Healthcare and Technology – Can They Coexist ?
In Healthcare, Humans Still Need Human Engagement
Recently, I read an article describing technology as the driving force behind healthcare. Certainly, this is true to a degree. Technology makes it easier to do many things. The internet gives us the ability to go to websites like WebMD. We can research symptoms before making a healthcare provider (HCP) appointment.
Online pharmacies provide HCPs with the ability to submit prescriptions. They can have them delivered to the patient’s home. Patients have their medications auto-shipped from the pharmacy. Technology is a convenience for the patient and the HCP.
But, how is the line determined between where technology ends and true healthcare begins? Occasionally, it’s is hard to determine. Let me tell you a story.
While working as the charge nurse of a cardiac intensive care unit (CCU), another registered nurse lost this ability. Her patient was admitted to CCU with severe chest pains. He did not have a cardiac arrest (heart attack). However, the patient required monitoring. Cardiac leads were attached to his chest to monitor his cardiac rhythm.
He was a bit of a jokester. He loved to see the registered nurses rush to his room thinking he was having a cardiac arrest. To get his thrills, he tapped on his chest leads. When he did this, the monitor tech thought he was having a cardiac arrest. The tech alerted the registered nurse who consequently alerted the CODE team. Within one to two minutes, the CODE team responded. Each time the patient did this, the same scenario played out. No matter how many times the patient did this, the registered nurse and the CODE team responded.
While the patient thought his actions were funny, the team did not for a number of reasons. First, it was a very immature thing to do. Secondly, this wasted resources. Each time the CODE team responded, equipment opened could not be reused. Thirdly, responding to false alarms delayed the CODE team from responding to true emergencies. Nevertheless, the patient did not take this into consideration.
One evening during the change of shift, the off-going registered nurse reported the patient created two false alerts during the shift. Even though this information is essential to know, it set a negative impression on the oncoming registered nurse’s mindset. Consequently, this affected her attitude.
During the evening, the tech alerted the registered nurse of an abnormal rhythm strip on this patient. She looked at the rhythm strip but did not think the rhythm indicated a cardiac arrest. Even though she headed to the patient’s room, she thought the patient was tapping his leads again. She did not have an emergent mindset.
When she arrived at the patient’s room, she found him in full cardiac arrest. She activated the CODE team and the patient survived.
Did the registered nurse’s non-emergent mindset change the outcome for the patient? No, it did not. She physically responded appropriately and in a timely manner. Did her mindset interfere with the way she responded to the situation? That is hard to say. She followed the appropriate protocol but it is impossible to say if it affected her performance or not.
While technology is useful, it is still a tool. A tool for use in healthcare but not to replace healthcare. As a registered nurse, the first rule in patient assessment is, “look at the patient.” No matter what the tool says, i.e. monitor, blood pressure cuff, etc., look at the patient. The second rule is, “look at the patient again.”
We are in an environment where healthcare is dependent on technology. But, there are also voices and companies waving the red flag. They recognize healthcare is uniquely human. We must not lose sight of this fact. And, only some degree of human engagement can meet those human needs.
Using Omni-Channel Strategy in Healthcare
So, can healthcare and technology coexist? Absolutely! It must coexist. First, it must coexist to eliminate illnesses and diseases. Secondly, it must coexist to address the challenges of longevity. Thirdly, it must coexist to secure the future of humanity. Consider this:
A holistic environment is needed to optimize these two elements. How is this holistic environment achieved? Many companies are asking this same question. One concept employed by a few healthcare technology companies is a concept the retail industry has used for years. It is called, “Omni-Channel Strategy.”
The goal of the omni-channel strategy in healthcare is to create a better patient experience. And, to create better patient engagement. The omni-channel strategy provides multiple access channels for patients to engage with their healthcare provider.
If a patient is not tech savvy, are they denied a good patient experience? Not being tech savvy does not mean patients don’t need healthcare access. They need it in a way that benefits them.
Companies are making strides to improve the patient experience and patient engagement. There is still much to do. But as technology improves, expect healthcare to improve. As long as it doesn’t forget the human element.