The Future of Medicine: Top Predictions That Came True for Small Practices

By: on October 26, 2017

All of us are obsessed with the future. We’re constantly wondering, “What’s going to happen next?”—and we’re not shy about predicting what’s to come.

life in 1999, as predicted in 1966 by painter Fred Freedman

Life in 1999, as predicted in 1966 by painter Fred Freedman (Source)

And while some of us have been spectacularly wrong, some predictions have proven true. Research firm Gartner has been predicting the future of information technology in numerous industries, and many of their predictions in the medical field are ripe for review.

In this report, we look at predictions about the future of medicine made by Gartner in the last few years and assess their relevance to small medical practices today.

We also study some real-life examples of these predictions ringing true at small medical practices.

Prediction #1: Mobile Apps Will Connect Patients With Providers

The number of patients using social media apps such as Facebook, LinkedIn and Google+ to connect with their physicians is growing continuously. Such demand has created an opportunity for physicians and small medical practices to test new ways of engaging patients through social media.

Gartner’s prediction for the future of medicine:

“By 2017, 30 percent of patients will regularly use mobile social commerce apps to engage their healthcare provider and access their health information.”

Source: “Predicts 2014: Healthcare Delivery Organization IT Leaders” (content available only to Gartner clients)

Business value: Patients using social media sites can visit your page and request a secure registration portal. Through the portal, they can exchange messages with physicians, schedule appointments and request prescriptions—all without exiting the practice’s social media page. This way, you register more patients and generate more revenue.

According to a study by Demi & Cooper Advertising and DC Interactive Group, 41 percent of general consumers admit that social media might influence their decision to select a medical practice or doctor. There are various small and medium medical practices that are already making use of social media in their practice.

As an example, Mikhail Varshavski, a family physician based out of New York City who focuses on family and preventative medicine, explains the use and benefits of social media in his medical practice.

 PRE-IMPLEMENTATION:  Mikhail Varshavski noticed a trend that could turn into a preventive care problem in the future. He saw that the younger generation, aged between 18 to 24, simply does not visit the doctor often. One of the reasons for this is that doctors don’t know how to effectively communicate and engage with this demographic.

 POST-IMPLEMENTATION:  Varshavski began working on his practice’s social media presence. The efforts he put in paid off: when a patient visits Varshavski’s practice solely due to his social media presence—and he is able to provide timely diagnosis that may not have been offered otherwise—he considers it a huge success.

By not only treating conditions but also providing timely education and prevention, the result was an overall increase in preventive health care visits and an impact on overall patient well-being.

 OUR RECOMMENDATION:  As a small medical practice, Facebook or other social media sites are crucial platforms for promoting your practice and patient portal. In addition, make sure to offer different patient portal features such as forms completion, prescription management and appointment scheduling directly from your social media page.

For more information on patient portals, you can visit our patient portal software market page.

Prediction #2: IT Innovation Will Help Control Medical Diagnosis Errors

Medical diagnosis errors, either missed, wrong or delayed, are one of the most significant barriers to delivering efficient medical care. According to Wolters Kluwer Health, more than 200,000 people die in the US due to medical errors.

While medical errors are impossible to measure completely, there is no doubt this problem is significant and needs to be dealt properly through IT innovation.

Gartner’s prediction for the future of medicine:

By 2017, public attention and IT innovation directed at the problem of wrong or delayed medical diagnosis will equal that directed at therapeutic errors.”

Source: “Predicts 2014: Healthcare Delivery Organization IT Leaders” (content available only to Gartner clients)

Business value: Medical errors lead to treatment being delayed or applied inappropriately, thus resulting in both increased cost, inconvenience to patients and, in more extreme cases, exacerbated medical issues.

Hence, developing or possessing suitable technologies for addressing medical errors will help build strong trust among your patients and eventually help in attracting more patients. Technology has a significant positive influence on medical professionals, which ultimately is a boon for the patients.

As an example, we have a case study of Beju Shah, a clinical informatics pharmacist at the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC), who has developed a system to reduce medical errors significantly and keep his patients safe.

 PRE-IMPLEMENTATION:  Pharmacist Dr. Beju Shah acknowledges that a lot of patients are suffering across the country due to medical errors alone. According to him, the most frequent type of medical error is the incorrect quantity of drug or a completely incorrect drug given to patients.

