The onset of the pandemic in 2020 has taught the medical community quite a few lessons, and the very first one of those lessons is resilience and drive in times of dire need. How the global medical community came together to produce vaccines and develop treatments for COVID-19 is truly commendable, and these efforts have culminated in there is a renewed appreciation for research and innovation in the medical field.
Likewise this year we are going to witness several healthcare technology trends bear fruit, and given below are four healthcare technology trends that you need to know about:
Telehealth is quickly gaining popularity in the medical field and is essentially defined as the use of digital communication tech to facilitate healthcare and pertaining services. The devices used in telehealth may include computers, tablets, smartphones, and essentially anything that allows a patient and a medical practitioner to connect digitally.
Telehealth essentially gained momentum during the pandemic since many patients preferred not coming in for a checkup. The benefits of telehealth include an expansion of healthcare access, reduced transmissible infections, and urgent care.
2. Medical IoT
Internet of Things or IoT is essentially defined as a network of physical devices that can communicate with each other and exchange data. These devices communicate through sensors and software. Medical IoT is similar to conventional IoT, and the only difference being is that the network is made up of medical devices.
Medical IoT uses wearable devices, medical screens, monitors, and other applications that suffice patients’ healthcare needs. The combination of AI, machine learning, and IoT allows these devices to offer insights into patient conditions and signal oncoming health conditions.
Technology has advanced in leaps and bounds in almost all industries, but it’s not hard to see just how much has changed in nursing. Previously labor-intensive tasks like lifting patients and administering medication are now made much easier by using technology and innovative practices. If it has been some time since you stepped foot in a hospital, you might be amazed by the following incredible changes.
Online Nursing Programs
In the past, the only way to become a nurse was by attending a nursing school in person. You might have had to move to a new location and change your entire life just to partake in the program. Now, you can enroll in a nurse program online, and nothing else in your life has to change.
As long as you have a computer, an internet connection, and your chosen provider’s classroom software, you can study to become a nurse. Nursing programs are available for secondary school graduates and nurses looking to upskill. All classes, assignments, and grades are accessible anywhere in the world from the cloud.
Diagnosing illnesses has always been challenging, especially when a wide range of symptoms can indicate an equally wide range of ailments. However, diagnostic equipment has advanced significantly, and it’s now no longer as challenging as it used to be. For example, nurses can use handheld biosensors that require a body specimen and receive definitive answers. They can also utilize ultrasound machines for the best chance of success while placing an IV.
U.S. hospitals are struggling to see patients in a timely manner amidst hours-long backlogs.
The rise in Omicron variant cases has left many US hospitals unable to cope with the number of patients being admitted, with ERs bearing the brunt.
The backlog is not only causing problems for COVID-19 patients but also for people suffering from various other ailments wh are unable to get seen as soon as s they should be. Many urgent procedures have also been paused as medics desperately try to clear the backlog.
California man, May Gleason, took his father Eugene, 92, to a local emergency room a week ago as he required a blood transfusion to treat his blood disorder The procedure, which should have taken a maximum of 10 hours, turned into a 48-hour ordeal, as medics struggled to attend to his, or the many other patients who were sat right beside him’s needs.
Om average, over 144,000 people were admitted to US hospitals with COVID as of January 24th. This was the highest number of recorded COVID patients since the pandemic started, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
A new report from Reason Foundation, Cicero Institute and Pioneer Institute rates every state’s telehealth policy for patient access and ease of providing virtual care.
Millions of Americans tried telehealth for the first time last year as federal officials and governors temporarily lifted restrictions that limited patient access to virtual care. But many of these restrictions on practices like speaking with doctors across state lines, recording voice messages with care instructions, and mandating insurance coverage have been reinstated, the new report finds.
“Once the public health emergency declarations started to end or executive orders were withdrawn many of the new flexibilities for providers, insurers, and patients were lost overnight,” said Vittorio Nastasi, policy analyst at Reason Foundation and co-author of the report. “States need to adopt a number of telehealth reforms to provide their residents better access to this safe and effective virtual care.”
Nationally, the study finds that several states that have been hardest hit by the pandemic have the most restrictive telehealth laws. These states include New York, California, and Connecticut which have not signed up for interstate licensing compacts and have coverage parity mandates that offer no flexibility between the insurer and provider.
Only three states — Arizona, Florida, and Indiana — allow all providers to easily practice telehealth across state lines. Forty-seven others have arbitrary barriers in place that limit patients’ access to specialists and available appointments based purely on residency.
On a positive note, almost all states have removed the requirement that a patient must first see a provider in-person before they can use telehealth services, the exception being Tennessee, while Alaska and West Virginia require an in-person visit before certain services can be provided. Another 20 states allow full independent practice for nurse practitioners without the supervision of a physician.
