Healthcare and technology have always had a symbiotic relationship. Constantly inspiring one another to improve the way we identify and treat disease, this is particularly evident in the continued growth and popularity of virtual care solutions today. As innovations in technology lead to spectacular leaps in the medical sector, specialized tech companies are dedicating their research to the sole purpose of making doctors’ work easier and more efficient.

Today, the modern medical world has adopted numerous digital applications, with the internet and e-therapy solutions playing a big role in how we manage the medical act and can achieve remotely.

The tools that health professionals use nowadays allow them to streamline administrative tasks and focus on providing better and more personalized patient care. But, there are rules to follow and guidelines to adhere to in order to ensure that the medical act is accurate, reliable, and most importantly, that blended care technology protects the patient’s data.

In this article, we will take a look at digital clinical solutions – their roles, types, and guidelines. We will also give examples of digital clinical solutions that are changing the face of the medical world as we are speaking.

Medical Software: What Is It Used for Exactly?

Medical software does much more than just reduce paperwork and allow more flexible administrative management. Given its versatility, and as innovative advancements continue responding quickly to consumer trends, the FDA considers medical software a valuable means of empowering consumers with health-related information.[1]

As we see increasingly more mobile apps, wearables, and digital platforms emerge, the real impact of medical software is starting to become obvious – it holds great potential for how we treat patients.

As a quick snapshot, some of the most innovative functions of today’s medical software include :

  • Helping doctors find personalized treatment solutions[2]
  • Connecting patients in remote areas with niche, locally hard-to-access specialists[3][4]
  • Increasing the convenience and availability of healthcare treatments for disadvantaged populations[5], and
  • Giving patients more treatment options to engage and encourage more holistic, informed approaches to their own health[6]

There are thousands of examples of medical software, from watches and videoconferencing tools to Electronic Health Records (EHR) and billing software, and the range of functions and applications is huge.

As more mental health apps and telemedicine providers rapidly emerge, it’s easy to understand why: medical software has the potential to simplify entire healthcare processes, from patient acquisition to retention and positive outcomes.

Medical software has the potential to simplify entire healthcare processes, from patient acquisition to retention and positive outcomes.

Types of Digital Clinical Solutions

Here’s a quick look at some of the medical software that’s currently shaping how practitioners deliver blended, high-quality healthcare solutions.

CDMS (Clinical Data Management System)

CDMS software is used in clinical trials to manage research data. It can be either based on paper records or the input might be done directly in digital form.[7]

Having data in an electronic format reduces the prevalence of human error and makes the data interpretation easier, as CDMS often has integrated reporting tools. Coding is one of the functions that is successfully done by the computer, by comparing the collected data with medical dictionaries integrated into the system.

By simplifying and speeding up data collection and processing, CDMS can potentially lead to the faster development of new drugs – a consequence that helps patients directly.

Clinical CRM (Customer Relationship Management)

Software used by medical units to manage patient and other stakeholder/referring organization relationships is called CRM clinical software.[8]

Healthcare today has become more than just the medical act – it also encompasses marketing and business strategies, requiring institutions to be sensitive to the public’s preferences just as any other company would be.

Customer service is highly important in the performance of a medical unit, as it helps generate feedback from the patients and identify their needs for enhanced client engagement. CRM systems are also used to maintain an efficient collaboration between healthcare organizations and individual practitioners they may be working with. Healthcare CRM systems need to be HIPAA-compliant, just like any other telehealth software that is used to process patient data.

Clinical Documentation Software

Electronic clinical documentation solutions supplement the information collected during medical visits, adding context and helping doctors see the big picture.

Software like this is designed to meet a clinician’s needs and improve their workflow, primarily by[9]:

  • Integrating medical functions such as protocols and medical records
  • Facilitating more efficient administration and practice management
  • Enabling easier note-taking and storage.

Through software, a professional can create medical documents based on templates, generate medical reports, and other important documents.

EDI/HCFA Claim Sending

Electronic health claims are making Medicare submission easier for both the patient and the medical provider.

Integrating EDI claims in a hospital’s or clinic’s medical software is a simple and fast way to expedite daily processes, reducing errors, and enabling patients to get the benefits they are entitled to.

Clinical Billing Software

Billing software designed for the use of medical providers serves as an important tool to keep track of:

  • Payments
  • Relationships with insurance companies
  • Payment trends, and
  • Various accounting reports.

