In the past decade, conversations about digitization in the healthcare industry have shifted beyond the automation of back-end processes and into digital products. The momentum driving this shift is a result of the industry’s efforts to standardize the digitization of patient health records. The industry is moving away from the manual process of storing, updating, and reviewing health records as digitization promises new opportunities to improve the quality of healthcare.
Shifting Focus of Digitization: From Process to Product
The healthcare industry has long benefited from the interconnecting effects of digitization. Repetitive processes like payroll and staff scheduling are prime examples of the early waves of digitization, freeing management to focus more of their time on revenue generating tasks.
Within the past decade, the innovations around digitization has moved away from processes and into analytics, operations, and entirely digital products. This is largely due to the growing capabilities of cloud-computing and mobile technologies, giving users a platform to access a wider range of services for ongoing care.
Recently, the push to digitize healthcare has gained support from the federal government and stakeholders.
Federal Incentives for Digitization
The federal government has been a major driver in the digitization of healthcare, offering $6.5 billion in incentives for healthcare providers to implement infrastructures for the digitization of health records. These digital records allow practitioners, academic medical centers and hospitals to digitally store medical data about prescriptions, laboratory results and diagnoses, and clinical notes with fewer opportunities for mistakes.
The use of digital health records will not only allow entities to share and accumulate information about a patient’s health, it will also open new opportunities to improve the quality of their healthcare.
Stakeholder Influences Driving Digitization
Digitizing the health records of patients allows practitioners to apply more evidence-based practices. Today’s patients have much more information available to them about medical practices and health trends. This has created a need for doctors to rely on evidence-based medicine through analytics tools and historical data over clinical judgement.
Other pressures come from the sheer amount of data available about the state of a patient’s health, information on clinical trials, and insurance briefs. Coinciding with this growth in information are advances in technology that allow for thorough data processing – putting patient data to predictive use.
Digitization, offering new direction for practice innovation, is creating an environment where practitioners are also becoming more enthusiastic about the growing potential of these technologies.
Growing Importance of Digital Services
Digitization of health records has become a catalyst for more digital services, mobile applications and technologies are becoming more sophisticated to meet the technical demands of the healthcare industry. In a recent study by the McKinsey & Company, they analyzed the capabilities of 100 healthcare data apps. What they discovered is an increase use of analytical processes within apps, moving beyond retroactive reporting to interventions and predictive analytics:
- Data Management: 25%
- Direct Intervention: 23%
- Retroactive Insight: 33%
- Predictive Power: 19%
The majority of these mobile applications utilize the native functionality of their host devices to gather data, such as GPS tracking and online browsing activity. This data is stored in health records, processed, and transformed into actionable information within a database for practitioners and healthcare entities to access for personalized preventative care.
Improved Patient-Practitioner Relationships
Patients are increasingly demanding more depth in digital services. Accenture conducted a 4-year long survey to observe changes in patient use of online services:
- Access to medical information has increased by 83%, from 30% to 55%.
- Downloading an electronic summary of the patient’s medical records has increased by 92%, from 24% to 46%.
- Use telemonitoring devices to monitor/record their health indicators has increased by 200%, from 8% to 24%.
The digitization of patient health records has increased the momentum for more accurate and efficient healthcare practices through the use of mobile applications and technologies. This momentum coincides with the rapid adoption of digital healthcare services, innovating the way practitioners engage with their patients.
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 “2012 Highlights and Accomplishments”. HealthIT.gov. https://www.healthit.gov/sites/default/files/highlights_accomplishments_ehr_adoptionsummer2012_2.pdf
 David K. et al. “The big-data revolution in US health care” McKinsey. http://www.mckinsey.com/insights/health_systems_and_services/the_big-data_revolution_in_us_health_care
 “Doctors Survey 2015”. Accenture. https://www.accenture.com/t20150523T024232__w__/us-en/_acnmedia/Accenture/Conversion-Assets/DotCom/Documents/Global/PDF/Dualpub_14/Accenture-Doctors-Survey-2015-US-Infographic.pdf