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High-tech care: A new take on the Hippocratic Oath

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Many business owners have embraced digital technology because it's easier to track and manage their company's inventory, sales and other functions, while mobile apps and other outreach programs have enhanced their connection with customers. Technology is also making it easier for healthcare providers like JFK Medical Center to service and interact with patients.

Earlier this year, the Edison-based institution—an affiliate of JFK Health—was named one of the nation’s Most Wired hospitals in a survey conducted by the American Hospital Association, a national organization that represents and advocates for hospitals, health care systems, networks, other providers of care and individual members.

Launched in 1967, JFK Medical Center is a non-profit, 498-bed community hospital that serves residents of Middlesex, Union and Somerset counties. Other New Jersey institutions named in the 2017 survey include Camden’s Cooper University Health Care, Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital in New Brunswick, and University Hospital in Newark.

“The Most Wired hospitals are using every available technology option to create more ways to reach their patients in order to provide access to care,” AHA President and CEO Rick Pollack announced when the results were released. “They are transforming care delivery, investing in new delivery models in order to improve quality, provide access and control costs.”

“The Most Wired designation is an acknowledgement that JFK is using proven technologies to meet the needs of our patients and clinicians,” said Indranil (Neal) Ganguly, vice president and chief information officer of JFK Health, adding that the achievement was “shared together across many teams throughout our organization, including our IT leadership department, our physicians, clinicians and employees. Our overall goal is to support the delivery of healthcare in the safest and most cost effective way possible.”

By the Numbers

According to the survey, Most Wired hospitals are using smart phones, remote monitoring and other technology to create more ways for patients to access health care services and capture health information. This year’s results show:

76 percent offer secure messaging with clinicians on mobile devices.
When patients need ongoing monitoring at home, 74 percent use secure e-mails for patients and families to keep in touch with the care team.
68 percent simplify prescription renewals by letting patients make requests on mobile devices.
62 percent add data reported by patients to the electronic health record to get a better picture of how the patient is doing.
Nearly half of the hospitals are using tele-health to provide behavioral health services to more patients.
40 percent offer virtual physician visits.
More than 40 percent provide real-time care management services to patients at home for diabetes and congestive heart failure.

Hospitals like JFK have also embraced technology because of changes in the way that healthcare itself is delivered. Ganguly said care is “moving from the traditional fee-for-service models, to quality- or outcomes-based models. This requires the ability to collect and analyze large amounts of data in order to identify those who are at risk for health issues and help manage them more carefully, with the ultimate goal being to keep them as healthy as possible and out of the hospital which is better for patients, and clinicians.”

JFK also utilizes technology to keep patient data secure and to simplify the way it provides patient care. Still, with limited resources, hospitals have to choose where to invest their money. “Technology is rapidly evolving and evaluating what technologies to prioritize can be a challenge,” Ganguly said. “JFK has an IT governance committee that works to prioritize technology investments and oversee their successful implementation.

Even after high-tech diagnostic and other equipment is installed, physicians and other front-line providers have to know how to use it and need to be comfortable with it. Fortunately, as technology has become more integrated in individuals’ daily lives—from our cars to our phones—it has become easier to familiarize providers and others with the details of high-tech equipment. “But training is a key element in ensuring successful use of technology,” said Ganguly. “At JFK we have a team of IT liaisons that specifically work on the nursing units with the physicians to make sure they understand the available technology and are kept current with the latest features and upgrades.”

He’s quick to add, though, that high-tech isn’t about to replace the comfort of human interaction that patients want. “Technology is an enabler to ensure the clinicians have the information they need,” he observed. “It does not take away the human element. JFK believes that ‘high touch’ and ‘high tech’ go hand in hand.  With the right information at their fingertips the clinician can better focus on the patient.”

What’s ahead for the convergence of technology and medical care? Interestingly enough, Ganguly said hospitals will look to a shopping giant and a transportation provider for inspiration.

“There will be an increased focus on the patient as a consumer,” he said. “The Amazon and Uber experience is driving a level of convenience that our patients will expect from their healthcare providers. I also think that diagnostic technologies are evolving far beyond the fitness trackers and we will see this dramatically impact how we interact with chronically ill patients such as diabetics.”

That’s a good prescription for just about any patient.

Email: dakscom@aol.com

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