Technology Can Drive Healthcare Compliance, Patient Care and Telehealth. So Why Does Everything Still Seem So Hard?
You may need to change how you think about, choose, and implement technology for your healthcare system to make progress against these three priorities.
Between healthcare regulations, labour challenges and consumers enabled to manage their health from the palm of their hands, you must feel like you can never reach the finish line with your modernization effort. But I think that running toward “completion” can get organisations in trouble, especially in healthcare where we’re constantly learning new lessons, having to accommodate new patient volumes, facing new health threats and being blessed with time and life-saving technology innovations.
The truth is that we’ll forever be trying to enhance patient care, healthcare worker experience and operations because we can always do better. Continuous evolution is how we advance as a species. Once we accept that, then we won’t see any one target as too hard to hit. Small milestones and daily wins will have big impacts. And the effort required to keep up with new and changing regulations, patient demands, and staff expectations will seem refreshingly manageable.
Of course, we can make our jobs harder than they need to be if we don’t prioritise our targets, align resources accordingly or utilise all available technology to the fullest. So, let’s talk about three areas where you and your IT and clinical teams should prioritise time and money in the coming months and years to establish a technological baseline that will support any operational changes you may need to make.
1. Digital Health Regulations Compliance
The World Health Organisation’s report on digital health tells us that more than 120 member states – including low and middle-income countries – have developed eHealth strategies and policies. Unique Device Identification (UDI) and medication serialised marking form an important part of digital health practice. Both UDI and medication serialised marking provide a digital identifier on medical devices used in patients, such as pacemakers, and medications given to patients, essentially providing the ability to accurately track and trace a device or medication in the case of recall.
If your hospital is one of the many across the European Union implementing the digitisation needed to comply with the 2026 deadline for mandatory compliance for UDI data entry into the European Database on Medical Devices (EUDAMED) – or just following the best practices for automated data capture set forth within the healthcare community – you’ll benefit by having a standardised identifier that allows manufacturers, distributors and healthcare facilities to more effectively manage medical device recalls and falsified medical product use. You’ll also be well-positioned to accelerate improvements in patient safety, such as HIMSS Stage 7 implementations.
Stage 7 HIMSS certification measures clinical outcomes, patient engagement and clinician use of electronic medical records (EMR) technology to help you identify areas where you can strengthen organisational performance and health outcomes for patients. The technologies required to achieve this operational status enable you to better track data related to patients, assets and medications and ultimately improve operational workflows by setting automated data capture, digital information transfer and real-time locating as some of the functional requisites.
For example, barcode and RFID-based patient identification solutions enhance safety, reduce errors and elevate the quality of care by enabling busy, sometimes distracted and exhausted care providers to accurately identify patients, medications, specimens and hospital assets. Other healthcare professionals have gone more in-depth about the role technology plays in these conversations:
What Is It Going to Take to Deliver the Right Patient Care at the Right Time Every Time? These Nurses Have Some Ideas.
People Want Access to Quality Healthcare. So, Let’s Talk about What Access and Quality Really Mean.
A Doctor Weighs In: What Role Should Mobility Really Play in Healthcare?
Watch out for technology solutions to facilitate better care collaboration, improved communications and optimised workflow efficiencies throughout the patient journey.
2. Help Ensure Patient Safety and Reduce Medical Errors
Safety is the top priority for healthcare, and one patient harmed is one too many. Hospitals must use all available technology to help reduce preventable errors, strengthen decision support and provide stronger healthcare protocols. In fact, more than half of clinicians and decision-makers in Zebra’s Healthcare Vision Study agreed, saying that technology could help improve medication tracking, patient throughput and nursing workflows. Seventy-eight percent of clinicians believe technology can help prevent and reduce medical errors, which is a good sign that any investment you make in automated data capture and validation technology will be well-received, adopted quickly and used consistently by care providers. I’m sure they’ll be ecstatic that vital statistics, blood test results, the doctor’s diagnosis – and really any data that typically lies hidden in paper-based folders – can now be automatically cross-referenced against hundreds of thousands of outcomes to create tailored treatment programs. They’re in the business of saving lives. They want to feel good they’re making the right call, and the power of digitally driven treatment plans is huge. Patients are getting the right treatment at the right time. But that’s only possible if they know their decisions are being made based on all potentially known patient and environmental factors, which requires ever increasing sophistication. Remember, though: Without adequate technology, the whole system starts to falter, and caregivers find themselves troubleshooting equipment failures instead of delivering treatment and spending time with patients. The easiest way to distinguish between adequate and inadequate technology is to consider the purpose of the technology. What was it built to do? Who was the end-user the product designer had in mind? Here are a few interesting perspectives on this topic that I always recommend my customers read before making a technology buying decision:
Twenty-Three Years Later, Are We Really Still Debating the Value of Enterprise vs Consumer Devices?
What (Else) You Need to Know Before Deciding Whether a Consumer or Enterprise Mobile Device is Really the Best Choice for Your Employees and the Success of Your Business
Mobile Devices Can Greatly Benefit Healthcare. They Can Also Be a Liability If You Make This One Mistake.
Consumer Devices Aren’t Good Enough for Front-Line Workers, According to Front-Line Workers. They Also Cost You Way More Than Enterprise Tablets. Here’s Proof.
