By Bob Burnett, director of B2B solutions deployment and planning, Brother International Corporation.
The start of the global pandemic put incredible stress on the numerous healthcare heroes as well as their facilities, and the industry at large. Medical professionals, already faced with inordinate pressure under normal circumstances, have been working nonstop to perform heroic work day in and day out since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.
One thing this crisis has clearly illustrated is the need for medical professionals to have access to the latest tools that provide the greatest degree of flexibility, efficiency, and mobility. These tools certainly include the IT backbone underpinning healthcare facilities big and small, from the networks and software to the new wave of smaller, mobile devices.
Two areas of IT have seen tremendous uptake in the healthcare industry as it has adapted to the crisis, the first being through the accelerated shift to telemedicine. Telemedicine allows patients to get almost instant medical attention without the concerns of traveling to a doctor’s office or hospital during the coronavirus outbreak. Indeed, the telemedicine market is expected to swell to $155.1 billion by 2027 in large part due to the pandemic.
Overall, telemedicine is an efficient way for providers to see the highest possible number of patients at a lower cost with shorter waiting times. Doctors can schedule more appointments than they would during normal rounds while still maintaining a quality practice that offers individualized attention to each case.
Additionally, telehealth visits can be recorded, allowing clinicians to document progress and share information with relevant specialists on the go. Telemedicine fosters collaboration by combining high-speed internet and high-definition video for communication between colleagues who are sometimes seeing hundreds of people a day because of the coronavirus.
The second, vital development within healthcare IT has been the advent of advanced forms of clinical mobility through the usage of devices like smartphones, tablets, laptops, and mobile printers at the point of care. These devices optimize workflows, increase healthcare professionals’ time spent with patients, and are doing nothing short of revolutionizing the health sector.
Staff mobility enabled by mobile devices benefit patients’ wellbeing as much as the providers’ by giving them the flexibility to prioritize the most important cases and spend more time at bedsides where the attention is truly needed.
Case in point: one way to help reduce costs and increase efficiency is converting confidential documents, such as admitting forms and care instructions, into electronic health records (EHRs) accessible on portable devices like tablets. This way, healthcare professionals can record, archive, and share patient information, making it easily accessible in real time.
Another example: more mobile print & scan devices are assisting healthcare workers at bedsides with an array of services, ranging from printing patient instructions to scanning barcodes on hospital bracelets step by step, helping ensure that the right care and medication are orchestrated appropriately. Such processes also help decrease preventable medical errors, which are the third leading cause of death in the United States according to Johns Hopkins Medicine.
But the ability to hold patient information in the palm of one’s hands means there’s a greater need than ever to keep that information safe. Security is always top of mind, especially now due to the unfortunate uptick in pandemic-related cyberattacks. One method to securely store and transmit information is for health professionals to utilize pragmatic, mobile printing solutions; after all, paper can’t be hacked. Such methods also align with the privacy stipulations of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).
Global pandemic or not, privacy is something that is paramount to healthcare operations given the sensitivity of patient records. Thanks to new advances in mobility, from tablets to mobile printing, it’s easier than ever to protect privacy while simplifying workflows and expanding healthcare mobility.
During the pandemic, the healthcare industry reached its collective breaking point: cases surged, facilities ran out of beds and Personal Protective Equipment, and staff were pushed to the brink. Fortunately, developments like telemedicine and increased clinical mobility have proven instrumental in helping healthcare workers manage the load by improving efficiency and mobility, while safeguarding patients’ personal data and reducing preventable medical errors. Ultimately, these digital tools can offer our healthcare heroes certainty amid most uncertain times.