Innovation

 

The COVID-19 pandemic and the impact that it has had on social norms, personal interactions, communication, and healthcare has created an environment where healthcare providers are seeking and embracing new creative ways to interact with staff, visitors and patients.

Healthcare providers are faced with unplanned expenditures on PPE, ventilators, and other expenses related to the treatment of COVID-19 patients while at the same time experiencing reduced revenues from the curtailment of elective procedures and some patients deferring care.

In this financially challenging situation, healthcare providers are prioritizing investments that increase staff and patient safety and allow them to continue to serve their patient populations in an effective and efficient manner.

Telehealth was a fallback during the early days of the pandemic and many providers scrambled to quickly implement telehealth capabilities for their patients.  Hospitals quickly rushed to offer telehealth sessions as an option to in person visits.  Actions by payers to cover telehealth appointments and relaxation of certain HIPAA requirements assisted in the adoption of telehealth solutions.  As medical facilities reopen to elective procedures and return to more normal operations, they indicate that telehealth will continue to be a part of their solution offerings.

Healthcare providers also implemented new procedures to screen staff, visitors, and patients for positive COVID-19 infections.  This included positioning a staff member to take the temperature of individuals entering the facility.  If an individual had a high temperature, they were denied entry and provided with instructions on what to do next.  This solution was not ideal since a staff member who was taking the temperatures could potentially interact with a COVID-19 positive person.  A new industry of temperature screening kiosks was created with high demand for the infrared camera technologies that could quickly and accurately take a person’s temperature in a contactless manner.  Many new vendors entered the market and supply of the infrared technology was constrained by the high demand for these devices.

Healthcare providers also began asking individuals (staff, visitors and patients) screening questions before they arrive at the facility.  This is being done via mobile phone applications, kiosks, phone conversations, and a variety of other methods.  There are a set of COVID-19 related questions that are asked and if the individual answers positively to any of the screening questions, staff is alerted and is able to talk with the individual before the individual comes to the facility.  If it is a patient, the provider may opt for a telehealth session instead of an in-person appointment.  Depending on the specific answers to the screening questions, the individual may receive specific advice on next steps such as quarantining or being tested.

Through a combination of technologies and process strategies, healthcare providers are now able to offer staff, visitors, and patients interactions that are safer and more convenient.  Healthcare providers still face issues related to the financial impact that the pandemic has had and continues to have on their organizations, but they are making necessary investments in PPE, ventilators, and other technologies to ensure the health and safety of anyone who interact during the healthcare process.  The crisis has created an environment where new technologies are being rapidly introduced and deployed in these areas.  Everyone has moved quickly to address the rapidly changing needs of the healthcare industry. 

The goal is to protect the front-line healthcare workers, safely treat patients, and assure that visitors are screened before entering the facility.  Healthcare workers have risen to this monumental challenge and have shown their strength and courage during this pandemic.  They are awesome!