By Peter Ziese
COVID-19 has impacted our lives in every way, particularly in the healthcare industry, with the pandemic putting pressure on an already strained healthcare ecosystem.
But along with the challenges it brought, it’s also important to recognize and reflect on the innovation and perseverance we’ve seen come out of the healthcare industry during this time. From healthcare systems quickly pivoting protocols and ways of working to keep their staff and patients safe, to the impressive feat of developing and distributing vaccines in under a year. So, the next big question is: where do we go from here?
As we look ahead and aim to adopt long term strategies for the future, I envision three key areas that healthcare organizations should prioritize: putting healthcare providers first, leveraging technology to expand care outside of the hospital and utilizing scalable solutions to increase preparedness.
Putting healthcare providers first
As the pandemic persists, healthcare workers are continuing to experience volumes of sick patients and workloads that have never been seen before, increasing their levels of burnout and stress. It’s imperative that we begin to group clinician safety in with patient safety, as one can’t exist on its own without the support of the other. We must help alleviate their burdens, while also creating tools that support their workflows and putting in place protocols that help keep them safe.
An important way to help relieve this strain is by looking to technologies within the hospital, such as remote patient monitoring. Continuous monitoring has always been an asset in patient care, ensuring patients are monitored even when a physician isn’t in the room, and alerting them when a patient’s condition changes. But, this technology has become invaluable during the pandemic as it can help minimize physical touchpoints with highly contagious patients by detecting and alerting clinicians of changes to their condition without needing to be at the bedside – this ensures patients have the oversight and care they need, while physicians can keep an eye from a distance where possible. While this helps with physical safety, clinical decision support (CDS) tools also offer actionable clinical insights to clinicians, extracted from massive volumes of data, helping them determine which patients need attention most immediately.
COVID-19 also forced health systems to recognize another area of clinician safety that needed to be prioritized – critical care training. With large patient influxes, critical care nurses must care for their own critical care patients and also supervise non-critical care nurses to ensure standard levels of care are maintained. Health systems will need to implement standard protocols for cross-training staff – with an emphasis on critical care – so that clinicians feel informed about how to keep themselves and their patients safe. To provide additional support on top of cross-training, hospitals can utilize tele-ICU programs to further expand critical care capabilities. By helping to enable off-site clinicians in a centralized location to support bedside staff and help manage patients, care teams can be supplemented and offer expanded patient care.