When I think about the healthcare system, I automatically think about how bad healthcare professionals must be feeling. Secretaries, always packed with work, arranging appointments. Doctors seeing one patient after another, with the responsibility of taking care of lives. Nurses taking care of the details of every treatment and having to deal with people who aren’t in their best moment, or what’s worse, people who are about to die. And, of course, patients. Most of us have to deal with bureaucracy when it comes to our own health. Paperwork to get treatments done. Stress because of uncertainty. Most of the times, power lies with someone we don’t know, but who knows how to treat me or cure me, and we think: “Why is this happening to me?”
Improving Access to Information in the Healthcare System
In such a complex context, with so many subjectivities involved, and paperwork and forms to fill in so as to keep certain order (we must never forget this is just another business), empathy is more than necessary if we want to make this process —the journey for every patient, every doctor and every person involved— more efficient and effective. Little changes in the way we access information can make us feel better on our everyday lives, and they also help us prevent mistakes that might lead to more serious problems.
Doctors or healthcare professionals shouldn’t (and can’t) know their patients’ medical records by heart. But it would be ideal if they had a system they could access to get all the necessary information to treat their patients better. What I mean is an app where a record of treatments and tests of every patient can be clearly displayed. Even though I’m talking about a database, we mustn’t forget I’m also talking about a screen, and this screen should be designed so as to be read in the doctor’s context, whether they’re sitting at their desk or checking an allergy during an emergency.
We, as patients, don’t remember our treatments and we don’t have all of our tests at hand. The possibility of having our entire record in an app could solve many problems. It’s important to know what results tell us, but it’s also important to remember that we should leave the interpretation of those tests to healthcare professionals. But access to something as valuable as information gives us power. The choice of who’s going to treat us is ours, nobody else’s. We may have different options, regardless of the health insurance we have.
Speeding Up Processes in the Healthcare System
The aim would be to centralize all the information in one app without compromising security. Keep patients’ appointments, so as to ease secretaries’ workloads. Display all the medical records for nurses, doctors or even users to see. Apart from giving people independence about their information, all of this also speeds processes up. Opening a document from a file is much quicker than having to deal with tones of papers, and it also favors interconnectivity among different healthcare centers.
In a context of healthcare system collapse regardless of the strenuous efforts of the personnel, speeding processes up can be a great ally if we want to come through. Digitalizing entire patients’ profiles is one option, but it would require lots of time and resources. Restructuring rooms, organizing personnel, handling appointments by groups through digital chats, ensuring constant sanitization, using a door-to-door system to deliver drugs and prescriptions, and using teleconference for the consultations when possible can simplify many everyday situations without crowding hospital rooms. Not all solutions come from designing an app; some services are also designed quite similarly: investigating and focusing on who provides the service and who uses it.
We haven’t invented the wheel: there are many apps like this and it’s difficult to manage all the healthcare system of one state, one municipality or one city. But it’s important to remember some things when we need to manage health-related digital systems:
1 – Focusing on people, always
For every idea that might be implemented, there are people who will experience it. Whether it is putting more or less seats in a waiting room or installing an appointment system that buzzes, we should always think about the people who will actually be there.
2 – Reducing distractions
It’s important that the systems that doctors or nurses might use display the most relevant information for the patient’s health. It must be clear and concise, and the most important information should be visible.
3 – Minimizing the process
Patients might have to go through many processes, paperwork, validations and authorizations that can delay treatments and surgeries. More simple online systems could be created to speed up those processes.
4 – Connection
There’s nothing like human contact. Psychologically, people react better to warmer, nicer contexts. And this is important for every healing process.
5 – Digital strategy
We shouldn’t forget that, for the healthcare industry, this would imply a radical, complete change to digital. This doesn’t mean becoming 100% digital and leaving aside non-digital natives who, in fact, are the ones in need of more support. It’s necessary to adapt to patients and their reality. In this case, healthcare providers must offer different options for their processes.
Thinking United, Thinking Together
Hence, the secret is to think united, to think together. Empathizing with each role, each agent and each person optimizes every process we might have to undertake. The healthcare system is just that: a gigantic machine, built with people always in mind.