The Covid-19 pandemic accelerated digital transformation in healthcare and the development of smart hospitals. That was the consensus among panelists in a webinar held in early 2021. Paddy Padmanabhan, CEO of Damo Consulting, said that virtual care models, consumerization of healthcare, and technology adoption had advanced during the pandemic as healthcare systems looked for ways to cope.
Transforming the healthcare delivery system
One remarkably rapid development was automating the hospital delivery process using digital technologies such as telehealth, online patient platforms, and data analysis. According to the Department of Health and Human Services, 70% of intensive care hospital beds were occupied in the US, and hospitals were able to reduce the length of stay by six hours per patient. Improving hospital capacity and patient flow has become the primary focus for hospitals as they take a giant step forward in digital transformation to meet the demand surge due to the pandemic.
Opportunity for transformation
Hospitals are more aware of the need for digital transformation and the possibilities available. Better pre- and post-hospital care are essential to reduce the load on healthcare systems still dealing with Covid-19. Much of this can be enabled by remote monitoring, artificial intelligence, sensors, and data analytics, which will monitor the condition of patients and trigger an intervention if necessary.
Caleb York, of Virtusense, explained how his company's sensors could predict "bed exits" by patients, which can lead to falls. As hospital staff levels were depleted by Covid infections and patients needed to be isolated, fall incidents increased. Typically, hospitals try to prevent falls by allocating budget on in-room sitters or staff to monitor video feeds. Sensors are twenty-times cheaper and can reduce falls by 78% over a year.
Meanwhile, Frost & Sullivan analyst Neeraj Jadhav gave the example of Mayo Clinic, which has begun using continuous bedside health monitoring of patients to provide early warning of clinical deterioration. Not only does this free up clinicians for other tasks but it also delivers constant and reliable monitoring, which is a challenge for busy staff.
Developing a roadmap
Finally, Justin Bolger explained how Pointr's Deep Location® technology, during the pandemic, alerted hospitals to the most dangerously crowded parts of their facilities and guided people to less busy routes. In post-pandemic times, Pointr's indoor-outdoor wayfinding guides patients around large facilities that would otherwise be confusing and stressful to navigate, which leads to late or missed appointments. Pointr's navigation can also help hospital workers find equipment, reduce downtime and waste, and provide insights into how space and facilities are used in the hospitals.
There are many more options like these that hospitals could deploy. The first step, said Mr. Padmanabhan, is to develop a roadmap. This can take up to 18 weeks and involves internal and external assessment of needs and options, as well as the development of implementation and partnership strategies. A long-term strategic view is vital, rather than focusing on stand-alone digital initiatives.
The healthcare sector is changing from manual delivery processes to more efficient, automatic ones. More elements of the care process will be handled online, even remotely. Healthcare providers must plan accordingly and not wait for the next crisis to strike.
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