The Impact of Software on the Healthcare Industry

Technological advancements and electronic tools – whether in AI, automation, smart technology, cloud-based, and the like – have permeated all facets of our lives. Their introduction into the various sectors of activity that make up our economic and social landscape has come at such a fast pace that we seemingly don’t have a chance to pause and reflect on just what kind of an impact they have had and continue to have.

Initial Trepidation

Decades ago, a fear began to grow and spread, one that suggested automation and other similar technological advancements would replace workers, that it would lead to a sharp rise in unemployment. At the same time, a concern began to mount that AI would develop to such an extent that it would pose a threat to our sovereignty as a species, and even lead to an existential crisis. 

These fears and concerns have diminished somewhat in recent times, as more and more we are becoming comfortable with the tools that save time and help us manage our daily tasks.

Early Medical Records

It wasn’t until the 1920s that healthcare professionals began keeping detailed records of their patient care outcomes. In those early stages, patient records were kept in paper format. Then in 1928, the ACOS (American College of Surgeons) established what would come to be known as the AHIMA (American Health Information Management Association), which worked to create standards and practices on the way patient medical records were kept and shared.

Medicare

In 1965, US President Lyndon B. Johnson signed into law the landmark social program known as Medicare, which granted healthcare coverage to Americans aged 65 or older. At that time, the budget for Medicare was around $10 billion.

While hundreds of thousands of American patients were being integrated into a federal care program, engineers were developing integrated circuit chips and semiconductor memory technology, building the foundation for the first computers.

Because Medicare required accurate record-keeping in order to effectively handle reimbursements, larger institutions such as the Mayo Clinic were quick to solicit computer technology to help with their record-keeping.

Early Computer Programs in the Hospital

By the late 1960s, early 1970s, institutions such as Medicare and the VA (Veterans Associations), due to the large scope of their operations, were already implementing computer technology to help organize and facilitate their administrative tasks – consisting mainly of billing and to manage their patients’ records.

The growing demand for standardized records, that were both accessible and shareable, coincided with a drastic improvement in computer technology – the birth of the microprocessor. And while computers were being embraced to help administrators manage their daily tasks, hospitals and physicians were also quick to embrace the technology to assist with diagnoses and to evaluate the efficacy of prescribed remedies. 

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HELP (Health Evaluation through Logical Programming)

One of the very first computerized information systems designed specifically for use in hospitals was implemented in LDS Hospital in Salt Lake City, Utah in 1967. HELP is a CDS system (Clinical Decision Support system), designed for precise and effective monitoring of patient care services – notably in the cardiac cath lab and with services related to circulation.

It had its limitations, as it provided physicians with exclusively read-only data – meaning they were not able to enter data or share them with other care facilities. However, as a diagnostics tool and used to manage and monitor treatments, the system proved quite an effective solution. It is seen today as one of, if not the premier, the forerunner of fully integrated computer-assisted diagnostics tools.

The Boom of Personal Computers

By the mid-1980s, the rise of personal computers meant that computer technology was becoming more accessible – both in the home and in the office. Computers were no longer reserved exclusively for large hospitals, but physicians with private practices and smaller clinics could also start implementing this technology to manage patient care.

By the late 1980s, it was nearly impossible to go to an office, a hospital, or a small practice and not see a personal computer being used. Though, at that time, they were used more for billing and scheduling, and to manage appointments rather than for EHR (Electronic Health Records) or diagnostic support.

Nevertheless, the prevalence of computers in the office provided a much-needed solution for complex billing practices. And in hospitals, clinics, and private practices, they went a long way toward alleviating skepticism and smoothing over the initial trepidation of the emerging technology.

The Rise of EHRs

Although the first electronic health records system dates back to 1972, due to its high cost, it wasn’t until the late 1980s that the use of EHRs started to become widespread. The benefits quickly became apparent:

Minimization of Errors

While hand-written documents are subject to errors, both in terms of entry and in readability, electronic records greatly reduced these occurrences. Additionally, as physicians and hospital administrators were made to adapt to software systems that were being implemented across multiple departments throughout the country, we began to see a more codified use of terminologies, which further helped to reduce errors in interpreting patient records.

Cost-Effectiveness

Implementing electronic records meant a reduction in storage space needed as well as reducing the amount of time required to enter and retrieve patient information.

Better Coordination Between Administrators and Healthcare Providers

The communication of electronic files is nearly instantaneous, as opposed to their paper counterparts, which were slowed by the postal service and, in some instances, misplaced. Billing, reimbursements, updating information, responding to queries, and much more became far easier and faster to carry out.