The report highlights telehealth policy best practices for states. “While they cannot and should not replace all in-person medical appointments, virtual visits can save patients time and help them avoid germ-filled waiting rooms. Providers can also take some pressure off overburdened systems as they can see patients from an office or home,” writes report co-author Josh Archambault, a senior fellow with Cicero Institute and Pioneer Institute.
While FitBit Watches and smartphone apps have certainly made an impact on personal health and wellbeing,healthcare technology is also revolutionizing the entire medical industry. This is especially true in the field of recovery from addiction disorders.
Technology today is enabling medical professionals and rehabilitation facilities to effectively provide healthcare to individuals who desperately need assistance with substance abuse. Furthermore, technology helps people with addiction disorders by placing powerful data in the hands of healthcare providers and individuals struggling with addiction.
As of 2021, there are over20 million Americans suffering from some type of addiction disorder. Regrettably, this number is on the rise. Political upheavals, economic instability and pandemic-related tribulations are affecting millions of Americans, and this contributes to the number of deaths from drug overdose to skyrocket in to an all-time high in 2022.
Thankfully, medical technology is bridging the gap for people in need by efficiently and effectively rendering aid to people seeking recovery.
How Technology Plays A Role In Addiction Recovery
While the aforementioned statistics are staggering, there is hope, and technology is at the forefront of millions receiving treatment they deserve. Here are a few examples of how technology is helping people with addiction disorders.
1) Telehealth Services
While the pandemic has left adverse effects on the American population, it has also forced the medical industry to make improvements. Telehealth is a network of health-centric services and information that is utilized and accessed over the internet. People with addiction disorders or in recovery can make appointments online to see their doctors, refill prescriptions or even receive rehabilitative care through telehealth services. This reduces a lot of stress for many people struggling with addictions. In the past, the only option for in-patient rehabilitation was to physically attend a recovery facility. Telehealth allows patients in rehab to safely move through the recovery process in the comfort of their own homes.
By John Guiliana, DPM, MS, medical director of podiatry, ModMed.
The flaws in our healthcare system that have bloated the cost of care to nearly one-fifth of the United States gross domestic product are too numerous to list. However, as a physician, I would like to highlight some issues from a clinical perspective, especially the value of preventive care.
Physicians and care providers wield tremendous power to drive down the cost of healthcare. They can champion a higher standard of care while limiting avoidable medical expenses. One overall strategy is stressing wellness and prevention to keep people out of doctors’ offices and hospitals. But we can’t do it alone.
Both providers and payers need to act. When it comes to completely rethinking traditional reimbursement models, payers need to be on board.
Among the best practices is a more “hands-on approach” to preventive care, taking full advantage of technologies that already exist. Incorporating these technologies effectively can include creating more digital “touchpoints” with patients to keep them engaged in their own care. Greater patient involvement can also help them make more informed decisions and decrease time wasted through staff-assisted scheduling and data entry.
Furthermore, patient engagement tools can cut unnecessary spending by increasing efficiency. The potential also exists for greater patient engagement to translate to marked improvements in patient outcomes.
At the same time, practices that leverage these technologies successfully could also see lower costs.
A call to recognize telehealth’s role
When medical technologies become routine in a practice setting, they can also help with routine care – such as a patient’s annual or bi-annual in-person visit. These regular wellness visits, for example, can be elevated through more frequent interactions between physicians and their patients, including telehealth services. In fact, efforts to expand telehealth services out of necessity during the COVID-19 pandemic are translating to enhanced accessibility to physicians for patients.
On top of the increased convenience provided by telehealth platforms, patients trusted and appreciated the ability to interact with physicians via digital technologies during the pandemic, a March 2021 study revealed. Out of 368 patients surveyed, 47% said they were “very satisfied’ with the virtual health visit and another 35% were ‘satisfied.”
At the same time, payer models need to reflect the increasing popularity of telehealth services. In other words, payers need to catch up and increase reimbursement for appointments that include telehealth consultations.
In that sense, payers will be critical to improving preventive care as well. It is pretty simple. Without fair reimbursement, telehealth has no chance of remaining viable for providers.
On a positive note, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) expanded coverage for telehealth services during COVID-19. What will happen after the pandemic subsides remains unknown, so more permanent legislation is needed to continue virtual health care coverage.
Virtual services have now become the new normal with telehealth being a prime example. Now if we want an annual checkup or consultation, we can talk to a doctor from the comfort of our own home. But why haven’t we always taken advantage of this virtual alternative?
Until the pandemic highlighted the need for more digital services and flexibility, the healthcare industry had been hesitant to embrace virtual alternatives like telehealth. Traditionally, both patients and doctors have (understandably) preferred in-person visits and consultations. Patients believed in-person visits were more thorough, personal, and safe, while providing an opportunity to become more comfortable with their providers.
