Remote monitoring tools, patient engagement platforms, EHRs have greatest potential for cost savings, survey says

The researchers also found that improving workflow is the top strategy for improving the quality of healthcare technology implementations. 
By Jack McCarthy
08:59 AM
Remote monitoring EHR

Remote patient monitoring is the healthcare technology with the greatest impact on reducing costs to organizations and maximizing ROI, according to research by the American Society for Quality (ASQ). The second and third-ranking tools, however, might be a little more surprising: patient engagement platforms and electronic health records systems.

Sixty-nine percent of the 170 respondents, in fact, named remote patient monitoring as the greatest cost reducer, while 68 percent listed patient engagement platforms that encourage patients to get more involved in the long-term management of their own health, and 68 percent listed electronic medical record/electronic health records that eliminate time-consuming tasks, said ASQ, a network of quality resources and experts.

[Also: OIG: 60 percent of hospitals reported unplanned EHR disruption - before rise of ransomware]

Respondents said organizations should embed a quality expert into every department in order to learn user needs before determining what type of technology is implemented.

Software should be improved with easier navigation, more detailed organization of medical record types, and more widespread use of file transfer protocol (FTP) servers.

Survey participants also said that healthcare apps should be created for the use of professionals, including functionalities such as a medication calculator, implementing clinical pathways on mobile apps that can be easily used by doctors, and medication reconciliation.

“Just as technology continues to evolve, we will continue to improve how we use technology and how we integrate it into our interactions with patients,” said Susan Peiffer, chair of ASQ's Healthcare Division and performance improvement specialist at Hospital Sisters Health System (HSHS) Western Wisconsin Division.

Additionally, the survey showed that the top priority to help healthcare organizations strengthen the quality of their technology implementation should be designing workflows that improve efficiency and technology adoption.

The poll found that 78 percent said improving workflow efficiency is the No. 1 way organizations can improve the quality of healthcare technology implementation.  Another priority listed was nurturing strong organizational leaders who champion health care technology initiatives (71 percent).

Survey participants also ranked the technologies with the most impact on patient experience and care coordination, with 71 percent listing incorporation of wearable sensors, remote patient monitoring and other caregiver collaboration tools, 69 percent naming smart phones, tablets and applications providing a wealth of information for physicians and other clinicians, and 69 percent selecting online communications along every step of patient process, such as website, registration, bill payment. 

[Also: Judy Faulkner refutes rivals' claims about Epic EHR being closed, explains interoperability challenges]

Saving on costs and even earning a return on technology implementations, however, is not an easy matter. There are hurdles difficult to overcome as hospitals and health systems work to implement technology that will improve quality, efficiency and reduce cost.

When asked to list “very difficult” hurdles, 70 percent named resistance to change from physicians and staff due to perceived impact on time/workflow and unwillingness to learn new skills, 64 percent listed high costs of implementing IT infrastructure and services and unproven return on investment, and 61 percent listed problems with complex new devices, poor interface between multiple technologies and the haphazard introduction of new devices that could cause patient errors.

“We in health care know that there are always drawbacks to technology,” Peiffer added. “While not a panacea, technology can help engage patients, increase access to care, help improve safety, and make data collection easier.”

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