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Digital transformation in healthcare boosts patient engagement

As healthcare becomes increasingly digital, patients expect a top-notch experience accessing their medical information as they bid farewell to paper records.

Here in Massachusetts , the Mass. Bay Transportation Authority -- the T, as we locals call it -- discontinued the metal token as a form of payment in 2012. The era of its reloadable plastic replacement, the CharlieCard, had officially begun as the turnstiles of yore gave way to automated fare gates. You tapped your card on the sensor, et voilà, the gates opened -- most of the time, at least. Mass confusion -- pardon the stately pun -- ensued, but you'd be hard-pressed to find a commuter today who longs for the weighed-down wallets and clink of coins in a fare box.

I am loath to admit, however, that we were several years behind other transit systems: New York stopped using tokens in 2003, Chicago in 1999.

Healthcare is undergoing its own transformation as a new wave of technology renders the likes of paper records obsolete. However, much like the transition from tokens to CharlieCards, the digital transformation in healthcare hasn't been without its growing pains. Patients newly empowered by smartphones and consumer devices expect healthcare to function like other industries, such as banking and travel -- quickly and on demand. If there is one way to summarize the digital transformation in healthcare, it's that convenience is king.

Healthcare professionals warn that leaving patients to their own devices -- insert rim shot here -- can have consequences, potentially reducing the quality of care. Though a wealth of information is just a click away, patients shouldn't fancy themselves experts, nor assume that Dr. Google knows more than their flesh-and-blood physicians who have endured years of medical training.

If there is one way to summarize the digital transformation in healthcare, it's that convenience is king.

Still, patients aren't the only ones benefiting from digital transformation in healthcare. Atlanta's Grady Health System is using AI to identify patients who have a high risk for readmission, and the Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC is using machine learning to better analyze data stored in EHRs. More and more healthcare organizations are following suit, turning to technology to improve care delivery and patient outcomes. Yet another word of caution: Technology isn't infallible, but it has tremendous potential to change healthcare for the better when used properly.

While we're still in the early stages of digital transformation in healthcare, it won't be long before we look back at the analog age the same way T commuters look back on the days of the token -- with nostalgia, humility and a bit of embarrassment that it took so long to get there.

Article 4 of 6
This was last published in July 2018

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