Rapidly advancing technology has made its presence felt in many branches of the healthcare sector, causing dramatic and drastic changes. Healthcare professionals today rely on technology in many different ways – from maintaining documents and keeping records to optimizing patient out-times and remote treatments. Not to mention the ability to provide more accurate diagnoses.
After years of effort to sort out PR, regulatory, and reimbursement challenges, telemedicine appears to be on the right track of becoming commonplace, ready to represent a sizable portion of care delivery. That near-term future has crafted a new term – virtual hospitals.
Catch the definition, if you can
Now, what does that term actually mean? We’re certainly talking about telemedicine, but that can mean a lot of different things to different people. Is it about iPad chats between doctors and rural patients, or about the implementation of IoT technology for AI-powered remote monitoring? The fact is that even professionals who’ve been involved with connected health technologies for over 20 years are not able to catch the definition by its tail.
The meaning behind “virtual hospital” usually varies by organization. In most cases, it stands for the group of intensive care physicians who are working in a call center environment. There’s a lot of screens and technology involved, but mostly to guide other users in remote places. Many smaller institutions, besides the fact that they’re difficult to reach, also don’t have full-time specialists. Doctors from virtual hospitals can prevent the waste of time by guiding the staff through medical procedures in an emergency or in critical cases.
Other organizations have embraced the concept of virtual hospitals as central freestanding facilities staffed with healthcare professionals. The best-known example of this concept is the St.Louis-based Mercy Virtual Care Center, opened in 2015 and labeled as the first virtual hospital. Their aim is to reduce the time it takes patients to meet their healthcare providers, but also to eliminate the need for very sick patients to come into hospitals frequently.
Efficient access across the globe
The term ?virtual? may not be the best pick since it sounds like it’s not real, while the provided care is very real. The point is that clinicians can be located anywhere across the globe. Although almost none of them dub themselves as a virtual hospital, around 65% of U.S. hospitals connect patients and practitioners remotely.
On the other hand, a recent survey carried out in Australia has shown that nearly 50% would never visit a virtual hospital. And this is not just because they have Medicare – it’s also about the lack of knowledge on the topic, resulting in the fear that they won’t get the same quality of care as an in-office visit.
To spread across the globe, it’s obvious that this puzzling term needs to be pinned down and explained. So, what does it all boil down to? Its core value is about two things — access and efficiency, and they need to work together.
By Kevin von Keyserling, chief strategy officer, Keyfactor.
As value-based care becomes more prevalent, healthcare delivery organizations (HDOs) are continuously looking to transform the patient care model with goals of reducing costs, optimizing patient outcomes and driving better financial performance. As new channels, delivery agencies, and patients taking greater responsibility in managing their care in the continued shift to telemedicine or virtual healthcare, digital security has become an even more important component of this evolving ecosystem.
Given the growth of connected medical devices, the potential for security lapses from release through use is considerable. While implanted devices draw the most attention, the broader universe of medical care gadgets can also warrant concern. In the U.S. alone, hospitals can average anywhere between 10 to 15 connected devices per-bed. With this kind of scale, the number of security gaps can be significant.
Medical devices that feature wireless connectivity, remote monitoring, and near-field communication technology allow health professionals to adjust and fine tune implanted devices remotely and in real-time. Devices capture and transmit data across many channels and receiving parties, but many fail to incorporate data security protocols and standards. Older devices that remain in the field may be using outdated security software. There is also significant ambiguity on who owns the data, which can result in nobody taking the lead on managing current security practices. Put these factors together and it’s easy to understand why healthcare data is highly susceptible to security failures.
Optimizing Data and Device Security
Healthcare has the highest breach-related costs of any industry at $408 per-stolen record. As patients willingly share personally identifiable information (PII) reliable controls must be in place to protect patient privacy. Every identity within an organization must be covered by layers of digital security, and the process can be broken down into smaller bites to ensure you’re setting the stage for optimized data and device security without taking everything on all at once.
Establish necessary barriers: Improve the strength of targeted devices between devices and outside threats and be aware of your device inventory always – no device should ever be left unattended! Don’t leave cell phones or laptops out in open spaces, but if you do, utilize features such as auto-lock. Ensure that all devices are locked in a restricted and secure area when not in use.
Define your security protocol: Make sure to have a regular cadence in which passwords need to be updated and utilize multi-factor authentication when possible.
Thanks to remarkable innovations in healthcare technology, the days of having to wait for a doctor’s appointment and travel to their surgical practice are becoming a thing of the past. We have now entered an age where, instead of patients having to attend at a medical practice, their doctor can now visit them virtually in hologram form. It sounds like something out of the realms of science fiction, but this is now a wonderful reality. Welcome to the healthcare of the future!
Home Healthcare Adaptations constructed this infographic, which takes a look at the route that healthcare is set to take in the foreseeable future. The virtual healthcare method outlined above has the potential to create vast savings for the healthcare industry, both financially and in terms of human hours. Indeed, an average reduction of just five minutes in ambulatory visits could possibly free up $58 million in physician capacity.
This new virtual healthcare world could prove highly beneficial both for doctors and the general public. Healthcare professionals can save time on treating patients, which in turn enables them to treat a larger number of patients, and it also reduces the need for them to physically visit a patient’s home, as they can now do so through a hologram from their surgical practice. For patients, it means they don’t have to spend time travelling to a surgical practice and, with doctors able to tend to patients more quickly, it will also reduce patients’ waiting time to receive vital treatment.
Despite these obvious benefits, there is still some resistance to virtual healthcare, with a viewpoint that it will be costly to implement and will require medical professionals to become licencsed telemedicine practitioners. However, as the world becomes more technologically advanced in all aspects, it is hard to see these wonderful new medical practices not becoming regularly used in the near future.