxed. Their jobs are still challenging and many doctors and nurses still work long hours. The difference between today and say, 15 years ago, is that they are better able to do their jobs. They can double check before recommending a particular medical procedure for a patient. Nurses can be certain that they are giving the right medicine to patients. Overall, fewer mistakes are being made and morale is higher amongst medical professionals. Patients can easily see the difference in the quality of care received as well. They have more faith and trust in their doctors, knowing that a trip to the hospital will end in proper treatment while they look forward to longer, healthier, and more productive lives. Technology has forever changed the healthcare sector for the better.