Digital Transformation in Healthcare: Now and in the Future

Michelle Urban

CHICAGO — Digital transformation in healthcare offers a lot of bright promises when it comes to how physicians do their jobs and how patients are cared for. At the same time, some of these innovations also have yet to show their true worth.

In an intimate discussion at the 2018 Becker’s Health IT and Revenue Cycle Conference in Chicago, Richard Moser, M.D., professor and neurosurgeon at UMass Memorial Department of Neurosurgery, discussed how he has seen digital transformation manifest in the healthcare setting firsthand and how he expects it to evolve.

The first iteration of digital transformation: EHRs

One way that digital transformation has affected or manifested in healthcare is with electronic health records (EHR). However, healthcare and health IT experts are still debating the true value of EHRs and whether they do more harm than good.

Moser said that, today, it takes him more time than ever to enter data into a patient’s chart. Many in healthcare have this same complaint and Moser warned against sacrificing patient care for data and technology.

While other experts in the industry see the value of EHRs, Moser said that the outcomes and benefits of this method of data entry are still forthcoming; although, to be frank, he said we are still quite early in this whole process.

Moser also admitted that he doesn’t despise everything about the EHR. He likes that he can dictate his notes and that the cloud and mobile allow him to access the information he needs when and where he may need it, he said.

The future is promising for digital transformation in healthcare

Although we may not be there yet, Moser also talked about how the future is bright for digital transformation in healthcare.

Moser, who has done a lot of work abroad, envisions being able to help surgeons in other countries or elsewhere in the United States who maybe don’t have training in neuro surgery like he does but may face the task of needing to help someone in need of neurosurgery. When it’s time for that inexperienced surgeon to drill a burr hole into a patient’s head, wouldn’t it be nice if a neuro surgeon with many years of experience, like Moser, were looking over their shoulder and guiding them? Moser believes that this is where mobile devices and video capabilities will come into play so that experienced neurosurgeons, like himself, could help surgeons perform a life saving operation.

Digital transformation’s potential impact on trauma units

One issue that Moser has noticed when it comes to trauma units is that often a patient comes in and the attending physicians know almost nothing about them. Furthermore, one of the most difficult pieces of information to get about patients entering the trauma unit has been any imaging that patient has had done.

This, Moser said, is changing. There are now technologies, he explained, that allow for faster transmissions of medical images. In fact, he said that UMass Memorial and the surrounding hospitals are all using the same medical imaging software so that they can transmit medical imaging data faster therefore improving the care they are able to provide to trauma patients.

Looking farther into the future: Robotics in healthcare

Although nowhere ready for real life use yet, Moser said he does believe that someday a surgeon in Boston, for example, will be able to perform surgery somewhere else in the United States or even possibly abroad with the help of robotics.

The challenge he sees with this is that in some foreign countries the Wi-Fi connection or the broadband isn’t robust enough to support this, he said, and this could potentially cause interruptions, and affect the smoothness and precision of the surgery.

Despite this, he does believe the technology is there and this is a real possibility in healthcare.

 

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