By ROBIN CAVANAUGH
Digital health technology is playing a critical role in the Covid-19 public health crisis by helping support patient-provider connection across the care continuum. Since the pandemic started back in March, clinicians have seen many patients with potential symptoms looking for care. It’s an uncertain and scary time, especially for those who are at risk and may be infected; but, hospitals and health systems are continuing to implement new processes to help patients and their families receive personalized care in real-time. The healthcare industry overall is looking to technology to help engage patients and their families to take a more active role in their own healthcare. Let’s take a closer look at the top three technologies that will continue to play a major role in fighting this pandemic, as the industry prepares for a potential second wave.
RPM software is a game-changer
Short of patients having a leading infectious disease physician in their pockets at all times, remote patient monitoring (RPM) software is the next best thing. RPM solutions allow patients and their families to self-monitor and self-manage their symptoms at home while in quarantine. This not only helps reduce transmission, but it enables clinical teams to communicate with patients and view real-time data around their current status. If symptoms escalate, their provider will be automatically notified and can intervene appropriately.
RPM solutions provide an avenue for healthcare providers to change lives for the better – by encouraging patients to take an active role in their own health and allowing providers to detect problems early before complications escalate. Not only are RPM solutions changing the way healthcare is delivered, improving outcomes and reducing costs, but most importantly, they can offer virtual support for patients during the pandemic.
The technology is one of the best tools that healthcare facilities should be leaning on right now, especially with a second wave looming. It can reduce the risk of infection for clinicians, which ultimately should slow the spread of the disease, allowing patients to practice social distancing by staying at home. With the right platform and process in place, the patient can feel like he or she is having a conversation with their care team that focuses on the clinical, behavioral and social aspects of their journey.
As the rest of the year unfolds and even beyond the pandemic, we will see RPM solutions continue to grow in popularity, enabling consumers to make less visits to the doctor. Incorporating patient-generated health data with artificial intelligence (AI) will make it easier for clinicians to monitor patients from afar and will help pre-screen patients, avoiding the need for in-person attention.
AI will drive personalization and engagement to an all-time high
It’s no secret that AI capabilities have been thrust into the spotlight in 2020. We’ve seen just how important it is for predictive guidance to enhance patient workflows due to such high volumes of patients across the country. Clinicians have been increasingly delivering the right modality of treatment, adjusting treatment recommendations as needed, and triaging patients to the right location based on their current symptoms, whether it’s the ER, urgent care, or at-home video consultation. Additionally, predictive analytics will continue to guide patient care by suggesting services that similar patients have used, augmenting treatment protocols with healthy living suggestions and curating information to resources that may be helpful, especially in cases where a patient may have had potential exposure to Covid-19.
While new advancements like this continue to be unveiled, we’ll see an even greater emphasis placed on implementing AI and machine learning-driven solutions over the next few years, as healthcare organizations look to leverage the tools to provide a better standard of care, especially with the threat of a potential second wave of infections. Next year, when new cases are, hopefully, under control, we’ll see many providers refocus efforts and turn back to new technologies to improve their day-to-day operations through the use of voice-controlled and patient-facing healthcare applications, remote patient monitoring solutions, and tools that provide a deeper, more real-time sentiment analysis.
Telehealth is here to stay
Though telemedicine and telehealth were not new practices before the pandemic struck, these capabilities, like AI, have also come to the forefront this year. The role of telehealth within the industry has grown exponentially over the past few months, serving as one of the best ways to reduce the risk of exposure to patients, clinicians and families. Patient engagement tools that support telehealth have played a crucial role in facilitating remote connection, keeping patients out of hospital rooms, unless it is deemed necessary.
Over the next year, we should expect to see telehealth continue to take many different forms within many sectors of the healthcare space. Just like in other parts of their lives, consumers are craving the convenience and the peace of mind that social distancing can offer during a pandemic.
From the increased introduction of triage bots that assist in the routing of healthcare needs to appropriate clinical teams, to even more deployment of video visit capabilities into health system portals, payer applications and third-party service organizations, these changes are all being forcibly fast-tracked due to Covid-19. As consumers become more accustomed and comfortable using these types of technologies, adoption of virtual visits will increase through targeted dynamic communication, adaptive advertisement and user training programs.
Technology of all kinds has long been used to assuage consumer fears during epidemics or natural disasters in addition to enhancing the patient experience during “normal times”, and the Covid-19 pandemic is certainly no different in that respect. Though the rest of 2020 is still unknown, one fact is very clear. Clinicians will need to continue to lean heavily on technology like RPM, AI and telehealth to ensure successful patient outcomes across the board. Whether a facility is directly dealing with Covid-19 patients or not, all aspects of the healthcare ecosystem have a role in limiting exposure to reduce the spread.