At its best, the healthcare system is designed to center a patient’s needs and keep them at the heart of every practice. This is done, of course, through the management of human, medical and technological resources to complete complex procedures with the minimum amount of strain on patients and healthcare providers.
Indeed, 2020 through a bright spotlight on the importance of hospitals managing their patient flow and resources to ensure that they are always in a position to help as many people as possible. Efficiency in patient management isn’t by accident, though. There exists an entire discipline dedicated to caring for patients while balancing capacity.
In order to better understand how this discipline interacts with both patients and healthcare providers, we need to answer a few key questions around it.
What is patient management?
Patient management is an umbrella term for the system of practices involved in patient care. As an all-encompassing term, it includes the use of digital software as well as more traditional means of patient engagement.
The goals of patient management as complex as the processes themselves, however the outcome is usually about reducing strain on the healthcare system while providing adequate care to patients. We’ll touch on digital patient management tools below, but before that, it might be beneficial to understand the traditional models they were built of.
Typically, traditional patient management practices included manually collecting patient data as well as manual care coordination processes. Hospitals would collect, for example, pre-operative questionnaires in a paper format, physical visit or over the phone call or educate patients by sending letters or making phone calls. Traditional patient management also included in-person surveys and pain scale or VAS measurements questionnaires that doctors would guide their patients through.
These practices still apply to digital patient engagement software, but there are some key advantages to digitization, mostly in efficiency for healthcare providers and accessibility for patients.
What is patient management software?
Patient management software refers to digital technology developed to streamline traditional patient management techniques. The mainstreaming of the Internet in our daily lives has seen an increase in software development in the medical industry over the last 30 years. Now the current coronavirus pandemic has accelerated also even more the healthcare digitalization and more and more hospitals are looking for solutions to support in automating care pathways and offering remote care to their patients.
Some of these developments are less visible to non-healthcare professionals but are extremely important to the process. Such developments include centralized databases for patient information, communications technology to better coordinate care and, of course, monitoring technology such as remote patient monitoring and patient management solutions.
This software extends beyond the hospital too, with patients given access to online surveys and other self-reporting tools that they can engage with without having to leave their residences.
How digitizing patient management optimizes patient flow?
Patient management software has multiple functions that work in tandem. One of the primary responsibilities of this software is to record accurate data in a way that allows for clear analysis by healthcare providers.
Data recording is also important when hospitals need to coordinate their care for the same patient. Such coordination would require a safe, private exchange of relevant information, such as prescriptions, diagnoses and medical history.
Creating a closed network of medical data is how large administrations like the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulate patient management. For individual hospitals, this network links multiple departments within the building, allowing for better access to information. This access serves as both proactive patient care and a form of risk management, by insuring consistency in the available data.
These tools aren’t confined to healthcare providers and hospitals, though. Something as simple as an online platform that patients can book and manage appointments through falls under patient management software.
This is why it’s important to understand patient management as a wide system of tools, resources and practices rather than the individual components that make the whole.
What are the benefits of digital tools to healthcare providers?
Automated Care Coordination
Efficiency is the first benefit. Doctors and nurses have a finite number of hours in the day which must somehow be spread over all of their responsibilities, including patients. Many of the practices involved in patient care are unnecessarily time consuming and linear.
By linear, we simply mean that these are tasks that healthcare providers can only do for one patient at a time. Phone calls and emails are an important form of communication between doctors and their patients, but a combination of no-shows, call drops and scheduling make them difficult to coordinate efficiently. Also, if patient communication can be fully automated through patient management and engagement platforms at the same time increasing patient satisfaction why to do it through the traditional channels anymore?
Care practices that can be automated, such as patient education, dietary or medication reminders, forms and questionnaires (pre-assessment, PROMs, PREMs) collection, patient reporting and appointment scheduling can all be automated. This not only saves time for healthcare professionals, but gives patients agency in their own care and the ability to reach out when they need to.
Remote patient monitoring
Accessibility is a key concern that patient management software looks to address. Mobility may be an issue for many patients in need of care, and the cost of travelling unnecessarily may be prohibitive to others.
Remote monitoring means patients have access to care and management from home. The tools that facilitate this include online data collection channels like surveys and questionnaires, as well as scheduled pain or other VAS measurements collection and reporting to the care team. Today’s advanced patient management and care coordination softwares such the BuddyCare Platform can provide 360 degrees view over all digitally supported patients care pathways and activities. The software provides attention notification when identifying there is a patient whose engagement is declining. The patient communication process and care coordination process is otherwise fully automated and care team only need to react if they receive an attention notification that there is a patient who is about to deviate from his/her care pathway. Most patients stay compliant on their care pathways and don’t need to be intervened.
Streamlined patient flow
Automation and self-reporting mean healthcare providers can dedicate their time to the patient management strategies that require their engagement the most. Streamlining in this respect removes the bottlenecking of repetitive administrative tasks as well as just basic human error.
When healthcare providers are able to monitor patients remotely, it cuts down on time travelling, scheduling, late appointments, no shows and routine tasks that can be automated.
This creates a patient flow where people can move through their care pathways at the appropriate pace for their situation without being needlessly slowed down or rushed through. It’s important to remember that patient flow doesn’t refer to the speed at which patient care happens, but the efficiency with which they receive adequate care.
Care Coordination and patient management
Many patients will also have third party care providers outside of healthcare professionals such as at-home nurses and family members. Patient management software allows doctors to coordinate care with these parties by getting them to use the software to understand the patient’s requirements.
The optimization of patient flow is an essential part of a well-oiled healthcare system. In the digital age, more hospitals are looking to digitization to streamline quality care and make sure everyone gets the help that they need.