The two principal barriers for hospitals and private practices preventing them from transitioning from paper to electronic records were – 1) security and privacy concerns and 2) the initial cost of scanning all their patients’ existing paper records.

The Passage of HIPAA

With the increase in accessibility and shareability of patient records came the awareness that new standards were needed regarding the management of the patients’ medical history. This came about while hospitals and healthcare providers were still transitioning from paper to electronic records and the disparity in effectiveness between the two systems was flagrant for all parties involved.

In 1996, President Bill Clinton signed into law HIPAA (the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act). The initial purpose of the law was to allow people to carry their insurance coverage from one company to another. This brought up many concerns regarding the patients’ right to privacy of their medical records that the law was forced to address in the years that followed.

The passage of this law further strengthened the patients’ right to privacy of their medical records and helped pave the way for hospitals and small practices to transition from paper records to electronic records – although that transition would, in many instances, be slow to materialize.

The Passage of the HITECH Act

The Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act was signed into law in 2009 by US President Barack Obama. Recognizing the need for the healthcare industry to modernize, to convert medical records from a paper format to an electronic format, the law promised to spend over $36 billion to create a nationwide network of electronic health records.

Like HIPAA, the passage of the HITECH Act also came with reinforced privacy and security measures.

Software as Administrative Support

Today, physicians with private practices and hospital administrators rely heavily on medical software and cloud-based apps to help meet the needs of their patients and to manage administrative tasks – such as billing and scheduling.

Like in an office context, dental practices and optometry practices are benefiting from the solution fully-integrated software tools can provide.

Weave – The Complete Business Toolbox

A cloud-based fully-integrated patient communication and customer engagement platform, Weave was specifically designed to optimize multi-location practices.

Customizable and fully automated, Weave continues the long-standing tradition of medical professionals embracing technology to better serve their patients and optimize their practices.

Manage Incoming Phone Calls

A missed call is a missed opportunity, and it can often translate into a missed sale or a patient not receiving the care they need. Weave’s cloud-based solution goes beyond sending automated messages whenever you cannot answer a call. When you do receive an incoming call from a patient, Weave enables you to see who is calling and have all their relevant information at hand.

Not only is this solution an immense time-saver, but your patients will be impressed by the care and attention to detail you convey.

Automated Appointment Reminders

Much like with missed incoming phone calls, when a patient misses an appointment, that translates into missed business and the patient does not get the care they need. Once you’ve implemented Weave’s automated appointment reminder solution, you can expect to see a dramatic decrease in the number of appointments your patients miss.

Weave should be implemented with each appointment made, but it can also help by informing your patients when they are due for a check-up or to receive follow-up care.

By automating appointment reminders, your hospital or private practice can expect to retain more business, which translates to better care – win-win.

Billing and Payment Management

As it is with customers, patients also want a billing and payment process that is quick and easy. Weave can provide your clinic or private practice with exactly that.

Weave Payments provides a full payment processing solution with multiple contactless payment options for your patients. It enables you to offer your patients the possibility of paying their bills by phone. Send a quick text with a link. Billing with Weave is as easy as that – and it’s automated.

Actionable Analytics

If knowing is half the battle, then you won’t want to go into the fight without high-performance analytics software.

  • Know when to increase and decrease staffing
  • Track unscheduled or missed patients
  • Reach out to patients you have not seen in a while
  • Track incoming calls, by volume, times, and locations
  • Access dental insurance demographics

Evangelize Your Patients

A large percentage of successful practices owe their growth and success to word of mouth advertising. This is truer today than ever before thanks to business review sites only a click away from everyone accessible through their phone.

Weave makes it easy for your satisfied patients to leave their positive reviews on popular review sites. Then, Weave enables you to collect and monitor those online reviews – from Google and Facebook, among others.

You don’t need to pay for advertising or hire a marketing firm. Weave evangelizes your patients and will help you grow through the best marketing tool available – word of mouth.

Communication for Multi-Location Practices

Connect all your locations virtually with a multi-provider phone system, which allows locations that are experiencing less traffic to pick up the flow of those experiencing a peak. Make patient information readily available throughout all your locations, save time and give your patients the support of your whole team.

Takeaway

From the 1920s, when patient information first started being kept and collected, to the 1970s when that information started to shift to an electronic format, the healthcare industry has come a long way. And technology continues to evolve, allowing businesses that take advantage of these exciting innovations to be more efficient and offer better patient engagement.

Weave is a proud part of this storied history, marrying technology with the healthcare industry. Find out how you can be a part of the movement, too. Schedule a demo today.

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