In the height of the pandemic, physicians and healthcare professionals worked hard to mitigate exposure by avoiding unnecessary contact with others. Sometimes, in-person follow-up appointments just weren’t necessary. Rather than risk unnecessary exposure, doctors and healthcare facilities began embracing telehealth — virtual visits leveraging telecommunications technology.
During this time, patients were also worried about their access to quality healthcare as less and less in-person visits were possible. This inevitably fostered the rise of telehealth as a safe and effective way to address patient concerns without the physical risk. Since then, many physicians have become so dedicated to telehealth that they refuse to see patients exclusively in-person. Furthermore, it has spawned an entirely new medical practice with companies like Covenant Health Virtual Care, now employing doctors solely to provide virtual telemedicine services.
However – as many physicians and patients have learned – telehealth brings new challenges, and those problems are exacerbated in underserved communities with limited and unreliable Internet infrastructure. These communities tend to be far (the edge) from major cities where hospitals and medical practices are often located (the core), resulting in an even greater need for access to reliable telehealth services.
Providing telehealth solutions for your patients is one of the best ways for you to increase your patient’s health outcomes. Today, it’s easier for you to provide healthcare services to your patients with the advancement in telehealth technology. However, maintaining telehealth services for your healthcare organization is not as easy as it sounds. It needs a good workflow system that can help you handle the patient’s requests each day. Here are 4 best practices for building a long-term telehealth workflow:
Get Updated on the Staff Appointment Availability
First, you need to understand that the success of your telehealth services will depend on your staff availability. In your healthcare organization, you need to have some staff ready for telehealth appointments, whether via live video conferencing or instant messaging, and you need them to handle the patient’s requests right away. It’s important for you not to let your patients wait for too long just to get them connected to one of your healthcare professionals.
I’ve heard from several home healthcare agency administrators that they are preparing to don their scrubs for the first time in years to enter the front lines. This is because the long-term care industry continues to face one of its greatest threats in history, a classic business crisis of supply and demand.
In a recent survey, 88% of respondents stated their home care business was negatively affected by the caregiver shortage, and another survey reported in Bloomberg Businessweek saw 85 percent of organizations in Wisconsin did not possess the necessary staff to cover the shifts scheduled.
This problem extends nationwide. Clinicians across the United States have been tasked with providing care to an increasing patient population, which will continue to grow with what is commonly cited as the “Silver Tsunami” of 10,000 baby boomers turning 65 every day.
As a result, the aging population is anticipated to reach 88 million in 2050. And yet, we must consider that many retiring nurses are baby boomers fated to become patients themselves. Without enough staff to meet the needs of the growing patient population, organizations are plagued by missed visits and the consequences. Fortunately, some good has come amid the pandemic, most notably that technology has been given a boost.
Technology has also become much more prominent in healthcare with secure mobile communication that enables caregivers to spend more time on patients, along with wearable devices to track activity data and artificial intelligence to predict outcomes. Telehealth and remote care monitoring have grown exponentially due to COVID-19 and can quickly address the staffing crisis by augmenting existing practices and boosting efficiency and productivity.
Benefits of Telehealth
Through its ability to maintain patient-provider relationships over a distance, even the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) acknowledged telehealth as an essential component in care continuity. Telehealth also eases the impact of nursing shortages in rural communities and beyond by improving efficiency, as caregivers utilizing telehealth can help remotely care for more patients in less time.
Telehealth is far more than a technology that allows patients to be monitored virtually within a hospital by a specialist or at home by a provider. Although these are key areas for hospitals to utilize telehealth for patients to access specialists and for home care – there is so much more.
My definition of telehealth is that it is a healthcare strategy to be utilized to dramatically improve the care of patients and communities and to support families who care for patients.
4 Ways Telehealth Can Improve Hospital Operations
Telehealth can aid in reducing hospital readmissions as patient behaviors account for most of the readmissions from medication nonadherence, not scheduling follow-up appointments and, not having access to equipment or supplies.
Proactively utilizing telehealth for high-risk patients and for the elderly, to maintain care at home and ensure health outcomes.
Innovative areas where telehealth can be used include rehabilitation care, mental health resources, and even second opinions.
Telehealth can be used within hospital marketing campaigns to increase awareness and utilization of the service.
As a seasoned industry expert in the healthcare industry, and the CEO and founder of VIE Healthcare Consulting, I am considered a trusted advisor to hospital leaders on operational strategies within margin improvement, process improvements, technology/telehealth, the patient experience, and growth opportunities.
Since founding VIE in 1999, my team and I have achieved over $785 million in non-salary cost savings and revenue improvements for clients globally. My goal is to continuously encourage hospital leaders to achieve their boldest vision and in order to help them do so, I have created the healthcare sector’s only cost savings strategy methodology that is proven to extract unnecessary costs.
For healthcare providers, developing a specific telehealth strategy is key to your overall strategic plan. To begin, I will provide you with five self-assessment strategies to help you further define, develop and deploy a comprehensive telehealth strategy in your organization.