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Technology enhances healthcare, one step at a time

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A multitude of new technologies have arrived on the scene in the past few years – offering the promise of revolutionising the healthcare industry and enhancing patient care in many of different ways, writes T-Systems SA’s Johann Joubert.
Many healthcare providers – hospitals, clinics, practices or community centres – are still caught in a state of inertia, as they grapple with how to embark on the transformational journey of integrating the latest and greatest tech.
At T-Systems, we define this journey in two phases:

Phase 1
The journey begins with digitising paper-based and manual processes into systems that can be shared within the facility (e.g. the hospital) as well as externally – with other patient stakeholders such as specialist doctors, pathologists, or pharmacists.
With less reliance on ‘clipboards and paper’, operational efficiencies and synergies start to emerge, and staff in every area of the value-chain are able to process greater numbers of patients – increasing revenue through service optimisation.
Management is able to see more clearly into a facility’s operations, to calculate the profitability of each business area, each medical service or equipment asset, as well as things like revenue-per-bed. These insights inform every aspect of the planning process – from cost-management, to strategy, to budgeting and more.
By integrating patient care data with the financial, logistics, and Human Resource (HR) systems the entire patient lifecycle is better managed.
Now, freed from paper-based records and disjointed processes, the facility can ensure sound compliance with all legal, legislative and governance requirements. Defined and digitised operating procedures ensure that any new or temporary staff members follow clinical governance procedures.
From an employee perspective, a digitally optimised working environment helps to reduce ‘drudge work’, and give staff more time to focus on patient engagement and providing quality care. Enhancing the workplace for doctors, nurses, and other staff improves staff retention – one of the most pressing concerns for hospitals and clinics in South Africa.

Phase 2
This lays the foundation for a far more exciting future. By building the right technology platforms, healthcare providers can position themselves to capitalise on the latest waves of innovation in the healthcare technology field.
Additional revenue streams will begin to develop, as patients can be sent home for the final stages of their recoveries – recuperating in their own surroundings while having vital signs, blood pressure, and other health aspects measured by wearable or mobile technologies.
These wearables can alert the patient to required treatments, alert doctors in the event of emergencies, or record patient histories in the Cloud – instantly accessible to the patient’s healthcare providers. By shifting more patients’ after-care requirements to a home environment, the facility is able to treat more incoming patients at their premises.
Such advancements also have obvious applications in providing cost-effective frail care for individuals who would benefit from a level of medical monitoring, while remaining independent in their own homes.
Facilities can also extend their services in other ways. For example, connectivity and telemedicine advancements make it possible for doctors to diagnose and treat individuals in rural / remote regions, well away from the urban centres that usually house the best medical skills and equipment. In this way, the costs of healthcare services for patients can be lowered, and new revenue sources opened up for hospitals and clinics.
Providing excellent, personalised bedside care is the cornerstone of any healthcare facility. Unfortunately, with staff working long hours, and constantly being called on to address emergency after emergency, crisis after crisis, getting this right is often an impossible task.
With digital platforms presenting updated patient data on any authorised device, the ideal of superior patient experiences becomes a possibility. With better interactions comes healthier, happier patients, and ultimately higher revenue-per-bed.
And with many South African medical aids embracing a ‘fixed fees’ model, hospitals are required to do more with less. Consequently, greater efficiencies and reduced recovery times equals higher profitability levels for the hospital.