7 ways digital technologies can make healthcare more efficient

By Michele Quintano

There is a consensus among practitioners, policy-makers and researchers that today's healthcare systems are not sustainable. Chronic disease and the ageing of the population, combined with rising expectations, have driven up costs.

The digital revolution is profoundly changing how healthcare processes are managed, making them more efficient while delivering better quality and reducing response times for patients. In the United States, for example, the length of the average hospital stay has decreased by 33% thanks to the introduction of clinical process management.

The digital revolution is profoundly changing how healthcare processes are managed

How digital innovation can improve patients' lives

Many innovations in the healthcare industry are aimed at improving life expectancy and quality, diagnostic processes and the efficacy of the healthcare environment as a whole, including innovations in care delivery processes, medications and surgical interventions.

Digitalisation in healthcare is being used to predict and cure diseases and enhance quality of life. For example, mobile apps are used to support healthier lifestyles. Digitalisation also allows home-based healthcare delivery, allowing patients to stay out of hospital beds and significantly reducing costs.

health monitoring
A doctor synchronising a patient's ehealth watch

Internet-based innovations are one example of how technology could advance healthcare, changing the way people exchange health information.

Based on our case study, there are seven ways patients and doctors can benefit from digital technologies:

1. Advanced monitoring

The internet allows access to healthcare information and services on particular illnesses, treatments and health management. It also makes it possible to improve medical practice with digital tools for monitoring health conditions, to share information between patients and physicians, and to support clinical decision-making and disease management.

2. Improvement of healthcare processes

Mobile technologies offer an important opportunity to improve healthcare processes because of their popularity and mobility. The fact that people now carry their phones with them everywhere allows real-time communications with patients and the delivery of interventions at any time and in any place.

Medical history
Mobile technologies can improve healthcare processes

3. Additional diagnostic services

Clinical processes can be greatly improved through the adoption of e-health. In the presence of mobile technologies, the order-entry process starts with a request by a clinician or nurse for additional diagnostic services.

This can occur under various circumstances: on rounds or in response to changes in a patient's medical condition, with the use of a mobile device, during discussion of clinical cases, or via a mobile or fixed station.

Clinical processes can be greatly improved through the adoption of e-health

4. Faster emergency response

Telemonitoring patients at home is one of the most crucial applications within the field of e-health. In fact, telemonitoring allows healthcare organisations to monitor therapies and activate services in the event of a health emergency through the constant monitoring of health conditions.

5. Additional services

Digital technologies can also provide other services, such as assistance, information and communications services, which drive the adoption of multiagent systems for the implementation of telemonitoring applications.

6. Self-monitoring

Bianchi et al. (2016) developed a framework to explore the applicability of an IT self-servicing app in the treatment of patients. The model combines seven categories of self-servicing IT apps and eight patient process steps. The authors concluded that there are positive effects such as reduced waiting time, real-time notification, the possibility of self-monitoring and self-treatment.

A more recent study (Desmedt et al., 2017) showed that health information technology should be developed to promote integrated care by providing patients with autonomy and supporting self-management.

7. Patient safety

Health information technology could create conditions to enhance patient safety by integrating the competences and responsibilities of healthcare personnel. However, this would only work if the tools are well implemented and advanced health information technologies are adopted.

Implications for managers

Since innovation plays a key role in the sustainability of healthcare systems, managers need to understand whether new digital technology-based approaches in healthcare can provide the long-term economic benefits they expect.

Information technologies will play a crucial role in the hospitals of the future, supporting the management of both administrative tasks and medical data and allowing cooperation with other organisations to make access to diagnostic outcomes faster.

In conclusion, healthcare digitalisation needs an environment that can ensure the sharing of information. Healthcare organisations that enable a solid IT and business strategy partnership obtain benefits such as improved collaboration and problem solving, deliver higher service levels and improve clinical process efficiency.

Published in Business Process Management Journal, this article is based on joint research by Esade and researchers Elena Laurenza and Francesco Schiavone of Parthenope University and Demetris Vrontis of the University of Nicosia.

All written content is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International license.