Natalie Yang, Medical Director, Radiology, Austin Health
Could you tell us about yourself and your role at Austin Health?
I am the medical director of Radiology at Austin Health. The radiology department works for the public health system in Victoria, Australia, and has conducted about 180,000 examinations on emergency inpatient and outpatient cohorts. We serve our community and carry out responsibilities, including spreading hospital information to stakeholders.
We work in a hybrid healthcare system, and Cerner, an American supplier of health information technology services, is our primary electronic medical record (EMR) provider. Each department in the hospital has its sub-specialty program, which predominantly functions as the equal distribution of work in each department occurs.
What are some challenges that you face in the telehealth industry?
The hospital environment is complex; many legacy IT systems often don’t fit with each other well, and the investment and expertise required to maintain those IT systems are high. The challenge is that unless new IT systems or technologies don’t integrate with the hospital’s existing ones, the new systems are not very useful—no matter how wonderful.
We must integrate systems to create one holistic platform with all the features of the new and old systems. The all-in-one platform can reduce the workload of public healthcare workers, so they don’t have to log into multiple systems to get their work done, which is efficient, saves time, and helps workers from burnout.
How is telehealth changing the medtech industry, and how can companies adopt these technologies to treat patients remotely?
Since it is challenging, expensive, and anxiety-provoking for remote patients to travel to far-away metropolitan hospitals to receive treatment, telehealth is becoming a lifesaver for patients as well as their healthcare providers. Although remote healthcare and telehealth have been used for a long time, their traction has quadrupled after the COVID-19 pandemic. Many financial changes are now being made to the billing processes to fit the telehealth processes mainstream instead of an add-on care service.
“We created our own single-view communication platform in 2020 for bookings and feedback with our patients, which leverages off existing IT platforms within the organization”
However, different clinicians and healthcare providers also have mixed feelings about telehealth. Some providers see its value, while others don’t want to lose face-to-face conversations because they find nonverbal cues from the patient pertinent to the diagnostics process.
What are the upcoming trends and developing technologies in radiology and the telehealth space?
Our organization has invested heavily in the Office 365 platform. There are many opportunities to use technology through some of these innovations at a daily workflow level, like getting paperwork authorized.
There are a lot of opportunities in Office 365 to make all processes electronic and more accountable and to give clinicians more time in the day to complete their tasks. The public health system has a real opportunity to handle daily operations and take care of manual and time-consuming processes with efficient technology, but there needs to be more momentum to make those changes.
We also created our own single-view communication platform in 2020, leveraging existing IT platforms within the organization for scheduling medical appointments and taking feedback from patients. Patients receive a text message a day after their appointment, from where, they can rate their experience and add specific feedback. The feedback gets assessed, and the services are modified to be on par with patients’ expectations. From the end-user perspective, the platform also allows patients to confirm, rebook, and cancel appointments and get specific preparation information about their appointments.
We also designed an easy-to-use phone app with a simple user interface for people who are not technologically sound. This app has increased our engagement by 80 percent, and our older patients can also engage on this platform at a rate of 78 percent.
What advice would you like to give to your peers or industry leaders?
There is a lot of fatigue among clinicians around the functioning of IT systems because they are often not designed with them in mind, so they are not intuitive for use in their daily workflows. These systems fail because clinicians do not use them. IT developers and clinicians must work in unison to solve this issue and reduce the friction in technology adoption.