Here’s why this digitally advanced hospital continues to use paper

Dr Chatchai Arthur Yachantha, Senior Director of Patient Experience & Engagement Services at Thailand’s Bumrungrad International Hospital, explains why, despite their focus on digitalisation, there still is a place for paper in their operations.

As one of the foremost medical facilities in Bangkok, Thailand, Bumrungrad International Hospital prides themselves on keeping up to date with, and implementing, the latest technologies in healthcare to achieve their clinical and operational objectives.

At the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, for example, Bumrungrad quickly adopted telehealth and remote care technologies, while their clinicians also redesigned many of their treatment plans into a digital format, in order to reduce the number of physical visits their patients had to make to the hospital.

Indeed, in order to create a better experience for their patients, Bumrungrad has even implemented a digital hospital information system that enables seamless communication, as well as better and faster transfer of information.

So it might come as a surprise to learn that, despite Bumrungrad’s focus on digitalisation, the hospital continues to use print and paper in certain aspects of their operations.

One key area in which Bumrungrad still uses paper is in their communication with certain patients. After all, as an international hospital that serves patients from more than 190 countries around the world, Bumrungrad has to cater to many different profiles, including those who still do not feel fully comfortable with digital processes.

Speaking to Hospital Management Asia, Dr Chatchai Arthur Yachantha, Senior Director of Patient Experience & Engagement Services at Bumrungrad said: “In general, we do our best to promote our digital services to our patients. There are, however, some patients – which are often from a certain generation, or nationality – that prefer to rely on printed documents and form for communication.

Dr Chatchai Arthur Yachantha, Senior Director of Patient Experience & Engagement Services at Bumrungrad International Hospital

“We understand that digital literacy in different countries vary, and because we pride ourselves on being an international hospital, we are prepared to cater to those who are more comfortable with paper, rather than digital. “

In certain cases, where a patient does not own – or has limited access – to a smartphone or mobile device, Bumrungrad will make the effort to personally communicate with them through staff in their regional offices.

Dr Yachantha added: “Our regional office acts as a customer advocate for us. In some instances, when we want to get news about Bumrungrad out to our patients, we do it by sending them a newsletter. Alternatively, we can reach out to them though media advertisements, or official public announcements.”

One of the key objectives in the area of patient communication is for healthcare providers to improve the health literacy of their patients.

According to Dr Yachantha, improved health literacy often leads to better patient outcomes, as he explained: “If you are in the hospital, there are clinical services available to orchestrate a patient’s treatment and recovery.

“However, the post-discharge care at home is especially important. This is where health literacy comes in – the patient and their relatives need to understand how to provide care in the right way, so that the patient can make a full recovery with no complications.

“Of course, we also provide support to our discharged patients through home care services, teleconsultations, and follow-up calls. This is to ensure that our patients receive the maximum health guidance to creating the optimal environment for recovery.

“Overall, however, I believe improving health literacy is key to better patient outcomes, and will also reduce the risk of hospital readmission.”

To that end, Bumrungrad works to improve their patients’ health literacy through the use of health statistics, infographics, and social applications.

Dr Yachantha elaborated: “Health statistics are used to educate the significance on health improvement for each category of patients. We also use infographic to create easier take-home messages, as well as to give clarity on our products, while we communicate with our patients through social applications to educate them on healthcare technology.”

But while Bumrungrad largely disseminates these educational materials to their patients through digital means, they also have them printed out for those who are not as technologically-savvy.

“We found that the majority of elderly patients largely require tangible references like printed materials, as they are not acquainted with digital,” said Dr Yachantha.

“With the use printed materials, these elderly patients are able to better follow step-by-step procedures without the use of any electronic device. They are also able to take the time to think things through before filling up any required forms.

“However, there are also benefits to digital, as it provides flexibility for change, and instructions can be shown with clear movements through videos. In addition, we can also send any updated information to our patients promptly through digital means.”

And in order to minimise paper wastage, Bumrungrad analyses data from their hospital to determine which of their clinics or processes would commonly require printed forms and materials.

“There are several other specific instances where we still use paper-based workflows,” Dr Yachantha mused. “For example, sometimes when it comes to insurance and consent, printed materials are still required as part of governance. So yes, there is still a need to have on-demand printing services for our patients.”