5/31/2022

3 Technologies for Health Education Explained

By Mike Price, Healthwise Software Development Manager

FHIR, machine learning, cloud hosting—what does it all mean when it comes to health education? We're here to demystify three technology buzzwords and explain how they bring value and efficiency for clinicians and patients.

 

1. Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources (FHIR)

You may have heard of FHIR. FHIR stands for "Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resource," which is … a mouthful. Put simply, it's like a language that allows systems to speak to each other. FHIR is a standard "language" that systems can use to exchange electronic health care data, and the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) mandated that all CMS-regulated organizations use it. It’s easy to imagine how difficult it would be for two people who don’t speak the same language to communicate. You can think of FHIR as a common language.

The great thing about FHIR is that it allows third-party applications to "talk" and exchange data with the electronic health records system (EHR) an organization uses, whether Epic, Cerner, or something else. In healthcare, interoperability makes technology more flexible by freeing applications from the constraints of monolithic systems. It lets an organization use Epic for electronic medical records while adding Healthwise for patient education inside Epic—because the systems can function together.

While FHIR can be thought of as the "language" of interoperability between healthcare systems, it is only one part of an integration, albeit a critical part. You can think of an integration as the way communication takes place. To continue with the analogy about two people speaking different languages, a conversation between them could take place face-to-face, over text message, or video. Each of these could be thought of as integration types. The integration type is dependent on the capabilities of the parties trying to communicate.

What do interoperability and integration look like to users? Interoperability and integrations allow Healthwise® AdviseTM, our FHIR-enabled health education solution, to launch in an Epic sidebar so it’s part of a familiar workflow and doesn't distract users from their purpose. Additionally, interoperability and integrations let Healthwise make health education updates available automatically, eliminating the need for manual updates. (More on that later.) They also allow clinicians to assign patients health education, attach it to the after-visit summary, and see which health education has been shared with patients in the past.

2. Machine Learning

Machine learning is exactly what it sounds like. But not in a "computers take over the world" sort of way. More of a "computers make our lives easier in very specific instances" way. Basically, the more a system is used, the smarter the system gets. No, engineers haven't waved a magic wand and given computers the ability to actually think—rather, engineers have discovered how to make computers identify patterns in data and use those patterns to predict what we want the computer to do.

With Healthwise Advise, machine learning helps with search and education recommendations. When Healthwise Advise is launched, it uses data that is passed from the healthcare system about the patient, clinician, and the visit to inform search. It then remembers what the user chose to assign to the patient so it can do a better job identifying and ranking the most appropriate health education when clinicians help similar patients in the future. In short, Healthwise Advise learns to make finding and sharing health education a snap.

Of course, there's nuance in the world. Every patient is different, every user is different, and no system is perfect. But by remembering patterns, the system becomes more accurate at pinpointing what clinicians need and serving up recommendations that get better and better each time. Machine learning in this case is helping clinicians find what they need in mere seconds so they can spend more of their time with patients.

3. Cloud Hosting

Health information is constantly changing. Whenever new information comes out, it's important to update the health education. Healthwise has a whole team of people who follow medical research and make sure our education is updated constantly, while also fielding clinician requests for changes or updates. That's great, but freshly updated health education isn't very helpful until it’s available to clinicians and patients.

Keeping health education current hasn't always been easy. Manually updating information is time-consuming, and IT teams don’t have the resources to constantly upload new files. So, traditionally, health education providers would bundle all the changes and send them out in a big batch four times a year. Not only did this arrangement burden IT resources, it also wasn't great for clinicians who wanted to provide patients with the most up-to-date health information now, not next August.

The beauty of cloud hosting is that clients can securely access the most current version of Healthwise Advise and Healthwise content at any time—it's always there and available. Gone are the days of waiting months for updated health education, and bottlenecks disappear—poof—in a cloud of smoke (see what we did there?).

See These Technologies in Action

If you want to know more about Healthwise Advise, our new FHIR-enabled health education solution for Epic users, and see these technologies in action, check out a demo or contact us today.