In health care, data is the thing. Data is the single most important topic in health care organizations: the aggregating of it, accessing it and the sharing of it. Health care data is comprised of things like patient information and doctor communications. Doctors, nurses, physicians and caregivers utilize data to take care of patients, so while patient outcome is the highest priority in the health care industry, the data that plays a big part in ensuring positive patient outcome goes hand in hand with data privacy.
Interestingly, the health care industry is one that is in transition and has been in transition for the past 10-15 years. Health care data exists both electronically and in paper form. In recent years, health care records have become digitized, in part in an attempt to streamline the inputting, processing and accessing of data on behalf of the professionals. This brings up concerns about data privacy, as health care professionals must grapple with the ownership, management and storage of that data. Some health care professionals prefer paper records, as that gives them complete control over the data that passes through their organization. The problem, then, comes with the method in storing and accessing those paper records. If, for example, a lifelong patient has a medical emergency, how can doctors or nurses quickly look through the patient’s volumes upon volumes of records?
This is where technology comes into play. Health care software has been created to homogenize the collecting and inputting of data. For example, health care solutions must be able to maintain databases that hold patient information and allow health care professional quick and secure access to those databases. A regular CRM system doesn’t really fit a hospital’s needs when it comes to maintaining patient profile. After all, patients are not customers in the traditional CRM sense; they are, well, patients. Health-care-specific CRM, then, can help professionals improve patient relationships and engagement through the maintenance and storing of such information.
Some of the pitfalls of that necessary homogeneity, however, come from the softwares’ one-size-fits-all mentality. What works to create unity and consistency between different hospital systems fails when differing systems are unable to communicate with each other. Additionally, some health care professionals feel constrained by the regulatory nature of the software: why do they need to answer myriad questions before even treating the patient? Medical professionals did not go to school to learn how to use a piece of software; they went to school and honed their expertise in the field of treating and saving patients.
Health care software is expensive. Implementing even an electronic medical records (EMR) system will be a hospital’s second-biggest expense. The only thing more expensive than implementing a customized system is the physical building itself. Hospitals, private clinics and home care units spend a ton of money to modify giant enterprise systems to the specifications of their organization. After that, those systems are locked in and everyone must adapt to them. Health care organizations have more difficulty justifying the cost of the software than aligning the software processes to the patient needs. This is, in part, why the health care industry is far less flexible and able to pivot to innovation than other industries.
It’s inevitable then, that health care solutions quickly become outdated especially in the face of the speed in innovative and evolving technology. Let’s refer back to the EHR example. Simply launching a new EHR solution takes a minimum of a year and a half; some systems end up requiring a four- to six-year implementation program.
Companies like Cerner and EPIC exist solely to help a health care organization implement and configure its software. Also, keep in mind that the implementation and configuration time is a completely separate animal from the process it takes to keep those systems up to date.
In an industry that must both protect patient information, as well as squeeze as much usefulness out of each stressful minute, efficient and effective software is paramount.
Even then, the biggest roadblock to streamlining and digitizing health care data and records is the lack of synchronization between health care systems. Hospitals, doctors and nurses will feel constrained by what is put in front of them: they struggle to meet the needs of their patients because of the software that physically gets in the way of face-to-face interaction. And, in turn, they struggle with synchronizing older, paper-based records with newer, digitized ones. Those health care organizations that have jumped to all-digitized records then see their workforce struggle with computers that cannot or do not speak to each other. Medical records are frequently holed up in one hospital’s internal systems and nurses and doctors from other hospitals must jump through hoops to access them. This puts patients in a dilemma: in times of emergency, should they drive hours to their main physician or spend the same number of hours wrangling with a closer hospital that doesn’t have access to their information?
In a perfect world, the input of data within a health care organization should be homogenous. That aggregated data should then be easily accessed by professionals to inform their decision making on behalf of the patient. However, we live in a world that has seen huge innovation and evolution in the lives of the consumer. Everything else we use is far more personalized and customizable than medical software and processes. It makes sense, then, that both patients and professionals want the same usability in their health care software and keenly feel frustration and aggravation when they are unable to experience that same ease of use.
Health-care-specific software was designed to ease the daily paper grind of health care professionals. In an industry that must both protect patient information, as well as squeeze as much usefulness out of each stressful minute, efficient and effective software is paramount. Health care exists as a vertical industry because of its specialized industry and practical challenges. Health care regulation and workflow is at odds with those of horizontal industries like customer service, sales or finance. The health care industry definitely touches upon those horizontal industries but its needs require finessing and customization.
Are you a health care professional? What software do you use? Do you need new software? Scroll through our health care software page to find the right tool for you and your business needs.