Emerging markets and growing economies around the globe have witnessed a steep increase in the number of private healthcare providers – multi-specialty hospitals and clinics etc.
Most of these healthcare providers offer a variety of lucrative offers for medical treatments and health check-ups to woo their customers/patients.
A google search on a hospital to visit a physician in your city suggests numerous hospitals but only a few of these hospitals are regarded as favourites and offer a distinctly rewarding patient experience. Such hospitals enjoy a great reputation, are able to continuously grow their brand value, regularly receive a positive media attention and run a healthy operational revenue. So, how exactly are these hospitals able to distinguish themselves from the rest of their competitors?
The key distinguishing factor is patient centric approach and strategic focus on achieving a greater level of automation in patient lifecycle management. In this post, we will examine the impact of a hospital automation on a typical patient journey that will give us a real-time insight in to the value of automating a hospital.
- Enterprise Schedule Management: A patient journey begins with scheduling an appointment where the patient decides how he/she would prefer to contact the hospital for consultation. An automated hospital provides multiple options to its patients apart from a traditional walk-in option. These options include availing an online appointment (web or mobile app) or using a telephone to book an appointment over a call with the hospital front desk. An efficient software used to book a patient appointment offers available time-slots, provides advance appointment bookings depending on the availability of physician(s) and asks all the necessary details to make the appointment process as seamless as possible irrespective of the mode of booking (online/telephonic). The level of automation in patient appointment booking and its ease of usage creates the first impression for the patient in his/her journey.
- Patient Records Accessibility: Patients are regarded as valuable customers by the hospitals like any other profitable business. Hence, patient “re-visits” are of major significance to these hospitals. Automation gives easy access to patient data, allows simple inspection and intuitive navigation of patient history. Better user interface design makes the patient data available in few seconds with minimum number of clicks there by enabling “continuity of care” in a hospital eco system. Better software design also allows patient records (and patient history) to be easily search-able by the clinicians and other relevant hospital staff. Easy patient record accessibility also greatly enhances the overall performance of hospital by enabling timely medical decisions, reconfirmation on medications and other procedures during or after medical treatment(s) resulting in better patient satisfaction and outcomes.
- Patient Record Safety: Patient records are sensitive pieces of information and are a subject of government regulations in many countries. Hospital owns the liability to provide the right level of access to the patient records to the right set of people only like clinicians, nurses, radiologists, laboratory technicians etc. Hospital information system software enables digital storage of patient data with a flexibility to configure the right level of access (authorised access) to a selective group of people in the hospital. Such digital storage of patient data reduces the cost of traditional shelf storage and allows the hospital administration to keep a track of authorised and unauthorised logins/access on a regular basis. Such regular supervision of authorised access of patient records provides visibility in to a potential security breach and allows the hospital administration to take appropriate responsible actions as opposed to reacting to a security breach accident.
- Minimise Human Errors: Many unforeseen accidents and human errors occur in a hospital due to carelessness, lack of proper training, improper communication, fatigue, work stress of hospital staff etc. Automation in a hospital essentially implies reduced human intervention and proportionately reduces the likelihood of human errors. Reduced error occurrences also reduces the cost and effort to triage these errors that significantly enhances the operational efficiency of hospital. Automated patient appointment scheduling is a great example of how human errors can be eliminated i.e. irrespective of whether a front desk clerk books an appointment over a telephone or via a walk-in, no human co-ordination is required to manage a patient queue for a medical treatment.
- Enhanced Coordination Between Departments: A significant portion of patient’s time is wasted in coordination between different departments within a hospital e.g. an MRI scan is available in a specific hospital department while the consulting clinician is available in another hospital facility located in a different part of the city. Automation allows a real-time communication between different hospital departments irrespective of their geographical locations. A hospital management software forms the communication channel between different hospital departments, eliminates such painful human coordination, results in faster decision making by hospital staff (clinicians, nurses, laboratory technicians etc.) there by reducing the total patient wait times. This leads to greater patient satisfaction.
- Efficient Resource Utilisation: As we aim for greater level of automation in almost every industry (healthcare included), a well-planned automation in a hospital asks for a balanced mix of automation and manual coordination where there is a considerable reduction of human resources involved at every stage of a patient journey, patient data is stored on servers and accessed on finger tips with minimum number of clicks. This leads to a significant reduction of cost allocated to manage human resources i.e. greater profitability, efficient and trustworthy medical devices (with automatic configuration and calibration etc.) and less errors/accidents.
- Better Operational Efficiency: Reduced utilisation of human resources through automation mandates a sea change in the operational workflow in a hospital where software(s) shares the burden of decision making. Be it patient registration, patient billing or appointment scheduling, hospital management software leads to a better staff performance by assisting the staff at every stage of a typical patient journey.
- Valuable Insights, Better Strategies: The biggest benefit of automating a hospital is the accessibility of patient data and the recognition of patterns that are formed using this set of data. This patient data (including patient history, symptoms, allergies etc.) generate useful patterns that gives valuable insight in to the patient behaviour - patient response to certainly medical conditions, patient visit frequency, their awareness of their medical conditions etc. While these insights are valuable in planning an informed medical eco-system to serve the patients better, it also opens doors for commercial prospects for the hospital’s executive team. With this patient data patterns, hospitals can now forecast patient behaviour, plan expansion of their hospital facilities in other geographical regions and make such commercially viable patient patterns available for other healthcare providers (with specialties like cancer treatments etc.) to use as well.
Automation of hospitals is not a fixed target but a continuous improvement to each of the eight points above. Automation is also not a rule to be followed but requires a careful analysis of the current state of hospital and its digitisation plans in the future.
Technology continues to revolutionise the way we handle business in other industries like banking, automobile, logistics etc. and healthcare industry is no exception to such progressive revolution especially when there are several real-time benefits of automation that help a hospital stand out amongst its growing list of competitors.
Learn how VINMEC International Hospital streamlines processes between sites improving the quality of healthcare services across its network. Read the case study now.