This is an interesting moment in healthcare. On the one hand, advances in technology are making new treatments and processes possible. On the other, rising healthcare costs and widespread discontent mean that improvements are essential and overdue.
No one questions that healthcare needs to change; and most of us believe that it’s possible to change for the better. But there is a vigorous debate about which strategies will meaningfully improve patient outcomes. These are the strategies that are typically singled out:
Improving the Diagnostic Process
Achieving the right outcome starts by identifying the right diagnosis. Misidentifying a patient’s problems to their full extent has consequences that ripple through the rest of the process. Diagnosis is always going to be difficult, but huge databases of patient data can help. Not only that, gathering and being able to analyze the patients’ data individually has a severe impact. Analyzing the patterns in the data can lead to better diagnostic criteria and fewer instances of error.
Developing Stronger Treatment Plans
Even with a correct diagnosis, outcomes can suffer if a patient does not receive the right course of treatment. Like diagnosis, however, precision and accuracy are difficult, especially for patients with multiple maladies. Rather than leaving things entirely up to the doctor’s discretion, analytics is being used to reveal the optimal course of action. By comparing data about treatments vs. outcomes across thousands of patients, doctors discover what really works. This is how big data can be used not to only help one individual patient, but in a later stadium be used to help a large group of people, as explained by IBM:
Tools for Supporting Staff
Healthcare settings with happier staff tend to have better patient outcomes as well. It’s not surprising that patients thrive in environments where staff are well-paid, respected, and supported. The challenge is for hospitals and clinics to do more for staff without increasing the cost of care. And there are tools for that too. Tools like healthcare business analytics reveal areas of waste and inefficiency while highlighting opportunities for improvement. As a result, providers are able to cut costs, maximize revenue, and do more to support staff and patients alike.
Adding Transparency With Data
One reason patient outcome has suffered in the past is because healthcare tends to wall off information. It is isolated in different departments or facilities, leading to a fractured perspective about a patient’s treatment and outcomes. Increasingly, healthcare information must be integrated under the same umbrella. Once the system has greater cohesion and transparency, the true drivers of positive or negative patient outcomes will become more apparent. Even though transparency sometimes can be feared in healthcare due to privacy, new developments in Blockchain could really break this barrier. Blockchain has the ability to keep records transparent and safe and avoid forgery, making it much easier to share data with a patient.
Embracing Connected Care
This relates directly to the previous point. Patients are often passed from provider to provider without much focus on their end-to-end treatment experience. But, ultimately, outcomes begin before the initial diagnosis, and they extend after the final discharge. In order for those outcomes to improve, stakeholders must increasingly emphasize comprehensive and connected care. Outcomes will inevitably improve once providers begin sharing data more freely and prioritizing collaboration and communication with one another.
It’s important to emphasize that patient outcomes are not all that improves. That is just one outcome of the broader transformation in healthcare. The same factors that are helping patients heal are also lowering costs, expanding revenues, and revolutionizing the business model in healthcare. Providers may be required to adapt, but they will ultimately benefit as much as the patients they serve.