What Are the Advantages of Medtech-First Patient Care?
Medtech Advantage #1: Healthcare technology helps reduce human error.
Nowhere does the phrase “to err is human” ring truer than in medicine, where providers’ mistakes can have a disastrous impact on the lives of thousands of patients. (4)
Technology can play a key role in mitigating the impact of human fallibility.
For example, automated medication dispensers and bar code scanning systems can reduce confusion between look-alike medications and prevent incorrect dosing. (1) Electronic hand-off applications can improve the transfer of key medical information between providers and prevent errors related to these exchanges. (1)
Medtech Advantage #2: Healthcare technology helps providers save time and related expenses.
We’ve discussed the burden that administrative work places on healthcare providers elsewhere. When properly harnessed, health IT can reduce this burden and save providers valuable time – time that can be better spent caring for their patients and their own well-being.
The AC Health app is an excellent example of this time efficiency. The photo and video functions allow you to record yourself or your patient performing a home exercise or activity at the moment you are instructing it – no more scrolling through an endless library of not-quite-right exercises after a treatment session or on your lunch break.
In the online AC Health portal, you can enter written instructions and detail the parameters of an exercise, and these will appear in your patient’s app. A quick copy-paste from the portal to your electronic medical record saves you the time of re-entering any HEP information. (And, for those providers who want it, AC Health provides printable versions of any patient care plan for inclusion into their hard files, as well.)
Medtech Advantage #3: Healthcare technology automatically (and privately) monitors patients’ progress and compliance.
You’ve probably heard patients say things like, “I’m just so much better about doing my exercises when I come into the clinic.” This is an indication that the patient is struggling to find the intrinsic motivation necessary to succeed in their rehab journey.
Wearable technologies like the FitBit aim to address the motivation factor. These devices employ extrinsic motivation from social support networks and friendly competition to promote engagement and adherence to wellness activities. (5)
This approach works – when people know they are being monitored, they are more likely to engage in the desired behavior. (5)
Similarly, the AC Health App allows you to employ similar tactics with your patients. You can track their daily HEP performance in their calendar, and you can send messages of encouragement via text, photo, or video.
AC Health providers have found that even if they don’t actively check their patients’ backend compliance reports, their patients still feel more motivated to complete their assigned exercises since they know their provider can check at any time.
Medtech Advantage #4: Healthcare technology offers an incredible convenience and portability to patients and providers alike.
How many times has a patient walked into your clinic lugging a binder full of old exercises from previous therapists? The last thing this patient needs from you is another piece of paper to add to the pile.
With app-based technology like AC Health, you can decrease confusion and improve the convenience of the home programs you assign. The app keeps all of the patient’s exercises in one secure location, while archiving the exercises they no longer need.
Telehealth-based platforms like AC Health that allow for asynchronous communication between provider and patient provide a level of convenience that did not exist in the low-tech medical system of old.
Okay, So What Are the Disadvantages of a Medtech-First Approach to Patient Care?
Despite the positive impact technology can have on healthcare, there are still disadvantages to acknowledge before diving headlong into a medtech-first approach to care.
Medtech Disadvantage #1 Healthcare tech isn’t always built with your users or practice in mind.
If you’ve ever found yourself stymied by an EMR system that seems built more for coding and billing than the needs of actual patients and providers, then you understand a key issue with healthcare tech.
If the device or system isn’t designed with your specific setting in mind, it can actually be the opposite of efficient. (6)
Do your research to ensure the medtech product you’re considering is best suited to your particular type of care.
Medtech Disadvantage #2 Over-reliance on healthcare technology can help providers miss common-sense diagnosis or treatments.
Over-reliance on healthcare technology can help providers miss common-sense diagnosis or treatments.
While much of healthcare tech has been designed with the goal of reducing human error, mistakes can still happen when providers blindly obey prompts and throw their critical thinking skills to the wind. (4,6)
Consider the computer systems that assist physicians in the prescribing and ordering of medications. Without the use of clinical decision support frameworks that prompt providers to evaluate patient-specific health information, these systems are no safer than a clinician working alone. (1)
Medtech Disadvantage #3 Alarm fatigue is real – and harmful to patients.
At the opposite end of the spectrum is the concern for “alarm fatigue.” The number of audiovisual alerts built into healthcare tech systems is extraordinarily high. These frequent notifications can result in providers who become demonstrably desensitized to these warnings. (6)
Clinicians must be wary of the tendency to mindlessly close pop-ups and snooze alerts on their equipment, or they run the risk of missing key safety information.
Medtech Disadvantage #4 Some patients may just not be ready for too much technology in their care.
Finally, clinicians must be willing to meet each patient where they are. If a patient is wholly opposed to the idea of using a particular technology, forcing them to use it is unlikely to help and may even cause unintended harm.
The number of patients familiar with and supportive of technology is increasing by the year, as Millennials and Gen Zers age and require treatment. However, for many older patients, medtech-first providers may still face opposition unless the technology is deliberately designed for simplicity and transparency.
In the end, providers must recall the dictates of patient-centered care. That is, a patient’s values must be at the heart of their care plan, regardless of what may be most convenient or easiest for the provider. (7)
Where Medtech and Human Touches Improve Patient Experience Together
Despite these concerns, there is good evidence that technology and human providers can flourish as a team when properly deployed.
For example, ICU-based physical therapists at Johns Hopkins were able to employ video game-based “Wii-hab” with critically ill patients. (3)
Over 42 sessions, there were zero safety events, and the patients and providers alike appreciated the variety that the games brought to their sessions. (3)
Humans can also offer compassion and flexibility while informed by their medtech teammates. Medical AI may be increasingly accurate and efficient, but so far, we have yet to develop a compassionate robot. Human providers can be caring and flexible in their thinking in a way that computerized programs cannot.
Finally, research shows that patients appreciate the personalization of care to their unique needs. (2) Therefore, providers must be willing and able to proactively customize the medtech they use for each patient.
Many devices, such the FitBit or the Perifit pelvic floor biofeedback system, allow providers to program specific goals or exercises to meet each person’s unique needs. Be sure you are leveraging technology to work for you, rather than the other way around!
Now that you have considered the pros and cons of technology in healthcare, we hope you’ll feel more confident about intelligently employing emerging products and services like the AC Health app in your clinical practice!