Different factors have come to play in determining the progress of the electronic era in the health care system. Initially, the major role of the information system in the healthcare milieu was administrative work like billing; however, the trend has shifted with time. With the advancement in IT, the developers marketed systems for the expert medical departments and niche market established, for intensive care, diagnostics, imaging, pharmacies, and laboratories. While electronic, telemedicine and email transfer of records have shaped healthcare presently, perceiving how they may influence health care 5 years down the line can as well be important. Any form of electronic communication, including the internet, can serve as an external delivery tool in disseminating patient-specific information. The advancement of communication and information technologies in the last two decades of the 20th century was especially crucial for medical informatics depending on the internet and its remarkable influence on routine medical activities. Relatively, many things have changed in healthcare since the 1990s. This essay will evaluate how technology can be employed as an external delivery tool in disseminating patient information and the impact of distance delivery on healthcare.
Impact of distance delivery on health care addressed
Telemedicine promotes healthcare delivery. Various presentation by the American Telemedicine Association provides findings of previous research indicating how telemedicine has promoted care, lowered cost, and offer new ways for patients to obtain healthcare (2006, p.1). The proceeding paragraphs explain how telemedicine achieves these outcomes.
A study conducted in liaison with the United States Centers for Medicare and Medical Services (CMS) revealed substantial savings in health outlays through the application of telemedicine in congestive heart failure (CHF) patients. The sponsors of the study, the State University of New York, revealed that patients using telemedicine to control their CHF observed various outcomes, including a decrease in overall healthcare costs of 41 percent; doctor office visits by 43 percent; emergency room visits by 33 percent; and hospitalizations by 29 percent.
Decreased physician office visits on their own provided savings of exceeding $115 million per year. Aging people afflicted with chronic illnesses account for an unbalanced percentage of healthcare costs in the U.S. The CMS claim that a condition like congestive heart failure CHF can expend more than $28 billion per year, taking into account a $270 million for physician visits.
Research by Fletcher Allen Health Care in Vermont revealed that telemental health is more efficient than face-to-face consultations in specific cases. Treatment regarding cases of schizoid states or paranoia, phobias, terminal illness, nonpsychiatry illnesses, comorbidity, and extreme shyness was shown to be relatively more effective through a distance approach with distant videoconferencing. In addition, the videoconferencing enabled nurse facilitators, patients’ family members, or social workers to be available and boost program coordination with different stakeholders. The application of videoconferencing enables providers to zoom in or tilt to examine particular body parts, such as eyes, hands, face, mouth, and so forth, or to observe family’s or significant others’ feedback to consultants queries or remarks devoid of the patient and/or other party disturbance.
New ways for providing healthcare
A distinct program in New York City offered important medical services to homeless persons living within the city. This program employed a mobile medical unit to obtain and send medical images of patients’ skin and histories using the internet to SUNY Downstate Medical Center, where they were diagnosed and applied as real-time educational resources for residents. Specific conditions, including rashes and complex dermatological conditions, disproportionately affect the homeless population, thereby making accessibility to dermatological treatment important. The program successfully diagnosed and organized treatment for 90 percent of the cases.
Impact of communication on contemporary health care
Communication barrier between patients and health care providers can have significant effects on healthcare delivery. Indeed, communication problems are far too often at the foundation of inadequate clinical treatment, unprecedented pain, avoidable errors, and even death and many factors are responsible for these communication problems (Smith & Pietrzyk, 2011). Interestingly, there are diverse alternatives to tackle this problem; however, the concerned parties put little or no effort to comprehend the problem or even effect the known solutions may be due to lack of information or the proper tools for the job.
The growing number of immigrants in the United States has accounted for an increase in linguistic, cultural, and ethnic diversity. This situation contributes to communication problems in health organizations, which provide insufficient interpreter services or no services, and patients lacking English proficiency do not get appropriate health care. Regrettably, the people available to speak on behalf of patients who cannot speak on their own are unprofessional and do the job incompetently, actually in some cases, family members assume the role of interpreters and they might offer biased information. Dependence on such improvised services have proven to have negative clinical implications such as increased length of stay (LOS), aggravated health condition due to failure to maintain treatment, missed appointments, the spread of contagious diseases to others, misdiagnosis, and poor patient satisfaction (Smith & Pietrzyk, 2011). Besides, these adverse outcomes are usually aggravated by the patients’ susceptibility and anxiety associated with the lack of ability to speak the same language with their care providers.