Clinical billing software also helps patients by decreasing the time spent at the doctor’s, and by helping them plan their finances more easily, allowing operators to run estimates for certain clinical services needed by the patient.

EHR integration helps the medical provider gather all the relevant data for a certain patient and avoid double billing and similar issues that once appeared with paper-based billing and patient records.[10]

Clinical EMR Software – Electronic Medical Records

Electronic medical records – such as EHR (electronic health records) are designed to centralize all the medical information known about a patient and store it in a digital format that can be accessed and edited by medical professionals. The fact that the medical records can be shared is a great advantage in treating patients, as doctors can easily access past data collected on an individual, and not rely entirely on the patient’s account of their medical history.

Electronic health records often use standardized methods of collecting and organizing data, such as SOAP notes. Having a homogenous style of data management and being able to share that data is extremely efficient at saving time and maximizing the efficiency of the medical act. For example, for a patient who is suffering from a chronic illness, an electronic health record allows any doctor who sees the patient to access previous treatment plans and base the future treatment on those.

EHRs also give doctors a better perspective on the progress of the patient and also allows them to do research based on patients who share the same illnesses.[10]

Clinic Scheduling Software

Scheduling appointments is very important for a medical provider, as it makes the workflow more efficient and keeps both patients and doctors satisfied.

Electronic clinic scheduling software is easy and quick to use, and it can involve the patient in submitting the desired hours and dates of their medical visits. Digital scheduling software is able to send automatic reminders, ensuring a patient’s treatment is uninterrupted and delivered in a timely manner.

Regulations of Medical Software

The medical software needs to be standardized and comply with certain guidelines recognized by regulators to serve its purpose without error. The International Medical Device Regulators Forum (IMDRF) is a group of medical regulators who are constantly evaluating medical software and the needs of medical providers, releasing documents on various topics related to how a medical software should be used.

The most important documents attesting the current regulations of medical software are released by the IMDRF and the FDA. They cover the most important topics related to software as a medical device. The definition of software as a medical device is:

Any software designed to diagnose, prevent, monitor or treat a disease, without being part of medical hardware.

Once referred to as “stand-alone medical software,” its current variations and applications cover a huge part of the medical system.

Maintaining SaMD

As medicine is continuously progressing, its maintenance is an ongoing process. Maintenance includes testing for errors and eliminating them, searching for ways to make the software better adapt to serve its purpose, preventing any possible issues and perfecting it.

Maintenance is especially required with software that includes new technology, such as AI or ML-based software.[11] AI – artificial intelligence and ML – machine learning are technologies that have the intrinsic capability of learning and constantly adapting to the data they work with.

In other words, diagnostic software using AI/ML will get better in time, and will depend on progress already made. The more data they process, and the more past decisions they have made, the better they will be able to predict the next outcome.

5 Great Examples of Digital Clinical Solutions

So how exactly are digital clinical solutions changing the way we deliver and receive quality healthcare?

Forbes published a very interesting article on what companies thought about the technologies that will have the biggest impact on healthcare in 2019. Companies around the world were surveyed in order to find out what the people most immersed in this technology thought about it.[12]

Results have revealed a very interesting top 5, which we will use as inspiration for our brief presentation of the most promising clinical solutions at the moment.

Technology

Examples/Impact

Big Data Analytics

What digital clinical solutions influence greatly, and the public doesn’t always realize it, is the way we can now collect data and use it for research. Having so much information from all over the world available in a digital format allows studies of no precedent to be carried and fuel the future technologies that will serve the healthcare sector.

Some examples of big data analytics clinical solutions are:

  • EHR: The most wide-spread example of big data in medicine. As presented earlier, EHRs are contributing to medicine by collecting patient data in a standardized and organized manner, which allows doctors to not only assist each patient more effectively but also to follow trends in the big data.
  • Predicting Opioid Abuse: By basing their predictions on years of data from insurance companies and pharmacies, software applications that predict opioid abuse can save society a lot of trouble.
  • Treating Cancer: Using big data to decide which cancer treatment is most effective in treating certain cancers

AI

Healthcare using AI technologies is one of the most exciting scenarios for the future. AI – artificial intelligence – is the simulation of the human cognitive response done by a computer, based on complex medical data.

