Can the advancement of digital health technology improve patient satisfaction, while saving time, money, and lives?

If 2015 healthcare investment levels are any indication, investors all over the world over are focusing on patient experience above all other digital health investment subsectors. Global expenditures in technological innovations designed to improve the patient/consumer experience accounted for more than 1.6 billion U.S. dollars. That number is almost double the investment on workflow technology (U.S. $655 million), and almost three times the amount invested in e-commerce technology (U.S. $489 million). Data gained from all sectors explains — in part — why content patients are critical to medical enterprise success.

Why the Attention on Patient Satisfaction?

In the United States, at least two industry developments are driving the shift toward tracking medical customer satisfaction:

  • The Affordable Care Act (ACA) and its shift to “patient outcomes” as the relevant “success” factor.
  • The consumer’s evolving opportunity to report good and bad experiences in the doctor’s office.

The ACA

Until 2015, U.S. doctors billed according to the number of patients they saw, not by the efficacy of their treatment plans. The ADA has mandated that this “quantity over quality” model be eliminated in favor of the reverse: quality over quantity. To identify the “quality” factor, America’s Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) have declared “patient satisfaction” as a key indicator of value in the new “Value-Based Purchasing” system. More than just seeing patients, digital transformation will ensure that doctors can now demonstrate their patients are content, and their treatment plans are having a positive impact on their patients’ health.

To collect relevant data accurately, many physicians carry mHealth mobile devices into exam rooms and use them to input client information as they receive it. Unfortunately, many doctors split their focus between listening to what patients are saying during the consultation and entering data into their devices: data which may or may not conform to the patient’s comments. The doctor’s file may appear complete when the visit is over, but the patient’s experience may have suffered from the absence of the physician’s full attention.

Medical Consumers are Also Digitally Connected

The multi-channeled world of today’s digital communications prioritizes and facilitates “immediacy” of interaction. More than 7.5 billion mobile devices and connections in use globally give consumers a contemporaneous venue in which to post their opinions about each and every event in their day. Big data analysis reveals that more than half of those users — 56 percent — will share negative experiences all the time, while only 48 percent will routinely share positive events. The potential volume of available feedback about any given service provider, even medical services providers, could prove devastating if those reviews are negative and go “viral.”

Patient dissatisfaction is just one possible negative aspect of a less-than-superb doctor visit. Missing important medical details — due to administrative tasks during the face-to-face medical consult — could result in a broad range of adverse health impacts such as inappropriate medication prescriptions, misdiagnosis or missed diagnoses. Fortunately, doctors need no longer be reliant on a single office visit to determine and manage their clients’ health.

Wearable Health Maintenance Tools

Today’s technology allows patients to contribute to their own medical database through the use of mobile apps and their associated medical devices. Medical practices that adopt the digital strategies offered by these astonishing tools reduce healthcare costs and improve patient health.

Fitness

For several years, fitness devices like FitBit® have recorded and archived physiological statistics while wearers engage in exercise. Since reading the digital display informs users about how their bodies are functioning, users can moderate their activities to maximize health benefits.

Disease and Injury Monitoring

Similar monitoring devices are now available that do much more than track fitness indicators. Sensors can now be applied to the body by way of patches or straps to capture data relevant to the patient’s specific health conditions. Sensors embedded in headbands read brain waves, and companion apps capture the data wirelessly and transmit it to treatment team files, informing each member of progress or difficulty.

Sensors embedded in patches adhered to the body can monitor a variety of health concerns (heart rate, blood pressure, activity rates and even physical orientation) and transmit data to medical personnel for unobtrusive oversight and immediate intervention, if necessary. Programming the associated app to sound an alert when the vital signs reflect a change in status keeps the medical team apprised of the patient’s condition in real time. These devices are only two of the many devices now available that offer the security of constant medical support to patients, alongside a continuous stream of relevant data for the physician and healthcare team.

Digitally Connected Patients Fare Better

Additionally, data consistently reports that patients who engage with these technologies are better invested in their outcomes and monitor their health better than those patients who don’t access the digital services. The global medical community has seen the value of big data, analytics and the Internet of Things, and governments around the world are determined to adapt those technologies to address today’s most pressing global, national and local health concerns.

In 2015, global investing revealed that “patient experience and satisfaction” became the No. 1 focus for medicine-related technology development, and investment in the sector will only increase over time as digitally delivered medical services continue to save money, time and (most importantly) lives. Data reveals that compassionate physician visits, consistent monitoring by digital devices and improved long-term health are the foundations of patient satisfaction. Enterprises that invest in technologies designed to improve patient experiences and satisfaction are investing in both their clients’ health and their own.