Interpretation mistakes underlie various avoidable adverse outcomes in the medical milieu. A study by Marchione (2003) indicates that an average of 31 interpretation errors happened through the thirteen physicians visits. Marchione (2003) indicates that “63 percent of the errors were regarded serious enough to elicit adverse medical outcomes because of altered descriptions of disease to physicians, misstated diagnoses or therapy alternatives, misunderstanding concerning a child’s condition, or misconception about the necessity of follow-up visits or referrals.” When professionals are unavailable, health care personnel often rely on nurses, family members of patients, friends, social workers, thereby increasing the possibility of interpretation errors (Marchione, 2003).
With the continuous diversity and the increase of languages spoken by the U.S. population, an increasing number of patients who do not speak English are being segregated by language challenges. Moreover, factors about culture and socio-economic statuses affect patient-doctor communication greatly. Medical miscommunication can have serious consequences. For instance, a patient’s condition may worsen because of failure to adhere to treatment regimens that they do not understand. Patients also miss an appointment with their physician and might transmit communicable diseases because of lack of proper knowledge on prescription regimen or, when to check with follow-up care. Doctors miss out on diagnoses, or may get people to accept procedures that are unpopular (Smith & Pietrzyk, 2011). Moreover, due to insufficient information or data concerning some symptoms, doctors might result to cover such shortcomings by demanding numerous tests some of which might be expensive or dangerous to the patient.
Impact of communication issues on health care five years from now
Expectations for Information Communication Technologies range from unrealistic aspirations elicited by futuristic TV fiction to the resistance of any deviation from customary methods of healthcare delivery. Increased awareness through media presentations, of a situation, which is at an early phase of development, can cause inappropriate demands, or the conviction that any disease can be treated as far as the technology is available (The Royal Society, 2006, p. 31).
Patients’ perceptions of how the National Health Service (NHS) resources should be utilized tend to prioritize direct patient care or other types of technology at the expense of ICTs. Importantly, patients will relate their experiences as customers of commercial enterprises like banks with their healthcare encounters.
The world wide web has facilitated the accessibility of a wide range of information previously enjoyed by the privileged few. A patient or the public will be able to access a wide range of information about symptoms and possible treatments. The Royal Society argues that NHS’s ‘expert patient’ programs have proven effective in making patients self-manage their chronic illnesses (2006, p. 31). Therefore, in the future, I see an era of health care where patients will be empowered enough to self-administer their treatment.
Moreover, there will be a growing need for organizations like the Swiss Health On-Net that legitimizes sources of internet-based patient information and for the establishment of services like Electronic Library of Health, NHS Direct On-Line, and the US National Institutes of Health cancer-related web pages, among others. Patients will be visiting hospitals to get laboratory verification of their symptoms, and most of them will know the drugs they will need for the treatment of their disease. The demand for health care practitioners will be reduced.
The professional-patient relationship
Practitioners are anxious that ICTs will disrupt the professional-patient relationship, such that its introduction in health care facilities will be met with fierce resistance. Professionals are hesitant to implement anything that can harm the subtle balance of a consultation. Good bedside behavior is often perceived as the sign of an efficient doctor or nurse (The Royal Society, 2006, p. 31). In addition, the skills for handling such events can have an important effect on the outcome of care provided.
Increase in patient’s information will bring a fundamental change in health care delivery, wherein the health care delivery system will shift from a system mobilized by the provider to one mobilized by patient. With increased patient information availability, much of the puzzle of professional practice will be solved. Some professional may regard this as a threat to the industry, while others will view it an opportunity. Some patients will accept the change, while for some; the increased awareness of uncertainty may create bigger susceptibility. Therefore, both parties will need to generate novel skill in sustaining patient-professional relationship.
Improved communication and information regarding healthcare problems will empower patients, thereby reducing the demand on healthcare practitioners. This trend will greatly reduce the country’s expenditure on medical care. However, empowerment of the patient may render some medical aspects invalid and therefore there might be resistance of the implementation of ICT in the health care sector. Practitioners might resist change for fear of losing their jobs while patients might resist it for fear of the unknown; fear that is inherent when people face change.
American Telemedicine Association. (2006). New Research Shows Impact of Telemedicine on Delivery of Healthcare. ATA Annual Meeting Showcases Outstanding Programs and Research (pp.1-3). Sacramento: ATA. Web.
Marchione, M. (2003). Language linked to medical mistakes: Study at Boston clinic examines growing problem of errors made by interpreters. JS Online: Health & Science. Web.
Smith, H., & Pietrzyk, A. (2011). Annotated Bibliography on Patient-Provider Communication. Annotated Bibliography.
The Royal Society. (2006). Digital healthcare: the impact of and communication Technologies on health and healthcare. London: Latimer Trend & Company Ltd.