Technology is transforming healthcare in a variety of ways. One of the most effective ways the internet is impacting health services is in the outpatient setting. With an increased demand on hospital services due to an aging population and more people afflicted with long-term conditions, departments need to change. And embracing technology is fundamental to the changes that need to be made.

Improvements in Access

The internet enables people to access the hospital booking system to choose and book appointments that suit their schedule. This helps to prevent non attendances and lets people choose their hospital online. It also helps drive quality standards, as hospitals can be compared with one another. Another benefit, seen in London, occurred when an online booking system for the sexually transmitted diseases department saw an increase in groups considered hard to reach, such as younger females.

Technologies like text messaging can also be used to remind patients about appointments, and wearable devices allow some patients to send heart recordings to a clinician electronically and when they are symptomatic, eliminating the need for multiple hospital appointments and certain diagnostic tests to be done at a period in time. The device links to a cellphone and instantly transmits information, creating a valid record for the patient and doctor.

Working Across Boundaries

Technology is a powerful method for bringing clinicians across organizations together to combine expertise for the benefit of the patient. Virtual clinics operate in several ways. One example is joint clinics between office clinicians and hospital staff that discuss cases using online reviews with a shared IT system. This results in sharing of knowledge and can remove the need for a hospital-based appointment.

Virtual clinics are increasingly being used in diabetes care. Patients can consult with clinicians online, saving themselves a long journey to the hospital. Alternately, a Skype consultation can bring a multidisciplinary team together in a virtual way, minimizing travel and enabling the review of cases through technology. Having a Skype-based clinic has been shown to improve the attendance of younger patients, a group that historically avoids visits to the hospital, not wanting life to revolve around a hospital setting. Technology facilitates shared record keeping so that a core plan is available to paramedics, palliative care teams and other clinicians who deliver appropriate care.

Empowering Patients With Technology

The traditional hospital appointment is rapidly being left behind as new methods of connecting patients to clinicians emerge. Technology can bring together the case notes and blood results for people with long-term conditions such as diabetes. This enables the patient to take control, set goals and have their records ready for a consultation with a physician. The Scottish online resource My Diabetes My Way is one effective instance of this.

Mobile apps also have the ability to help people manage their medications and other conditions. Examples include enabling patients to review and keep their medication lists up-to-date and an app for breast cancer that tailors care for the patient. These advances in technology mean there needs to be a radical rethink about how outpatient clinics of the future will operate and how patients themselves will drive change via the increased use of mobile devices.

Technology is here to stay. It offers many opportunities to access care and deliver outpatient clinics in a transformative way. One of the many benefits of working locum tenens jobs is being exposed to how technology is implemented in different clinical settings. Most often, locum tenens physicians possess the most medical technology skills because of this exposure.