Key strategies to deliver critical care during a pandemic
The Australian healthcare sector is facing increasing levels of stress, with rising numbers of international arrivals diagnosed with COVID-19 now in quarantine. At the same time, the World Health Organization (WHO) is now reporting 103 million confirmed cases of coronavirus globally and 2.2 million deaths. Added complexities — such as countries in lockdown, maintaining social distancing and ensuring vital supplies of personal protective equipment (PPE) continue to reach frontline healthcare workers — have only added to the difficulties of trying to deliver high levels of patient care.
SOTI’s most recent report, Critical Technology for Critical Care: The State of Mobility in Healthcare 2020/21, sheds light on another issue facing the global and Australian healthcare industries: the burden of failing or outdated technology hindering healthcare workers’ ability to provide critical care to those that need it most.
Mobile and IoT devices have been at the forefront of revolutionising the delivery of patient care and improving health outcomes. Advances in mobile device capabilities and healthcare organisations’ technical infrastructure are now becoming vital in meeting critical care requirements. For healthcare providers looking to understand where mobile and IoT devices can have the biggest impact on their organisations, there are four main areas to consider.
1. Improving the provision of care within formal settings
When quality of life, or even life itself, is on the line, mobile technology means more than just devices in care providers’ hands. Mobile technology, like smartphones, tablets and wearable devices, are being implemented to improve the speed of care and enhance the patient experience.
Eliminating outdated, manual and paper processes allows caregivers to focus on their patients and improve the quality of care, and reduces the burden of administrative tasks that distracts from the primary caregiving role that frontline healthcare workers need to deliver.
Technology — when not properly implemented — can hinder healthcare workers’ ability to provide critical care. SOTI’s research found that 81% of Australian healthcare workers had issues with systems and technology while out caring for patients. With more and more healthcare institutions adopting technology to improve care, these sorts of failings in technology have a major impact on the quality of care that patients receive. Technology should never constrain; it should only seek to improve outcomes.
It’s not just about improving the way medical professionals look after patients, however. Creating IoT-connected smart hospitals that, for example, use the latest technology to scan people for fevers before they enter and move around buildings can help to track and stop the spread of diseases within hospitals. This is vital for protecting higher-risk individuals.
2. Reducing the burden on hospitals by caring for patients in their own homes
During times of extreme strain on the healthcare sector — especially if hospitals are experiencing shortages of beds — ensuring patients can remain at home while still receiving the level of care they require is the highest priority. For example, during the peak of Italy’s COVID-19 crisis in March 2020, hospitals in the region of Lombardy were reportedly running out of beds, with patients being placed in operating rooms and hospital corridors.
Non-critical patients can be monitored using IoT devices to ensure they remain healthy and their condition does not deteriorate. Their medical information can be shared securely with field medical teams to ensure the best possible care, and things like prescriptions can be ordered and delivered directly to maintain social distancing.
Patients and doctors can also communicate instantly using video calling applications to provide real-time care without delay and access as much information as they would if the patient was in the hospital. This can be applied in instances where a patient’s condition needs to be monitored, but they are yet to be admitted to hospital, and for those leaving hospital, to aid with recovery.
3. Improving operational efficiencies
In a global crisis, it’s already been demonstrated that governments and healthcare organisations struggle to meet the demand for medical supplies, devices and PPE, while also ensuring that the right equipment is sent where it’s needed most.
IoT-connected digital stock control — from a warehouse level right down to separate shelves on appliances such as ambulances or in individual wards — can provide an instant and accurate picture of what PPE is held where, and when it needs replenishing. These real-time insights can be used to make quick decisions that could save lives. It can also help to identify trends and make orders ahead of time if equipment is running low. If the supply chain also utilises mobile technology, an accurate picture can be built about what equipment is coming through and from where. Currently, healthcare organisations around the world and in Australia have been ill-prepared to meet the demand for services expected of them.
Our research found that only 32% of Australian healthcare workers said that existing technology and systems were able to manage pandemic-related patient needs. Yet, 44% indicated that new systems and technologies were introduced to help them care for patients during this time. Looking at this data, it is clear that serious improvements need to be made in the technology and device infrastructure at many healthcare organisations in Australia.
4. Effective management of mobile devices
Mobile devices and apps enable care providers to complete patient records digitally, perform triage and medication distribution, and enhance real-time communication between care providers and patients.
But more mobile devices and apps means an increase in management complexity, including security, remote support, app and content distribution, privacy and mobile device analytics.
Furthermore, it is essential that critical care IoT devices are integrated into a business-critical mobility strategy that can enable organisations to realise operational efficiencies, see an increase in healthcare provider productivity, see an improvement in patient satisfaction and, most importantly, help ensure organisations are always safe and connected in times of crisis.
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