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For hospitals and other care establishments, every day sees the challenge of streamlining service efficiency without compromising the level of care. It’s a balancing act that constantly runs the risk of failing on both sides – gaps appearing in the patient care continuum and no money in the budget to plug them.

Digital healthcare has the potential to solve this problem by increasing the efficiency of service, saving process and staffing costs and delivering a better patient experience. To illustrate the point, we’ve picked out four of the most common and most costly pitfalls.

1. Patient non-attendance

In the year 2017/18, UK NHS hospitals recorded nearly eight million missed appointments, not including those cancelled in advance. At a cost of £120 per appointment, that amounted to nearly £1billion of wasted money.

Failure to turn up for assessments or treatments is not simply a matter of poor organisation on the part of patients. There are more deep-seated psychological reasons, which need to be addressed through good communication in the lead-up to the appointment, while the patient is still at home.

For many patients, any sort of healthcare intervention is a daunting prospect. There is a fear of the unknown. The more healthcare providers can do to educate patients and offer them reassurance ahead of any hospital visit, the more likely patients are to attend.

How digital healthcare can help

Digital healthcare apps like Medix Journi can be downloaded onto patients’ own devices, opening up a channel for easy communication with healthcare professionals. This enables the sharing of information in the form of documents and videos, and even video counselling where it is required, all of which helps to keep the patient engaged and, therefore, more likely to turn up at the prescribed time and place.

2. Lost patient records

Once in hospital, the sharing of patient information is crucial to the hospital’s ability to provide timely and accurate care. But in many hospitals this gathering and sharing of information still relies on archaic methods that don’t join up, meaning patients have to repeat the same answers to different practitioners at different stages of their treatment and inconsistencies arise.

More concerning is that approximately two million patient records are lost within the NHS every year, causing extra administrative work, delaying treatment, putting patients at risk, wasting doctors’ and nurses’ time and leaving hospitals exposed to financial penalties.

How digital healthcare can help

Digital healthcare apps enable the joined-up gathering and sharing of patient information at any point in the patient journey, whether at home prior to admission, at the bedside or in treatment rooms in hospital, and back at home post-treatment. Information is collected in real-time, enabling healthcare professionals to make more timely interventions. Once collected, it is stored securely and is easy to find on any connected device in any part of the hospital.

By replacing paper-based record keeping with digital, it is estimated that an average hospital with 500 beds could save £395,000 each year, £60,000 in the production of the physical data sheets and £335,000 in human resources.

3. Patients overstaying in hospital

In 2013 a report by the NHS Institute for Innovation and Improvement estimated that an annual saving of £2.5bn could be achieved within NHS hospitals by reducing the length of patient stay. That doesn’t mean discharging patients before they’re fit to leave, it means eradicating the all too common problem of keeping patients in hospital longer than is good for them.

Overstaying is costly for hospitals and not good for patient recovery. Research has shown that the longer a patient remains in hospital, the more vulnerable they are to infections or deconditioning – becoming permanently less mobile or able to perform tasks they could before. More than one in three 70-year-olds experience muscle ageing during a prolonged stay in hospital and that figure rises to two thirds of over 90s.

How digital healthcare can help

The reason for so many unnecessary overstays is the speed of information informing patient flow management. The solution is to track patient movements in real-time to enable more effective bed management.

Digital healthcare apps enable nurses to feedback information about the use of beds in their ward in real-time to a central data hub, where patient flow can be efficiently managed across the entire hospital. This facilitates a more timely admission and discharge process, avoiding overstay, making more efficient use of physicians’ time, enabling a better level of care and saving money.

4. Patient readmissions due to non-adherence

According to a study by the American College of Preventive Medicine, around 10% of hospitalisations are due to patients not adhering to their prescribed course of treatment and having to be readmitted. Analysis from the Nuffield Trust released in 2018 revealed a 41.3% rise in emergency readmissions for potentially preventable conditions.

This is bad news for patients and hospitals, with financial penalties being imposed in the form of a cessation in reimbursements for patients readmitted within 30 days of leaving hospital. A study from John Hopkins University in 2014 put the cost of non-adherence to the US health system at $300bn per annum.

Why patients are not adhering to treatment is the subject of conjecture – and therein lies the problem. A lack of data showing which readmissions are unavoidable, which are planned and which could be avoided is not helping.

How digital healthcare can help

Digital healthcare apps like Medix Journi enable doctors and therapists to keep patients engaged with their treatment after they have been discharged from hospital. Healthcare professionals can hold remote consultations, send useful documents and videos to keep patients informed and demonstrate what they need to be doing, as well as sending reminders and checks to monitor whether patients are following their prescribed course of medication

Digital apps also enable data to be gathered from patients when they are out of hospital, which can all be fed back to provide a much clearer picture of the reasons for readmission.

By using digital applications to keep patients engaged from end to end of the care journey, hospitals can begin to achieve that elusive balance of delivering an ever-improving standard of care while reducing costs.

The Medix Care Platform delivers advanced patient engagement while improving hospital workflows and efficiency. Request a demo today!