By putting medical data through complex algorithms and achieving better results as the machine keeps on learning, AI technologies are capable of assisting:

  • Diagnosis
  • Imaging
  • Radiology, and
  • Other medical sectors.

The more data an AI system processes, the better it will be at predicting an accurate result.

mHealth

mHealth refers to the mobile applications that can be used by patients and doctors to:

  • Communicate
  • Share data
  • Schedule appointments, and
  • Conduct consultations.

Mobile health includes thousands of apps that are related to the medical sector, but the vast majority do not comply with even the most basic practice guidelines. Mobile apps dedicated to the medical field should be thoroughly examined and evaluated because they can easily lead to costly mistakes and dangerous beliefs (for example, apps that claim to measure your heart rate may give you a false diagnosis or hide an existing one).

Cloud

The healthcare cloud is a cloud service used by medical providers to store and access medical data, such as patient information. The cloud is capable of storing more data than physical servers, which helps with big data analytics and with immediate access to information when needed.

Robotics

Some of the clinical solutions with the greatest potential global impact can be seen in the field of robotics. From robots that assist doctors during surgery to robots that deliver food to the patients or disinfect the surfaces in a hospital, robots are taking over with their great two qualities: speed and accuracy. Combined with AI and other technologies, robotics are very close to becoming indispensable for the near future’s medicine.

Final Thoughts

There is no brief way to present digital solutions without missing some, as there are so many applications of digital technology in the healthcare world. From robotics to the Internet of Things, recent innovations in technology serve a great purpose of making both patients and medical professionals happier and healthier.

By integrating such solutions in medical care, practitioners and society can not only improve healthcare services, but also encourage the public to be more engaged and seek healthier lifestyles. The outcome of this new healthcare world that we are building can only be beneficial to all the parties involved.

References

  1. ^ US FDA. (2020). Digital Health. Retrieved from https://www.fda.gov/medical-devices/digital-health
  2. ^ Myneni, S., Amith, M., Geng, Y., & Tao, C. (2015). Towards an ontology-driven framework to enable development of personalized mHealth solutions for Cancer survivors’ engagement in healthy living. Studies in Health Technology and Informatics, 216, 113.
  3. ^ HealthIT.gov. (2019). Why is telehealth important for rural providers?. Retrieved from https://www.healthit.gov/faq/why-telehealth-important-rural-providers
  4. ^ Leath, B. A., Dunn, L. W., Alsobrook, A., & Darden, M. L. (2018). Enhancing rural population health care access and outcomes through the Telehealth EcoSystem™ model. Online Journal of Public Health Informatics, 10(2), e218.
  5. ^ Latulippe, K., Hamel, C., & Giroux, D. (2017). Social health inequalities and eHealth: a literature review with qualitative synthesis of theoretical and empirical studies. Journal of Medical Internet Research, 19(4), e136.
  6. ^ Bombard, Y., Baker, G. R., Orlando, E., Fancott, C., Bhatia, P., Casalino, S., & Pomey, M. P. (2018). Engaging patients to improve quality of care: a systematic review. Implementation Science, 13(1), 98.
  7. ^ Ogbuji, C. (2009). Clinical Data Acquisition, Storage, and Management. In SpringerLink. Clinical Data Acquisition, Storage and Management. SpringerLink.
  8. ^ Greenberg, P. (2004). CRM at the speed of light: essential customer strategies for the 21st century. NY: McGraw-Hill, Inc.
  9. ^ Schiff, G. D., Bates, D. W., Hartzband, P., Groopman, J., & Schiff, G. D. (2010). Can electronic clinical documentation help prevent diagnostic errors?. New England Journal of Medicine, 362(12), 1066.
  10. ^ Institute of Medicine. (2003). Key capabilities of an electronic health record system. Retrieved from http://iom.nationalacademies.org/Reports/2003/Key-Capabilities-of-anElectronic-Health-Record-System.aspx
  11. ^ Rubin-Onur, M. (2019). Regulating Software as a Medical Device in the age of Artificial Intelligence. Retrieved from https://www.raps.org/news-and-articles/news-articles/2019/5/regulating-software-as-a-medical-device-in-the-age
  12. ^ Das, R. (2019). Top Five Digital Health Technologies in 2019. Retrieved from https://www.forbes.com/sites/reenitadas/2019/02/04/the-top-five-digital-health-technologies-in-2019/#3e6ea9a6c0f9

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