Originally posted 30/01/2023 Here by Enrique Estrada,Sr. Director of Healthcare Industry Solutions VMWare
It seems every burnout story these days can be attributed to COVID-19 and how could it not? The pandemic exposed the existing protocols and care pathways in place for the past decade that were not dynamic enough to support the limited resources and out-of-date systems supporting current care models. Healthcare systems were oversubscribed and couldn’t deal with their ICU’s high acuity and saturation. It didn’t help that as more was understood about the virus, the rate of change and adoption of new processes remained slow. This led to frustration, physical exhaustion and ultimately the global healthcare system seeing their most important investment—their people—resigning en masse. Healthcare leaders were left scrambling to ensure that care for their communities could still be provided at scale and that their business could still be sustainable. Ultimately, changes to the implementation and adaptation of technology played a substantial role in keeping healthcare accessible and structured throughout the pandemic and beyond.
Taking a data-first approach to support the hospital enterprise
As we transition out of the height of COVID-19, we are seeing new workflows optimized around digital health, new evidence-based protocols implemented and an overall transformation of the patient experience via the adaptation of technology in new ways. Services like telehealth and virtual visits are finally achieving critical mass. We’ve also seen technology augment limited clinical staff with AI for risk scoring and triage. AI demonstrated its value in helping offload remedial tasks and lending itself to more efficient workflows during the intake process and vitals monitoring. Most impressively, we saw creativity within workflows, such as Remote Patient Monitoring (RPM), utilized in non-conventional ways. Healthcare providers managing large at-risk populations pivoted to being proactive about COVID-19 rather than reactive in the ER.
For instance, instead of managing a daily workflow of vitals on an RPM dashboard, providers re-engineered their workflows to look for low blood oxygen levels across their entire patient population. Any RPM patient with a pulse oximeter and blood pressure cuff monitor at home had their data automatically registered in the RPM database. Queried datasets looked for key inclusion criteria that were indicators of infection, resulting in a fully stratified list of the highest at-risk patients that were possibly infected and didn’t even know it. From there, an outreach campaign was put in place to coordinate care before conditions were exacerbated. This was healthcare jiu-jitsu at its finest, using the power of data to tackle COVID-19-related conditions proactively.
IT rolling up its sleeves to accelerate onboarding and access to care
Amid staffing shortages and overloaded waiting rooms, IT teams were tasked with re-engineering their onboarding processes to accelerate access to care. Changes to security orchestrations included single sign-on (SSO), role-based access controls and device attributions that happened swiftly. Instead of taking days to onboard new employees, traveling nurses could be credentialed, begin seeing new patients and have SSO access to platforms (electronic health record, PACS, eRx, etc.) within the hour. This improved digital employee experience at the enterprise prompted the introduction of new best practices for security and identity management. Most importantly, it allowed patients to get the care they needed more promptly.
Care is only as good as the accessibility and quality you can deliver to your patient population. The pandemic forced us to rethink how to leverage technology and data to augment resources and shift to new adoption models and patient experiences. We learned that technology is only the enabler and can’t solve every problem, but how you leverage platforms and manage workflows with technology can lend itself to pursuing better outcomes. While we all hope that there will not be another catastrophic health event like the COVID-19 pandemic, it is important to take the learnings over the past few years and build the technologically driven agility into our systems to help us now and into the future, to be prepared for whatever it may hold.