doctor_using_computer-resized-600Charged with a mission to improve patient care while reducing costs, the healthcare industry has been uniquely challenged throughout the economic downturn. Expectations remain high as payments for services are lowered. Budget-cutting has proven difficult when nearly every avenue can potentially lead to a lessened ability to provide timely, needed services for patients. Healthcare isn’t like a restaurant, which can cut costs by buying a cheaper cut of meat or a hotel, which can allow replacing the old carpet to slide for just one more year. Services, equipment and staff must be top notch in order to protect both the facilities that provide the care and the patients who receive it.

This week, Bloomberg Businessweek’s Technology section published a short article about how hospitals are making progress in improving services while cutting costs: digitized patient records and the automated ability to support staff decision-making with real-time data. This sort of number crunching allows doctors to better predict if their patient is at risk for re-hospitalization or any additional health concerns. Better, more timely decisions can only be a win/win scenario for patients and care providers alike.

The industry is using data to make huge strides in patient care, but there is a financial component as well. According to the article, “By making “meaningful use” of computer systems, they’re eligible for millions of dollars in government funding from the Obama administration’s $14.6 billion program launched in 2009 to encourage adoption of electronic medical records.”

Technology is not only being used to analyze patient data in more meaningful ways, it’s also protecting it along with the quality of care they receive. Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) is increasingly being incorporated into healthcare facilities to streamline areas such as invoice managementinventory management and asset management. Automating these areas facilitates faster payments, prevents supply shortages and secures critical equipment that may contain sensitive patient data.

While the healthcare industry deals with the growing pains involved in bridging the gap between manual and automated processes, patients can hopefully expect that the efforts will lead to the intended conclusion: less expensive care without sacrificing quality or services.

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