Healthcare as a business
Technology is playing an integral role in enabling healthcare providers to offer patients a more professional service and operate a more successful business.
Today, all of the various players in the healthcare sector are having to run their operations as a business, particularly with the prospect of the NHI looming. Technology is playing an integral role in enabling hospitals, physiotherapists, pharmacists and other healthcare providers to offer patients a more professional service as well as operate a more successful business.
In today’s digital age, any business needs a variety of communication solutions, software and hardware in order to operate at its peak and gain a competitive edge. It requires business infrastructure solutions that increase efficiency, boost productivity and reduce operating expenses. Unfortunately, all too often these businesses end up with an assortment of technologies that aren’t integrated and that they don’t use to full capacity.
Mark Taylor, CEO of Nashua, says: “Technology, ranging from voice, telephony, office accessories and consumables to digital interactive whiteboards and managed document solutions, can play a key role in freeing up a specialist’s time so that they can see more patients, while ensuring that patients get the customer experience that they expect from any business that they have dealings with.”
In fact, every touchpoint at a healthcare provider, from reception to consultation to referral and treatment, billing and payment, as well as keeping the facility and its occupants safe, incorporates technology to ensure that everything runs smoothly. Just a few of the areas that can be improved by the efficacious use of technology are listed below:
Usually, the first point of call for any patient interacting with a healthcare provider is the switchboard. It’s essential that the practice be contactable by telephone at all times, and that the connectivity is of good quality, in order for patients to make appointments, receive feedback on test results and for the staff at the practice to be able to connect with other healthcare providers, both within and external to the practice, where required.
Implementing high-quality IP-based voice telephony services, such as private branch exchange (PBX) or virtual branch exchange (VBX) solutions, provides the uptime and call clarity required by any business, while also reducing its monthly telecommunications costs. Cloud-based solutions (VBX) are flexible and scalable, enabling improved internal and external communication.
Digitising document processes allows the healthcare provider to stay competitive and compliant in today’s digital world. Implementing a managed document solution not only improves the business’s performance when dealing with patients, but will also save on endless man-hours and money. It’s all about how the business accesses, uses and stores print and digital information.
Not only does digitalising paper-based patient records save space, it also helps the provider meet legal requirements in terms of the protection of personal information as well as the retention of patient records. An electronic document management system can significantly reduce the time it takes to write up patient notes from five minutes to 30 seconds, freeing up more time to see extra patients. It also reduces the need to print documents, with the resulting cost savings covering the cost of the new electronic record system.
Data security is improved, as well as the risk of fading ink, meaning that records will now last the legally required 20 years without requiring storage for a mountain of paper-based documents. It also means that the records can be accessed remotely, should that be required, making it easier for other healthcare practitioners to consult on a patient’s care and update their notes immediately.
An electronic patient record system uses software to capture documents, providing an interface to enter patient notes. The system can hold patient records, including correspondence and imported test results. Because the practitioner isn’t looking through paper files, they are able to spend more time with the patient. In addition, the data can be stored in multiple places and backed up, ensuring it’s secure.
Another benefit is that doctors can access patient records from wherever they are, using 3G and WiFi connectivity over a secure Virtual Private Network (VPN). This means they can work from home or access records from other sites. This also reduces the need to generate paper documents, saving money on printing.
Surveillance and access control
For any business, including healthcare providers, protection of your property, your people and your assets is a top priority. In today’s world, crime is always a concern and businesses are implementing surveillance solutions. These range from IP range, thermal and analogue CCTV cameras, to 24/7, 365-days-a-year indoor and outdoor monitoring and ANPR (Automatic Number Plate Recognition) technology to keep their property and people secure.
Knowing who comes and goes on your property is a fundamental concern for every business owner. Access control solutions range from simple identification cards and turnstile access to high-end, multi-authentication biometric solutions. These allow healthcare providers to protect their premises, control access within the building and monitor staff activity.
Taylor says: “As the nature of healthcare is changing in SA, and nobody is really sure what it will look like in five years’ time, the role of technology cannot be avoided if healthcare practitioners want to remain competitive, participate in the NHI when it finally comes into effect, and provide the customer (patient) experience that’s fast becoming the norm.”