Disease and disability can be brought on by a number of factors, namely, environmental factors, genetic predispositions, lifestyle, and transmissible pathogens. Preventive care aims to explore these aspects (and more) of a patient’s health history in order to determine areas of risk and to lay out a plan to address those risks as early as possible. 

Traditional methods have long called for detailed retellings of a patient’s health history, some of which may be intentionally skewed or unintentionally misremembered. Modern approaches, however, have the advantage of Health IT. With the benefits afforded by technology, wellness visits can be simplified, automated, and holistic thanks to integration with multiple sources of health information.

What is Health IT?

Health Information Technology (HIT), or Health IT, is a term used to define the numerous technologies used by healthcare providers, patients, insurance companies, and others. Their purpose is to collect health information, analyze it, and share it among the appropriate parties. Examples include electronic health records (EHRs), electronic prescription services, wearable health monitoring devices, medical tablets, medical computers, and more. 

However, it’s not as simple as collecting and redistributing information. Because of the many device types there are also many file types; so, another major component of the Health IT system is the translation of files so that devices can communicate with each other. With this factor in play, computers can derive meaning from text and images and piece together conclusions about that data.

In a similar vein, Health IT contributes to general preventive health care because it allows providers to analyze larger quantities of patient data and to consider aggregate data from patients with similar conditions. One example of this can be found in machine learning with the intent of predicting patient outcomes.

Why Should Practices Prioritize Preventive Care?

A focus on preventive care is not just important for the health of individual patients, but can benefit the medical practice as well. Fortunately, with technology now assimilated in nearly every aspect of the healthcare system, taking a more intentional approach to annual wellness visits is a more natural process.

Benefits to Patients 

The most obvious benefits of preventive care go to patients; things like identifying real and potential health concerns that are preventable with the right care and planning. This applies to patients of all ages. 

If health concerns are caught early enough, the possibility of successful treatment (if treatment is an option) is substantially higher. In fact, preventive health screenings and primary care consultations have been found to significantly increase life expectancy, particularly among the 30- to 49-year age group. Additionally, as patients become more informed about their health, they are better able to discuss new or unusual symptoms and distinguish them from their normative experiences.

Benefits to Medical Practices

When patients have a more thorough understanding of their own health, providers can improve the overall patient experience in their clinic. This is because well-informed patients usually arrive prepared with their questions ready and information on hand about their medications and supplements. This enhances time efficiency in the clinic and could allow providers to see more patients.

A focus on preventive care can also mean investing in a patient wellness program. Such programs have been shown to lower healthcare costs and yield higher reimbursement rates from insurance providers. Kaiser Permanente in Manhattan Beach, CA is one example of this. Their approach to holistic healthcare includes yoga, exercise classes, healthy cooking classes, and other similar offerings. Despite the added costs of making courses like these available, the investment is financially feasible because of the enhanced wellness of their patients. 

An analysis by the Healthcare Trends Institute explains why this practice model works this way. The analysis revealed that every dollar invested in a wellness program will generate a $3.27 drop in healthcare costs. Additionally, with insurers moving away from fee-for-service to fee-for-value models, healthy patients means higher reimbursement rates for physicians.

How HIT Simplifies Preventive Care

The influence of technology in healthcare is quite clear, but it’s also playing seemingly small but rather important day-to-day roles. A single patient visit involves numerous steps from the minute they walk through the clinic door. Many of those steps have entirely transitioned online so documents can be completed before a patient even sets foot in the lobby. This has become a necessary capability when pandemic protocols required limitations to a room’s capacity, and with the expansion of telehealth. After witnessing the benefits of electronic medical records, electronic options have translated to in-office visits as well.

Patient Check-Ins

Touchscreen tablets stationed at patient check-in kiosks are automating processes and, as a result, are reducing wait times, errors, and labor costs. They help patients and medical staff to review:

  • Insurance eligibility and benefits
  • The patient’s exam checklist
  • Billing records
  • Copays

Because these devices are securely linked to a patient’s electronic medical record, they make the check-in process more private as well. The patient may not need to verbally share private information from across the check-in counter. With masks and distancing still in effect in many healthcare environments, the assistance of technology can prove highly useful for patient privacy.

Assessing Risk Factors

Medical tablets can also be used to fill questionnaires like health risk assessments and mental health assessments. Especially if they are directly linked to a patient’s medical record number, these assessments can be instantly filed in the appropriate EMR.

It’s important to note that some tools, like the PHQ depression assessment questionnaire,were developed to be self-administered. They were never validated for verbal use (i.e staff asking patients the questions directly). For personal questions that can make patients feel vulnerable, it is logical to offer space for important assessments like these. The use of a tablet to answer these questions offers that privacy and the link to a patient’s EMR. 

E-Prescriptions are More Reliable

Monitoring prescriptions electronically has some clear-cut benefits, and in some states like California, it will soon be mandatory that prescribers and pharmacists have the ability to e-Prescribe. Additionally, with opioid abuse on the rise, e-prescriptions are a secure way to reduce the potential for medication abuse commonly associated with paper prescriptions.

By using this method, care providers can receive real-time updates to the patient’s electronic plan of care and view current prescriptions. This easily allows doctors to view potential interactions with other drugs the patient may be taking, monitor behaviors associated with addiction or drug misuse, compare brand name and generic drugs, and even see which medications are covered by insurance. With the addition of two-factor authentication methods like RFID scanners, medical computers easily become a powerful tool for preventive care in medication management.

When Technology Meets the Preventive Care Process

When patients and providers have access to electronic health information, the many phases of a patient’s care experience can be collected in one space. Opportunities are presented to simplify the patient check-in process, to create space for private and EMR connected health questionnaires, and to secure prescriptions. In every sense, preventive care is becoming easier with the assimilation of various technologies in each component of the wellness visit.

If your organization would like to implement solutions that will streamline and secure each stage of your wellness visits, contact the team at Cybernet to discuss which of our medical tablets or computers are best suited for your needs.