With the World Health Organization (WHO) now reporting 53.7 million confirmed cases of COVID-19 globally and 1.3 million deaths, the healthcare industry is continuing to see unprecedented levels of stress placed upon it. Added complexities of having to maintain social distancing, with many countries still in lockdown, and ensuring vital supplies of personal protective equipment (PPE) continue to reach frontline healthcare workers, have only added to the difficulties of trying to treat such a significant number of people.
SOTI’s most recent research report, Critical Technology for Critical Care: The State of Mobility in Healthcare 2020/21, sheds light on another issue facing the global healthcare industry – the burden of failing or outdated technology hindering healthcare workers’ ability to provide critical care to those that need it most.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 revolutionizing the delivery of patient care and improving health outcomes. Advances in mobile device capabilities, and healthcare organizations’ 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 organizations, there are three 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. New 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Eliminating outdated, manual and paper processes allows caregivers to focus on their patients, improving the quality of care, as well as reducing the burden of administrative tasks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 global healthcare workers had issues with systems and tech while out caring for patients. With more and more healthcare institutions adopting technology to improve the care that is delivered, 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 help 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.
Mobile devices can also help to navigate the issue of those at their most vulnerable being unable to see their loved ones for vital emotional support. Earlier this year, SOTI announced its practical support for the Lifelines4LovedOnes initiative, providing reconditioned mobile and tablet devices to patients being treated by the UK’s National Health Service (NHS) to help them stay connected to friends and family without subverting hospital protocols.
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. During the peak of Italy’s COVID-19 crisis in March, hospitals in the region of Lombardy were reportedly1 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 also 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 have access to much of the information, such as blood pressure and heart rate, that they would if the patient was in the hospital.
This can be applied both 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 their recovery.
3. Improving operational efficiencies
In a global crisis, it’s already been demonstrated that governments and healthcare organizations 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 show 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 literally save lives.
It can also help to identify trends and make orders ahead if equipment is running out. If the supply chain utilizes mobile technology too, an accurate picture can be built upon what equipment is coming through and from where. Currently, healthcare organizations around the world have been ill-prepared to meet the demand.
SOTI’s research found that 73% of healthcare workers indicated that existing technology and systems were not equipped to handle the global pandemic. Looking at this data, it is clear that serious improvements need to be made in the technology and device infrastructure at many healthcare organizations around the world.
Effective management of these 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.
Assist Care Group, for example, wanted to move away from manual processes in its operations, so it converted all its manual documentation to electronic processes, and staff began documenting care visits via their mobile phones. As the organization began to establish their mobile infrastructure to support staff communication, it was worried about the challenges posed by Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) practices, especially related to device leaks and security issues.
Assist Care needed a mobility management solution to manage the mobile devices the company purchased for staff members enabling them to deliver high quality, in-home client care. Using SOTI MobiControl to manage these devices, remote control features were used to help staff in the field overcome technical and user issues, which reduced downtime in critical situations where the health and safety of patients and staff were paramount.
Using the location tracking feature allowed the team to locate staff nearest to an emergency, while Kiosk Mode ensured security, by locking down devices to only the apps that are necessary for staff to perform their jobs. As a result, Assist Care Group has cut down technical support costs by over 90%.
It’s essential that critical care IoT devices are integrated into a business-critical mobility strategy, that can enable organizations to realize operational efficiencies, see an increase in healthcare provider productivity, an improvement in patient satisfaction and, most importantly, help ensure organizations are always safe and connected in times of crisis.
Read the Critical Technology for Critical Care: The State of Mobility in Healthcare 2020/21 Report here.