In most industries and within specific companies you will find that customer satisfaction is a department all on its own; working to understand where improvements can be made, where the fault lies, and where the business can move to in the future. Inside healthcare, you can’t necessarily ask the same questions, expect the same answers or rely on past performance to carry you into the future. In fact, you wouldn’t even necessarily phrase this as customer satisfaction, but as patient outcomes. There is a glaring difference between customers and patients: customers, in the context of healthcare specifically, are pursuing care to keep them healthy, while patients are receiving medical treatment as a needed element to become healthy. Medical facilities are worried about everyone that walks through their doors, however, their greater concern is to the patients who require more attention and resources. The outcomes of patients also vary tremendously due to a myriad of internal and external factors, such as nature of illness/disease, comorbidity elements, previous accidents or illnesses, age, genetics, and so much more. So, how would you begin to tackle the whole concept of improving patient outcomes in the healthcare industry?
Data is a Key Foundational Tool for Patient Outcomes
Whether you are Amazon presenting your customers’ possible purchases they might consider or a healthcare giant like Kaiser seeing thousands of patients per day, the one thing you have in common is data collection. No one could have imagined 50 years ago the amount of data being collected and stored. We’re not talking about mega or gigabytes, but peta- and exabytes that include everything from names and addresses to digital x-rays, CAT scans, and lab results. Yet, all that data means little to nothing if it is not analyzed and utilized. Known as big data, this information changes the way healthcare is administered because decisions are now fact-based rather than best judgment-based. When a physician is able to diagnose a patient, plus take into account patient-specific issues as well as proven medical practices, the likelihood of that patient coming out on the other end of treatment in a favorable manner has been greatly increased.
Predicting the Future is helping Patient Outcome
Predictive medicine builds on the foundations established with data collection and defining the current patient situations. By utilizing that same data to provide a picture by way of statistics, modeling, data mining and machine learning abilities, physicians have begun to see where their patient will be and prevent possible negative results from occurring. By looking into the past and understanding the patterns that most everyone falls into, you can see into the future. Of course he doesn’t help us to predict or prevent that embarrassing trip and fall in front of a small crowd of co-workers, but when you do fall and break your wrist the physician can look at your history, along with the history of many others to know the best way to treat you, and if there might be additional factors, such as your age or frequent complaints of dizziness, that could be an indicator of something more serious.
Predictions aren’t enough
Being able to tell the future, or in this case suggest that other issues might warrant attention, is impressive, but medicine isn’t satisfied with always being reactionary. Instead, a prescriptive methodology is described as seeking out the best solutions of outcome after defining the parameters by which you are working. This may sound very clinical and not personable at all, the premise states that the human body is pretty much the same for everyone, the reactions to internal and external circumstances will be roughly the same, and once you know what you are working with you know what to expect, how to treat it and what the outcome will probably be. For some medical professionals, genetics and the part it plays in future diseases and illnesses fits very well into the category or prescriptive medicine.
This isn’t to say that accidents don’t happen, or that there would unforeseen ailments that occur but having strong tools that make it possible to better control patient outcomes provides a healthier future for almost all of us. I know that being a patient in the care of many other individuals can feel daunting and overwhelming, even in the most minor of cases, so the chance to improve my outcomes and ultimately improve my health and quality of life down the road is one that most of us would like to be a part of.
Improving Patient Outcomes with Technological Systems
Many physicians point to the lack of information as one of the biggest obstacles to patient engagement. Although they can arm their patients with information concerning visits to their practice, they don’t have the ability to tailor their recommendations based on other physician’s treatment plans. Without complete information, improving their patient’s experience is difficult; however, it can be done. A comprehensive electronic health system (EHS) will improve continuity, including providing your practice with the following:
- Access to internal and external lab results
- Patient health maintenance alerts
- Fax reports from other specialists
- Decision support options
All of these features help you broaden the quality of care you provide your patient by arming you with information about the type of care they are receiving.