In addition, as per a research at Johns Hopkins University, the third biggest contributor of deaths in the US are medical errors, ranking behind cancer and heart disease.

 POST-IMPLEMENTATION:  Shah developed a medication early warning system that is able to detect situations when any drug slips through the safety net and raises an alarm, thus preventing fatal errors before they occur.

To develop this tool, Shah took the help of Intuit’s QuickBase, a “citizen development” software solution that enables anyone to develop an app without the knowledge of coding. Shah’s solution also takes care of compliance.

Before providing medication to a patient, both the medication as well as the patient’s armband have their barcodes scanned to ensure the correct medication is being provided to the correct patient in the correct amount at the correct time.

According to Shah, removing barcode errors has removed one barrier towards compliance and reduced the chances of manual error in that particular step. Instead of manually addressing barcode issues, the tool checks with electronic health records data to ensure pharmacy drugs match the inventory records.

 OUR RECOMMENDATION:  Being a small medical practice, you must start to focus your attention on accuracy in capturing the patient-provided data, which is an important source to determine diagnostic errors whenever they occur.

In addition, work towards building a community of health care innovators to inspire creative breakthroughs and move towards adoption of new technologies. To help, modern EHR systems are focusing on reducing medical error incidences by improving the clarity and accuracy health records.

Prediction #3: Primary Care Will Be Delivered Virtually

With recent advancements in medical technology, more and more devices are available for virtual primary care. These digital devices are enabling small medical practices to provide patient care through virtual means.

Gartner’s prediction for the future of medicine:

“By 2018, 40 percent of primary care encounters in the U.S. will be delivered virtually.”

Source: “Predicts 2015: Healthcare Delivery Organizations Will Stand on IT to Climb Bigger Mountains” (content available only to Gartner clients)

Business value: As a small medical practice, it is important to ensure you offer an enhanced patient experience alongside your usual patient care. Patients are now increasingly using virtual treatment methods such as telemedicine and video visits to consult with their doctors, as opposed to physically traveling to the doctor’s clinic. Such virtual patient care enhances the revenues of medical practices due to increase in the number of patients.

As an example, we have a case study of Jameelah Melton, MD, who operates Sollus Pediatrics, a small medical practice located in Cary, North Carolina. Nearly 5% patient visits in Melton’s practice are handled through the use of TouchCare, a HIPAA-compliant video communication mobile app for Android and iOS users.

 PRE-IMPLEMENTATION:  Sollus Pediatrics is a micro-practice that was purposely designed to be smaller in size in order to increase patients’ access. Melton knew beforehand that they would need to deploy telemedicine in some way to virtually reach out to their patients. Through extensive research, Melton found TouchCare with the objective of connecting patients with their own medical providers rather than unknown providers.

 POST-IMPLEMENTATION:  After using the telemedicine technology for the first time, Melton was surprised to see how well she was able to visualize patient issues such as skin infections or rashes. Melton uses telemedicine for various other problems such as allergies, pink eye and sinus infections. She usually allots 15 minutes per patient for telehealth visits but patients use only about 7 minutes, resulting in lots of saved time.

In addition, the telemedicine interface is engaging for her patients, who are excited by its effectiveness and convenience. Melton aims to increase her telemedicine patient visits from 5 percent to 10 percent.

 OUR RECOMMENDATION:  Small medical practices must regularly review areas where they can provide primary care through virtual means to enhance patient experience. Video communication mobile apps, such as TouchCare, are only one such option among many others such as telemetry blood pressure monitoring and remote cardiac monitoring.

Conclusions and Next Steps

The above three predictions were noted by Gartner a few years back for healthcare organizations and it seems all of them have come true for small medical practices as well. That’s one of the reasons we have selected them. This also signifies in a way that solo and small medical practices show similar trends as large healthcare organizations.

Besides predictions, you can also read other topics on medical industry from small practice medical claims errors to the needs cycle and many more. Here’s a recommended reading list:

In addition, to get a better understanding of the various functionalities and features of different medical software, we recommend you read our medical software buyer guide.

If you’re looking to get a comparison of specific solutions, then you can call us at (844) 686-5616 for a free consultation with a software advisor.

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