Technology has been useful to improve the way in which care is delivered to patients, and this is all more the case during this time of crisis. Hospitals and health systems across the country are relying on tech-based solutions to care for patients during the COVID-19 pandemic—like providing telemedicine to reserve beds for only the most critical patients.
While there are any number of tools available, major innovations during this time have especially been seen in telemedicine, contactless care, and predictive models.
With a large number of COVID-19 cases still being dealt with on a daily basis, hospitals across the country continue to adjust practices to stop the spread of the infection. Many organizations have relied on telemedicine to continue to provide care to those who require provider intervention while reserving beds for patients with COVID-19 who require critical care. Going a step further, some organizations have even used telemedicine for patients admitted to the hospital or started to virtually monitor patients with COVID-19 once they are discharged.
For instance, Stanford Health (click here) is using the power of telemedicine to protect physicians from potential exposure to the virus. With the installation of iPads in the hospital, doctors can virtually screen patients and connect with those who were admitted to isolation rooms. Screening begins when the patient arrives at the hospital, still sitting in their car in the organization’s parking garage.
Patient information is digitally sent to the registration desk, and nurses record the patient’s vitals. Then, the ED physician assesses patients through a two-way camera, analyzing their physical appearance and symptoms. After the assessment, patients are either sent home to wait or hospitalized in an isolation room. Once in these rooms, patients can connect with nurses or doctors for questions, check-ins, and physical assessments via iPad. This approach allowed the hospital to reduce the use of personal protective equipment each day.
A similar approach was taken at Massachusetts General Hospital (click here), which also used iPads in the rooms where patients with COVID-19 were admitted. While sitting in a conference room, doctors and nurses can connect with patients virtually through an app to assess their condition. By doing so, healthcare workers were not exposed to the virus and the use of PPE decreased.
In a different approach at the University of Iowa Hospitals & Clinics (click here), patients who test positive for COVID-19 but do not show a need for hospitalization are monitored virtually by a home treatment team (HTT). The HTT consists of physicians, nurses, pharmacists, and support staff, and these individuals monitor the condition of patients using medical devices given to the patient. Each day over the phone, patients update doctors on readings as well as share their questions or concerns. To make this possible, all patients are sent home with a kit of a blood pressure cuff, pulse oximeter, and an instruction manual so that they can record and log in their vitals—temperature, blood pressure, and oxygen levels.
2. Contactless Screenings
Organizations have started to come up with innovative ways to prevent the spread of infections and ensure the safety of patients and staff alike, including introducing contactless screenings. For example, as an elevated body temperature is one of the early symptoms of coronavirus, Rush University Medical Center (click here) became the first hospital in Chicago to use artificial-intelligence-enabled temperature monitors on individuals entering the hospital.
The monitors were installed at each entrance of the medical center, and every person who enters the facility must stand in front of the sensor, which takes the temperature of the person without the need of direct contact. If the temperature of the person is in the normal range, then they are permitted to go in. On the other hand, if the person presents with a temperature above 100 F, then the screen displays a pop up that instructs the person to wait for help.
At the same time, an alert is sent to one of the staff members who then arrives at the entrance with a mask and escorts the person to an isolation zone at the medical center. Healthcare providers are also encouraged to monitor their temperatures twice each day using these sensors to ensure they are not ill and thus potentially jeopardizing the safety of their coworkers, patients, and families
3. Predictive Models for Resource Planning
During this pandemic, managing resources has been extremely difficult for some institutions, as they were dealing with an influx of patients and shortages of PPE and/or staff. Cleveland Clinic (click here) came up with an interesting approach to manage resources: using predictive models to forecast the need for ICU beds, PPE, human resources, and ventilators.
These models can be used to create best- and worst-case scenarios, and they can be adjusted in real time based on certain factors that impact the spread of the disease. Using predictions from these models, Cleveland Clinic decided to build a 1,000-bed surge hospital on its education campus to prepare for patients with COVID-19. These analytic models are created by Cleveland Clinic and SAS, with some examples available free of charge via GitHub (click here).
The above-mentioned technology-based solutions can be adopted by other organizations across the country to meet the needs of patients while protecting healthcare providers and patients from needlessly being exposed to the virus.
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