You’ve probably experienced going to a clinic for a consult and finding yourself as one of the 50 people in line to see the doctor. This is because, there has always been a gap between the number of medical professionals available and the number of people in need in many areas. According to Johns Hopkins University Professor Suchi Saria, it’s difficult to scale up the number of doctors enough to balance this disparity.
The ongoing pandemic has placed a spotlight on this issue as healthcare facilities struggle to meet the demands of an infected population. For this particular problem, the solution that public health experts have come up with is to flatten the curve of the infection.
This solution effectively tells people to avoid overwhelming the healthcare system by preventing infection for as long as they can. Although this solution doesn’t really increase the number of available medical staff and equipment, it helps budget the limited resources for the pandemic over time.
Now, applying this mindset to the base issue of medical staff shortage, it can be found that increasing the efficiency of healthcare can also serve as a countermeasure. By making the healthcare process more efficient, resources can be better allocated while still maintaining the quality of care.
Since people can’t really flatten the curve when it comes to other illnesses and injuries, what are the changes necessary to make healthcare more efficient?
For the most part, technology exists and progresses to make life easier. This broad statement includes the healthcare industry. In fact, some claim that healthcare is one of the most meaningful applications of tech. The ability to effectively lengthen a person’s lifespan and improve their quality of life is one tangible and measurable direct result of innovation.
Embracing technology, therefore, should be the mantra of the healthcare industry. In recent years, this has been particularly easier to do because of huge strides in the medical front. The advancements in medical equipment including imaging, radiology, life support, and others have been adding quality to the care provided.
But when it comes to more cost-effective changes that bring about big impacts on the efficiency of healthcare, the adoption of different software systems comes to mind.
The most popular healthcare software system to date is the Electronic Health Records or EHR systems. This seemingly simple repository of patient information accessible through a network has been revolutionary in maximizing the use of information technology to make healthcare more efficient.
The sharing of Electronic Medical Records or EMR systems (a type of EHR), in particular, allows medical professionals transparency to their patient’s history of medication, treatments, and general course of recovery. This makes decision-making faster and more reliable. A future where different doctors from different hospitals have access to this repository can save time, money, and precious work hours that can be better spent elsewhere.
Telehealth is another exciting venture in healthcare technology. Through telehealth, remote patients can gain access to quality healthcare without spending too much time and money just to fall in line in a clinic. The accessibility benefit is further strengthened by the technology’s availability using mobile devices like smartphones.
According to Medical News Today, Telehealth is also helpful to healthcare providers by reducing overhead costs, adding revenue streams, and reducing exposure to risk.
Administration and Operations
There is a lot of room for change in the administration side of healthcare facilities. It’s just that the sheer volume of demand and its accompanying pressure leave these facilities less inclined or, at times, even capable of applying changes. Fortunately, there are some adoptable shifts that can be done easily.
The use of appointment scheduling systems is one of these changes. In fact, many hospitals and clinics have already begun using these systems to give their patients the ability to book their own visits. This alleviates the medical staff from this tedious, and sometimes trivial, work. It makes staffing in these healthcare facilities more streamlined, too, which makes it more cost-effective in turn.
For the patients, these systems offer a more convenient way of setting appointments. It effectively reduces waiting times and long lines. Patients are given credentials to log in to the facility’s online system. They can use an array of devices to do this. They also have access to the schedules of different medical professionals, which allows them the liberty to align their visits with preferred experts. Using these systems, patients can also reschedule or cancel their appointments ahead of time and with relative ease.
These changes, of course, will need not only the resources to adopt, but the buy-in of management. Every time a new program or process is introduced, it’s equally important that the changes are communicated to all stakeholders, including medical staff. This also means investing in the relevant training courses so these people can meaningfully apply the changes.
But training courses should not be limited to the adoption of new software. The healthcare industry, by nature, is always changing. This means medical staff likely need to update their skills every once in a while. As another benefit, training courses will reduce burnouts and increase employee retention.