Healthcare doesn’t end with treating an illness and managing symptoms; patients need continuity of care to make sure they stay on track for their recovery and don’t exacerbate factors that could lead to complications or new conditions. Therefore, true patient care involves continued healthcare management to ensure their well-being in the long run.
Providing continuity of care improves clinical outcomes, increases patient satisfaction, and reduces readmission rates. It also allows healthcare providers to learn more about diseases and their long-term effects on different patient demographics. The information physicians gather them approach medical conditions more effectively in the future, from diagnosis to treatment.
Continuity of care, however, can be difficult to deliver due to several reasons:
- High cost of healthcare
- The high number of patient caseloads
- Lack of communication channels between the patient and their provider(s)
- Lack of patient education on the importance of continuity of care
- Poor patient-physician relationships
- Short-staffed hospitals and clinics
Fortunately, healthcare technology has evolved in a way that opens multiple solutions for improving continuity of care. Hospitals and private practices can adopt these modern technologies to address several problems mentioned, such as lack of communication and understaffing.
Below are four digital tools to help medical providers deliver stable, consistent health services to their patients.
1. EHR Software
Electronic health records (EHR) software improves a practice’s data management. These dashboards help doctors manage their schedules, prioritize tasks according to urgency, quickly access patient medical history, track medication timetables, and more, making it easier for healthcare professionals to retrieve their patients’ records.
This high efficiency level helps reduce incidences of medical errors like missed or delayed diagnoses, delays in treatment, inadequate follow-up treatment, and medication errors.
Digitizing health records also results in a more efficient and collaborative type of patient care. Some digital storage systems, like cloud-based networks, offer a single access point for patient information. This means doctors and nurses can view documents simultaneously to collaborate and consult with each other regarding a patient’s status in real-time.
Digitization makes patient transfers easier, too. For example, a hospital lacks the equipment to treat a patient, requiring a transfer to another healthcare facility. Along with their medical records, the patient can easily be brought over to the new hospital without the hassle of dealing with paperwork.
2. Patient Portals
Patient self-management is an important aspect of continuity of care. It helps people with long-term diseases cultivate a more sustainable way of living with their condition and avoid complications.
Physicians have a clear role in supporting their patients’ continued recovery post-treatment. They need to encourage their patients to make healthy choices and pursue appropriate self-management habits to maintain their health.
Some digital tools, such as patient portals, make self-management easier for patients.
Patient portals are an all-in-one platform containing resources, data, and self-help tools that support patient self-management. The portal is usually integrated with the EHR software. Users can access their medical history, clinical summaries, and prescription records with just a few clicks, which helps them stay on track with their treatment plan.
Patients can also perform healthcare-related tasks through the portal. They can schedule appointments, pay their bills, or renew their prescriptions remotely and quickly. This feature is beneficial for patients with mobility issues.
Elderly patients and people with disabilities, for instance, may have limited resources to spend on visiting the hospital several times a month. With patient portals, they can receive the medical service they need from the comfort of their homes.
Providers must encourage and teach patients to use the online platform, however. Otherwise, the tool won’t provide any value. A study shows that 63 percent of patients don’t use the portal. Healthcare providers can promote stronger patient use by investing more time and effort into patient tech education.
3. Patient Messaging Platforms
Direct patient messaging platforms address several challenges to the continuity of care, including lack of communication and poor patient-physician relationships. These digital health tools allow doctors to keep a close eye on their patients, make further assessments, and adjust treatments as needed, all of which contribute to better clinical outcomes.
By maintaining constant communication, physicians also get the opportunity to build rapport and trust among their patients. When patients trust their doctors, they become more active participants in their own care and follow through more carefully with their treatment plan.
With that, direct messaging platforms are also hugely beneficial to patient self-management. Patients can ask their doctors simple questions about their treatment plan or health condition without going to the hospital or clinic. Having access to this platform helps ensure that patients receive the medical attention they need, regardless of the severity of the issue.
The previous point may be critical with people who are quick to disregard health issues that seem minor because they don’t want to travel to the hospital for a problem they can endure or wait out. These small health problems can worsen into more serious issues. So, it’s important to report even the slightest health changes, especially for people with chronic conditions.
Finally, telemedicine is one of the best digital tools for ensuring continuity of care. This healthcare technology offers several benefits to your practice, from improving clinical outcomes to elevating your patients’ experiences.
Just like direct messaging platforms and patient portals, telemedicine is especially beneficial for patients with mobility issues. Children with special needs, elderly patients, and people with disabilities can receive the medical service they need without leaving their homes. Telemedicine also improves continuity of care in rural communities where healthcare can be inaccessible.
Telehealth lets patients attend their consultations and check-ups using videoconferencing tools. This lets doctors assess health issues more accurately and ultimately improve health outcomes. It also makes it easier for the physician and patient to find a common time for their appointments, allowing for more frequent and regular consultations.
Remote health services like telemedicine have also become essential during the pandemic. They provide essential health care to patients while helping them follow social distancing guidelines, minimizing the risk of transmission. Patients who are more vulnerable to the virus benefit the most from telehealth services.
The Future of Continuity of Care
Digital health solutions extend the reach of your care beyond the walls of your healthcare facility. These allow you to deliver necessary health services to your patients even after their initial treatment or operation, ensuring they stay healthy.
Ultimately, you can use healthcare technology to create a patient-oriented care model that focuses on achieving long-term health outcomes instead of pay-based services.