Online patient portals and automated visit reminders are standard components of care for most hospitals and practices today.

But did you know that there are other simple uses of technology that can raise the quality of care you provide — and contribute to better outcomes across the board for your patients? Research shows that implementing the following technological strategies can lead to excellent results.

Use a tele-emergency network.

If your hospital is located in a rural area, or in a city or town at a significant distance from a major medical center, utilizing a tele-emergency system to coordinate a face-time diagnosis with a doctor at that major medical center is a must.

A study from the University of Iowa found that 95 percent of staff working with tele-emergency technology felt it improved patient care and could also be used to gain second opinions quickly for assessment and treatment.

A second University of Iowa study determined that a tele-emergency network video examination of a patient by a specialist at another hospital easily and accurately allowed the doctor and patient to exchange relevant information to determine whether a transfer to a larger hospital was necessary. And often, it was accurately determined that the patient didn't need to transfer at all — this ended up saving that patient around $5,600 on average in transportation and medical costs.

Encourage patients to take a "photo journey."

Researchers at the University of British Columbia found that giving cardiac patients digital cameras and asking them to take simple photos of their daily lives helped their doctors follow the progress of their treatment easily and effectively.

The researchers found that on days they felt well, the patients photographed themselves going about normal daily tasks, but that on days that they felt ill, they subconsciously photographed images of pills, their caregivers, their reminders of doctors' appointments, or selfies in which they were resting in chairs.

When these photos are uploaded so a physician can see them, they provide a road map of symptoms, and give great insight as to where a patient's care may need to be adjusted for a better outcome.

Establish regular email communication.

A Kaiser Permanente study found that one-third of patients with chronic conditions who initiated communicating through email with their physicians about their symptoms, questions and concerns on a consistent basis saw an improvement of their overall health.

These patients made fewer phone calls to their doctors' offices as well, and required fewer office visits, saving both time and money.

Allow cellphone calls from patients (in a controlled way).

As a doctor, you can establish a specific cellphone number just for taking calls, which bypasses any worry about giving out your personal cellphone number, and you can give patients set times each week when you'll answer calls.

That way, you control the amount of access and energy you want to expend on speaking to patient outside of office time, but yet you've provided a way your patients can contact you when they truly need information or advice that's reassuring and convenient for everyone involved.

Simplify, simplify, simplify.

Have your staff troubleshoot that aforementioned patient portal to make sure it's easy to navigate — a complex system will cause many patients to ignore avoid it completely.

Make sure your facility's phone system isn't a maze of buttons to push, which will only lead to patient frustration. Keep your technology as user-friendly as possible — the care you provide through it will be that much more appreciated.