"Still, there’s often confusion about who is caring for the patient ... " Playing off of Jimmy the Greek's comment,…
Contactless Tech Surge Supports Healthcare’s Quadruple Aim
By John Sola
John Sola is senior product manager for Ascom Americas of Morrisville, NC.
In a matter of months, the COVID-19 pandemic precipitated digital transformation across a wide swath of industries, driven by contactless operations that improve productivity and mitigate the need for physical interaction. Whether it’s curbside pickup, a digital guitar lesson, or delivery of lunch to your front porch with automatic digital payment on receipt, contactless service has become commonplace across so many areas of our lives. It has led to new business models that are yielding innovative and efficient products and services.
We have witnessed its significant impact on healthcare as well. Telehealth usage, for instance, has surged since the pandemic began, allowing providers to deliver safe and timely access to healthcare services. According to a recent McKinsey & Company Telehealth report, “new analysis indicates telehealth use has increased 38X from the pre-COVID-19 baseline.”
Technology has been a key driver for health systems in attaining performance goals since the Triple Aim concept – patient experience, lower costs, better outcomes – was first developed by IHE in 2007. It was later expanded by many organizations to include a fourth (“Quadruple”) aim incorporating the importance of improving the work life of clinicians and staff.
To support the Quadruple Aim, healthcare’s utilization of technology is evolving rapidly. Recent advances such as IoT, big data, AI, and wearables enable providers to transition treatment from passive and reactive to predictive and proactive. The rapid pace of digitalization was aptly highlighted by Mayo Clinic’s Bart Demaershalk, MD: “The COVID-19 pandemic has essentially accelerated US digital health by about 10 years.” Contactless healthcare is positioned to support this shift in care delivery from the emergency room and hospital bed to the patient’s home, linking data-rich health observations to clinical knowledge and decision marketing.
One such example is ASL Napoli 1 Centro, a group of hospitals in Napoli, Italy. A remote monitoring solution for at-home COVID patients offers a level of service halfway between hospital care and the home. A package of wearable medical devices provides monitoring for oxygen saturation, heart rate, and body temperature, along with non-invasive spot-check blood pressure measurements. The service was managed by hospital general practitioners using medical device surveillance and clinical decision support system (CDSS) software. Of the 500+ patients monitored during a certain period, less than 10% required hospitalization. Based on the program’s effectiveness, the hospital intends to continue offering the contactless solution after the COVID emergency for managing patients with chronic conditions.
As ASL Napoli 1 Centro shows us, the movement to prediction and prevention can be accomplished quickly and efficiently when it’s coupled with contactless technologies, such as wearable medical devices. Acquired vital signs can be analyzed in real time with CDSS-based early-warning scoring and other clinical measures to detect or predict patient deterioration. The data must be presented in a meaningful, understandable way if it is to be useful for decision-making and timely clinical intervention. Such solutions fit squarely in the objectives of the Quadruple Aim. It provides patients peace of mind that their condition is being watched closely. It helps manage more patients with fewer staff. It improves outcomes by acting sooner. It supports overburdened nurses by streamlining the process of data collection and validation.
As the way we approach healthcare continues to change, contactless technologies can help address existing and future care challenges, such as pandemics, the wave of aging Baby Boomers, and a looming shortage of nurses. Hastened by COVID, contactless care is here to stay, offering new and transformative opportunities for providers worldwide.