How Technology Is Helping and Hurting the US Healthcare System

May 25, 2017
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Advancements in Healthcare Technology Lead to Efficiency and Cost Reduction

The use of computerized technology in healthcare [1] has increased rapidly over the last decade — and this trend is set to continue. Large hospitals and healthcare systems often have Chief Technology Officers (CTOs) in place to oversee the implementation of new technology and systems. Electronic health records, mobile health applications, supply chain management, and patient information security are just a few of the areas where technology is changing American healthcare — but these advancements aren’t always easy, and they don’t come without risks.

Electronic Medical Records (EMR)

The widespread adoption of electronic health records has made coding and reimbursement much more efficient, improving patient and provider access across the industry. Electronic medical records are more portable, making them less of a burden on patients who move or who need to see specialists, for example (since all relevant information can be transferred electronically). Many organizations have separate systems for different service lines, however, and it can be challenging to enable these systems to “talk” — in other words, the transfer of data isn’t always as seamless as it should be. Still, electronic medical records have undoubtedly reduced costs and resulted in better patient outcomes throughout the healthcare system.

Mobile Health

The use of smartphones and tablets in the healthcare industry is growing, and research estimates that the global mobile health market will reach $20.7 billion by 2019. Patients use mobile apps to look up health information, make appointments, coordinate prescriptions, and receive notifications of test results, so it’s no wonder more and more healthcare providers have started using them to connect with patients more easily.


Telemedicine and telehealth are already changing the industry by making healthcare more accessible for many people. Now, busy mothers or fathers can make a virtual appointment with their doctor in the convenience of their home, and workers can do the same via kiosks at the office. People with disabilities, the elderly, and other populations who might have a tough time getting to medical appointments — e.g., rural inhabitants who live far from medical facilities, patients who may not be able to take time off from work, etc. — can see doctors and specialists from home.

This is great news for public health: if patients don’t have time to go to the doctor’s office, they won’t, and in addition to missed appointments costing doctor’s offices time and money, when illnesses are allowed to progress, it’s more costly and dangerous for everyone. But telemedicine and telehealth, though still in their earliest stages, improve healthcare access for everyone, and will continue to be a game changer for years to come.

Patient Portals

Every day, more patients and caregivers go online to search for medical and health information, and as more people use healthcare technology, they expect to be able to perform certain functions online. For example, having the ability to make or change an appointment online is a given, and being able to check results (whether for diagnostic imaging or laboratory tests) as soon as they’re available appeals to many patients. Finally, patient portals that give individuals the ability to pay bills and file insurance online are convenient and save time — not to mention officers and hospitals will be paid faster, as well. In a few years, healthcare providers that don’t offer these services may find themselves struggling.

Supply Chain Management

By managing the ordering and distribution of supplies through semi-automated, computerized systems, hospitals and healthcare organizations can keep better track of spending and reduce waste. These systems have the potential to save hundreds of thousands of dollars each year for healthcare providers, which could mean the difference between being in the red or being in the black. Industry leaders like Global Healthcare Exchange (GHX) [2] are leading the way by implementing sophisticated (yet flexible and easy-to-use) systems to connect providers with suppliers.

Tracking of Supplies and Devices

Relatedly, by always knowing where medical devices and equipment are (or will be), hospitals and doctor’s offices become much more efficient. Supply and device tracking is being revolutionized with bar codes, radio frequencies, and even GPS technology for medical devices — not to mention front-end systems that make it easy for providers to find what they need, when they need it.

Though many of these advancements are undoubtedly positive changes for the healthcare industry, they come with challenges at the implementation and maintenance levels (and, like all digital technologies, are prone to hacking or data compromise). If your healthcare organization hasn’t begun to implement these new technologies, don’t delay: contact exadel [3] to learn more about how we can help.

Author: Lisa Calkins