As the rising costs of health care remain a major concern for consumers, industry experts say new technology could help reduce costs and increase efficiency — a potential win-win for patients and providers.
The way advancements in technology could work for both involves the accumulation and distribution of patient data, says Alex Zlatin, CEO of Maxim Software Systems (alexzlatin.com).
“Whether it’s related to doctors’ offices, specialists, hospitals or oral care, data is the foundation to curb costs,” says Zlatin, the author of Responsible Dental Ownership. “Data is the key to delivering accountable, affordable and informed care.
“While many have struggled to use data effectively, the time is ripe for the industry to become data-driven and, with that, align costs, procedures, and outcomes. Researchers and innovators are bringing medical care and the dental industry into a new era of trying to improve effectiveness and curb the cost of care. But it’s the responsibility of providers and their offices to stay current with data management practices to help make this all work.”
Zlatin offers the following points about technology’s impact on data accessibility, and the associated benefits, in health care:
Telehealth and consumer technology. These are playing larger roles in supporting new health care delivery models, with companies like Apple and Uber getting involved. Apple has developed mobile apps and Uber is launching a medical-transit program. “Both examples speak to another shift pushing the industry toward value-based care: consumerization,” Zlatin says. “Patients are bearing a larger portion of costs, and with more options for where to get care, they are becoming more discerning and demanding.”
Exchange of patient data. This is one technology evolution that’s already helping health care reduce costs and increase efficiency. “It allows doctors to better understand the context of a patient’s overall health,” Zlatin says. “Improving the integration of the electronic health record means labs, care plans, and medical histories from different sources are available quickly. Thus the provider can make a clear diagnosis and develop the most effective care plan in less time.”
Full digital office management systems. Having a digital system streamlines record-keeping. In dental offices, digital processes keep the provider and patient informed regarding hygiene appointments, future treatments and account balances.”Having a scheduling system, billing and personal information, charts and integrated X-rays all by digital means makes for a more efficient practice and enhances the patient experience,” Zlatin says.
Wearable devices and patient lifestyle. Information from wearable health devices incorporate valuable data about patient health behaviors, including heart rate, sleep patterns, physical activity and calorie burn. “Those different factors will integrate into decision-making for your health,” Zlatin says. “Expanded access to data also can help manage patients’ costs. Providers will have access to information such as current benefits offered by insurance providers, based on a patient’s health profile.”
-More importance on data protection. Patient privacy must remain a priority for technologists and providers. “Advancements in technology and data integration heighten the importance of patient record protection,” Zlatin says. “Large volumes of data bring ethical concerns about proper use of patient information. There needs to be a regulatory component to ensure tools are used properly and to protect the patients. And choosing the right partner to manage data will become even more critical.”
“The future of health care includes technology that could seamlessly combine data on a patient’s medical history, real-time health, insurance coverage, and financial information,” Zlatin says. “All of that can support provider decision-making, improve patient health, and reduce costs.”
Alex Zlatin, author of the book Responsible Dental Ownership (alexzlatin.com), had more than 10 years of management experience before he accepted the position of CEO of dental practice management company Maxim Software Systems. He earned his MBA at Edinburgh Business School and a B.Sc. in Technology Management at HIT in Israel.
His company helps struggling dental professionals take control of their practices and reach the next level of success with responsible leadership strategies.