Of course, having a technology partner you can trust to help you design the right tech stack and configure it in the context of best practices and existing processes is key. Read this:
All this said, with adequate technology in place, you can expect barcode medication administration, intravenous infusion safety systems and electronic health records to intercept adverse drug events, enabling you to focus further technology investments on laying a solid, long-term framework that can support rapid solution scaling in the future.
I was pleased to hear 95% of hospital decision-makers recently said they will increase spend on healthcare IT and clinical mobility, noting that the push for clearer communications and greater workforce productivity core to this strategy change. Forrester analysts have previously said that labour shortages could double the medication error rate among providers. And McKinsey’s global nursing survey revealed that in five out of seven countries surveyed, between 20-38% of respondents said they wanted to leave their current direct-patient-care role, in large part due to the increasing stressors of trying to care for more patients with inadequate technology tools. A mobile device, like a healthcare tablet or handheld computer, lets caregivers monitor patient vitals in real time or be alerted to issues so they can make the right decision and take the right action in the moment. It literally optimises patient care in the palm of caregivers’ hands. Check these stories out:
Healthcare Processes, Patient Needs and Reporting Requirements are Changing Faster Than Ever. That’s Why Clinicians Need More Adaptable (and Patient-Friendly) Technology.
How Simple Patient Identification Tools Drive Better Front-line Care
COVID-19 Just Reminded Us Why Modern Medicine Needs Modern Technology Tools
3. Telehealth/Telemedicine Will Continue to Grow
Traditional telehealth will continue to gain traction outside the hospital. It has proven that virtual care can be quality care. It has also given new meaning to the phrase “doctors without borders.” In the past two years, I’m sure you have seen just how much you can impact people outside the local communities you normally serve. According to this OECD policy response paper, 23 out of 31 OECD countries surveyed now allow teleconsulations to be performed by healthcare workers other than doctors – an increase of six more than before the pandemic.
Your clinicians now have to be available 24/7/365 to conduct routine checkups and triage medical crises, and that’s okay. Telehealth, patient health tracking devices and real-time health platforms will enable better remote care in the coming years both inside and outside your facilities as Zebra’s Chief Nursing Informatics Officer Rikki Jennings and Global Healthcare Practice Lead Chris Sullivan explained in these three discussions:
The Future of Telehealth: Virtual Appointments Aren’t Going Away, but the Real Opportunity to Improve Outcomes Lies in Virtual Clinician Collaboration
The Rise of Remote Patient Monitoring: How Technology is Changing Caregiving as We Know It
Ask the Experts: Telehealth Helped Sustained Patient Care During the Pandemic. But Will There Be Sustained Demand Once Its Over?
Telehealth has increased the comfort and convenience of care for patients everywhere. People no longer need to attend a hospital or clinic for every appointment – or to get a prescription renewal or specialist referral. And they no longer need to be concerned with commuting or wait times. They simply need to be virtually accessible for their scheduled appointment.
If heightened visibility into the potential of telehealth, chatbots, and remote patient monitoring have your team trying to determine the right care model and service delivery balance moving forward, let’s talk about the opportunities and approach based on what my team has been working on with customers and partners around the world.
Though most people think of telehealth as a provider consulting with an at-home patient, expect to see more inpatient oversight and care via telehealth through 2023. I recently read about a hospital that was using enterprise-grade handheld mobile computers to connect patients with their relatives by video call using Microsoft Teams on the device. There were more than 14,000 virtual visits conducted in its first year alone.
In both scenarios, high volume telehealth utilisation will drive greater use case sophistication, combining communications, asynchronous video, and AI applications.
Technology touches virtually every aspect of healthcare today. No doubt, it will, and must, keep evolving to provide better, more efficient care. But compliance, patient safety and telehealth are three areas that you should be most focused on today. If you are, everything else will start to fall in place, including the financials.
Is Your Hospital Taking Full Advantage of the Breakthrough Opportunities Offered by Unique Device Identification (UDI) Data?
It Just Got a Whole Lot Easier to Capture UDI Data in Hospitals and Ambulatory Surgery Centers
New Healthcare-Grade Mobile Computing Solution Designed to Keep Clinicians Moving and Patients Safe, Especially During Busy Times
To Provide Better Patient Care, We Must Unburden the Delivery of That Care. This New Clinical Mobility Solution is a Good Start.
What the Shift to Patient-Centric Healthcare Means for Home Infusion Pharmacies
3 Steps + 3 Mobility Tools Proven to Improve the Specimen Collection Process and, Therefore, Patient Care
Ask the Expert: Mobile Collaboration Tools are Touted in Healthcare Circles for Their Ability to Help Improve Patient and Staff Safety. But Do They Compromise Data Security?
Three Technology Trends for Healthcare Organizations to Consider This Year
Mobile Devices Can Greatly Benefit Healthcare. They Can Also Be a Liability If You Make This One Mistake.
Want Our Bi-Weekly Blog Roundup?
Subscribe to Zebra's Blog
Prefer Real-Time Notifications?
Get the RSS feeds
Search the Blog
Are You a Zebra Developer?
Find more technical discussions on our Developer Portal blog.
Reflexis is Now Part of Zebra Technologies
Visit the Reflexis blog for more retail, hospitality and banking-related insights.
Fetch Robotics is Now Part of Zebra Technologies
Visit the Fetch blog for robotics-related insights.
Looking for more expert insights?
Visit the Zebra Story Hub for more interviews, news, and industry trend analysis.