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Digitalization in healthcare empowers patients

In today’s digitalized healthcare environment, keeping the best outcomes for patients at the center of all activity increasingly depends on the smart use of medical data.

The exponential growth in health data from a variety of sources, such as electronic medical records and image databases, makes it difficult to integrate information for optimized decision-making that meets the highest possible standards of care. A digital platform that assembles and structures a wide variety of data in a user-friendly format has the potential to remedy this situation. If the platform can provide interoperability between different systems, it becomes even more useful.

Facilitating this improved decision-making process while simultaneously responding to diagnostic and therapeutic questions from an increasingly tech-savvy and medically literate patient population requires the efficient use of resources and coordination of information with all interested and responsible parties.

Challenges for healthcare professionals along the patient pathway

Medical professionals have little time to sift through the vast amount of data that accompanies any one patient on their journey from illness to wellness [1]. As a result, a substantial quantity of stored data is never used in either inpatient or outpatient settings [2].

If physicians and other healthcare professionals cannot leverage that data into actionable insights, the data is meaningless [3]. Analytic expertise is required to help prevent “information overload” and provide healthcare professionals with the tools for integrating and using the data for the betterment of that patient. An urgent need exists for advanced digital solutions that automatically analyze patient data and present it in a user-friendly, clinically meaningful way. By providing ready-made, suitable selection and processing applications, innovative medical technology providers can help healthcare institutions prevent the kind of “filter failure”. This occurs when the data that is available is not properly assembled and structured in a comfortable format [4].

Furthermore, ensuring that therapeutic decisions comply with clinical guidelines is front-of-mind for all healthcare providers. Failure to adhere to guidelines can increase the risk of complications, drive up costs, and lengthen hospital stays [5].

Roles in healthcare are changing

Adding to the complexity, patients increasingly use the Internet to research their own conditions and seek out community, particularly in the case of chronic illnesses and cancers, and return to their physician with ideas and questions. As a way to harness the motivation behind this self-guided research, digital health applications can be used to assist patients in improving their self-management and reducing their fear, empowering them and giving doctors a better-equipped ally in shared decision-making [6-8]. Ideally, digitalization can contribute to an overall cultural shift from traditional to collaborative care, making shared decision-making the new norm [9].

Facilitating close collaboration and communication across care teams as well as with patients helps achieve better and more timely outcomes. It not only eliminates ineffective back-and-forth communication by providing a single view of the most specific details of a patient´s health status during care transitions, but also reduces gaps in care by having direct access to relevant and critical information that follows the patient wherever they receive their care.

From a patient´s perspective, digital health applications foster interaction between care teams and patients. They can empower patients to actively engage in their own healthcare to enable meaningful participation thus accelerating time to treatment. Access to a consolidated overview of health data empowers patients to better manage their conditions and participate more in their healthcare. It eliminates the inconvenience of excessive documentation for patients, relieves care teams of the burden of document organization, and keeps all documentation secure. Complete and up-to-date records as well as easy and convenient access by patients and care teams eliminate unnecessary travel for patients. And if needed, patients can allow family members to access their health data. Continuous and meaningful communication with patients, patient families and their caregivers reduce the risk of patients deviating from treatment.

Staying flexible is the key to digital transformation

Medicine is not data science, but medicine in the future cannot ignore a data science perspective. A flexible platform that is capable of integrating more and more data is vital to this progress.

The digitalization of the healthcare environment, like the tech sector itself, is in a state of continual development. Innovative medical technology companies must supply healthcare providers with digital infrastructure that is simple, versatile, and adaptable. This requires a growing number of intelligent applications that deliver meaningfully prepared networked data for operational and clinical questions to fulfill this need. Yet, the current pace of digitalization is also changing medical decision-making. Therefore, all newly developed digital solutions must be flexible enough to adapt in accordance with the growth and needs of this new data-driven environment.

The continual advance toward this accessible, functional smart data healthcare environment is propelled by integrative, interoperable system- and vendor-neutral solutions, such as those offered by Siemens Healthineers. In implementing such solutions, healthcare providers can minimize the isolating effects of data silos and achieve the goal of holistic decision-making to benefit patients and improve the efficiency of healthcare services.

A good example for flexible and interoperable systems has been established in Austria, where the rollout for the nationwide Electronic Health Record (ELGA) started in 2015. Today work is already underway on the implementation of valuable extensions, such as the eVaccination pass or care networks as part of ELGA. As a modern and secure infrastructure, ELGA is available to all citizens and all those who receive care in the Austrian healthcare system. It facilitates access to health data for patients and authorized ELGA health service providers – attending physicians, hospitals, nursing homes or pharmacies. An important goal of ELGA is the support of medical, nursing and therapeutic treatment and care through a better flow of information, especially when several healthcare institutions or professional groups work together along a treatment chain. ELGA is working with different models of opt-out, leading to a general coverage of 97% of the insured population as enrolled ELGA users [10].

Find out more about Telehealth @ Siemens Healthineers


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10.Radda C, Rümmele M. „Wir sind mit ELGA europaweit Vorreiter” [Internet]. mnews. 2019 [cited 2020 Oct 1]. Available from: health-economy/wir-sind-mit-elgaeuropaweit-vorreiter-26796.html

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