The recent decision by the FCC to repeal net neutrality got me thinking about the increasing dependence of health care on technology and, more specifically, the internet. While there are a wide range of opinions regarding whether regulation of the internet will help or hurt health care, the reality is that innovation and new applications of technology will support our ability to provide more accessible and better quality care.
The presence of technology also speaks to the increasing trend towards consumerism in health care. Patients are making more decisions when it comes to their health, demanding faster, more accessible and more affordable options.
Ultimately, the internet supports the delivery of health care in some pretty incredible ways, including:
- Telehealth and telemedicine: Telehealth refers to a variety of technologies used to deliver virtual health, medical and education services. It includes telemedicine, which allows health care providers to offer diagnosis and monitoring via technology. At Tampa General Hospital, our TGH Virtual Care platform allows patients to receive medical advice from a board-certified physician using an app on their mobile device or computer. It is a key component to our convenient care offerings and is designed to provide medical care for minor medical conditions when patients can’t fit a traditional office visit into their schedule or they need minor treatment on nights or during the weekend. Telehealth also includes web-based and mobile applications like MyChart, which is used by health systems throughout the country, including TGH. Through MyChart, patients can communicate with their doctors, manage their medical appointments, requests prescription refills and obtain test results. Platforms like MyChart save on costs, especially when it comes to scheduling and missed appointments. It also improves patient experiences and overall satisfaction.
- Health Information Exchange: One of the most significant developments in the merger of technology and health care is the digital exchange of a patient’s medical records, tests, images and health care information. As more information is collected and information is exchanged, we will continue to see decreased costs, improved care management, reduced medical errors and an enhanced patient experience.
- Health Information Technology Cloud Services: The use of web-based platforms to store health care information has accelerated rapidly over the past few years. Cloud services allow providers to store vast amounts of information in a secure and durable system that is both accessible and cost effective. By being able to access real-time patient information from anywhere through cloud computing, medical professionals are better able to make informed decisions as well as offer even more evidence-based treatment.
- Remote Patient Monitoring: This represents the evolution of our ability to monitor patients outside of the hospital, doctor’s office or traditional clinic setting. Whether it is monitoring a patient with a chronic condition on an ongoing basis, or using technology to help diagnose a disease or better understand a patient’s symptoms, remote patient monitoring can be incredibly beneficial. It can dramatically improve a patient’s quality of life as well as contribute to a higher level of care. It can also help improve the accuracy of diagnosis and effectiveness of treatment while lowering costs.
Regardless of what side you come down on in the net neutrality debate, there is no arguing the power and value of the integration of technology in the delivery of health care. It is a merger that is here to stay.