In the meantime, physicians also can use technologies that help them reach out to patients, says Laurance Stuntz, director of the Massachusetts eHealth Institute at MassTech, a division of the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative.
One class of technologies uses analytics to help physicians identify patients that are due for checkups or tests and reminds those patients to schedule visits, he says.
Another group of applications helps practices run more efficiently. Stuntz cites the example of QueueDr, a system that works with EHRs to fill appointment cancellations either with patients waiting to schedule appointments or patients who can be moved up from appointments scheduled for later.
Fischer-Wright says physicians can anticipate a new generation of technologies that use artificial intelligence (AI) embedded in or added on to EHRs and other office-based software programs to help with various healthcare issues, from improving patient adherence to increasing patient satisfaction.
She says there are AI applications that could handle patient calls coming into the practice, using algorithms to direct them to the right people at the right time—for example, routing a caller with a question to a nurse on duty while sending a sick patient who needs to move up his or her appointment to the patient intake desk.
Other AI programs could integrate and analyze information to develop treatment regimens for patients based on each patient’s unique health background, conditions and requirements. Such a program could, for example, identify windows of time to administer specific medicines to ensure the best outcome.
“These systems will use AI to make sure that complex medical problems are handled properly and there are no conflicts in schedules,” she says.
Although health IT leaders expect AI and advances in software useability to strengthen the patient-provider connection, physicians can and should explore the applications available now. These applications can help physicians help patients better manage their conditions, and adhere to treatments.
Such technologies are in line with the shift to value-based care, says Fischer-Wright. “What we’re really seeing now, is technology that helps patients and providers engage in ways they didn’t before,” she says.