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Rheumatology Practice Management April 2016 Vol 4 No 2 - Technology Update
Thomas R. Bizzaro

Healthcare delivery is changing drastically. Demographics, technology, economics, societal forces, and many other factors are prompting the industry’s transformation as we begin 2016 and beyond. Although change is always a bit jarring, sometimes it actually makes sense. Here are 8 emerging trends that are changing healthcare for the better.

1 The Move Toward Telemedicine

Is there anyone out there who can honestly admit they are thrilled about traveling to a provider’s facility to receive care? In today’s world, time has value, and patients are much less willing to spend their time waiting for care. In some cases, it is critical to have face-to-face interactions with your healthcare provider; however, in many cases, it is just an inconvenience. I am pretty sure that surgery and treating a broken bone won’t lend themselves to a virtual visit, but think about all the things that do: using Skype for virtual physician visits; reading of medical images taken in Indianapolis, IN, by a physician in Australia; and using a kiosk to get access to a nurse consultation have become commonplace—and much more is expected to take place as telemedicine continues to expand.

2 The Adoption of Evolving Electronic Communication Tools

I read recently that people aged <25 years prefer text messaging as a means of communication with their physicians. It seems that phone calls—and even e-mails—are too intrusive and time-consuming. In a world where e-mail is too slow, people are cutting the cord to cable television, and print newspapers are the last place young people get their news, healthcare organizations must stay on top of their patients’ constantly changing communication preferences.

3 The Return of At-Home Care

Although patients are pushing healthcare providers to adopt the latest technologies, at the same time, they say that “what is old is new again.” In-home healthcare services are growing because aging Americans want to stay in their own homes for as long as possible. Physicians are making house calls to help improve care and decrease hospital readmissions. Nurses are performing all types of infusion therapy within patients’ homes. Pharmacists are making home visits to the most at-risk patients to manage medication therapy.

4 The Rise of Nontraditional Care Providers

Local drug stores are becoming convenient alternative care options. Many retail outlets are providing care services via pharmacists and nurse practitioners delivering on-demand immunizations, physicals, medication therapy management consults, blood pressure readings, blood glucose checks, as well as treatments for a variety of minor illnesses and injuries. Pharmacist education is changing to ensure that they have the skills required for their expanding roles within the pharmacy.

5 Innovative Drug and Supply Delivery Methods

Getting drugs and supplies to needy patients is always a challenge, and one worthy of tackling with the most recent technologies. As such, even drones are being tested as a means to deliver drugs to rural and remote patients. Drones were used to deliver small aid packages during Haiti’s earthquake in 2012. The Mayo Clinic is even suggesting blood products and antivenin for snake bites as candidates for delivery by drones.1

6 The Evolution of Quality Measures

Quality measures will move away from focusing on processes, toward zeroing in on outcomes. For example, instead of assessing the quality of diabetes care based on whether a physician checked the hemoglobin A1c levels of a patient with diabetes, quality will be evaluated through the actual changes in a patient’s blood glucose levels over time. In addition, patients themselves can start to chime in on quality by reporting on outcomes as they pertain to quality-of-life measures (eg, perceived energy levels, or the capacity to climb a flight of stairs).

7 The Increased Focus on Costs

With high-deductible health plans becoming more common, consumers, too, will become more involved in the decision-making aspect of their care—and they will be doing so with an eye on costs. As such, patients will partner with providers to choose and implement the most cost-effective treatment plans.

8 The Use of Evidence at Point of Care

The delivery of drug information via Internet services is paving the way for new methods for accessing clinical decision support. Healthcare is moving toward value-based reimbursement, with a focus on quality and improved outcomes. The traditional definition of point-of-care delivery of services is changing, and will continue to broaden. As such, we have a significant opportunity to make healthcare more accessible, enhance quality, and improve outcomes. Choosing the best treatment plans often requires access to knowledge; using drug knowledge from FDB can help improve outcomes in any setting or location.


Personally, I have some mixed feelings about the changes that are happening in healthcare. As a traditionalist, I love holding the newspaper in my hands as I have my first cup of coffee in the morning. I like seeing my physician in person and face-to-face. But, as I think about what’s ahead, I quickly come to the realization that many of these changes are, indeed, for the better. In this modern era, I can’t afford to take the time to get all the healthcare services I need in the traditional manner. Time is money, and both take away from my family and leisure time. So, as far as I’m concerned, I am going to be much more careful about how I spend my time, and where and how I access my healthcare—how about you?

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Last modified: May 20, 2016
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