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Digital doctors – remote healthcare services become the new norm

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The pandemic forced healthcare organisations to accelerate their digital transformation

With their ability to collect, analyse and transmit health data, cloud-based tools are rapidly changing healthcare delivery. Matt Barnes, head of health & housing at Maintel, tells Health Tech World that for patients and clinicians, these applications are playing a central part in monitoring and preventing chronic illnesses, with the capacity to evolve the future of care.

The Covid-19 crisis has stretched healthcare organisations to near breaking point. This adversity has spurred huge innovations in the sector. Hospitals have at times suffered from a lack of resources available to invest in the latest non-essential technologies. However, to maintain the same quality of care during the pandemic, hospitals have had to embrace innovations.

The social distancing protocols have been a major accelerating factor in the uptake and use of digital technologies within the healthcare sector. Remote access has gone from a luxury to a necessity overnight.

While the pandemic forced healthcare organisations to accelerate their digital transformation projects, going forward beyond the pandemic, digital healthcare tools and remote healthcare services will not only become expected, they will become the norm.

But what has the pandemic taught us about best practice when it comes to these digital healthcare services, what steps will need to be taken to improve these services in the future and what are the key benefits we can expect from remote healthcare?

Ease of access to patient data

One area in which digital technologies have proven very successful is remote consultations. There has been a huge increase in online, video, and telephone consultations, ensuring that care could continue whilst reducing risk to staff and patients. However, to carry out check-ups from home, doctors need access to patient data from anywhere.

As doctors increasingly work from home, the demand on networks is significantly increasing. Laptops, smartphones and tablets all require secure and reliable access to networks and applications. As a result, it’s paramount that healthcare has the right infrastructure to deal with the change in demand and achieve a solid infrastructure and fluid interoperability of data across organisations.

With their ability to collect, analyse and transmit health data, cloud-based tools are rapidly changing healthcare delivery. For patients and clinicians, these applications are playing a central part in monitoring and preventing chronic illnesses, with the capacity to evolve the future of care.

Data that has the power to save lives must be managed well. Cloud-enabled security delivers trusted access to healthcare data and applications from any device, at any time and at any location. If implemented correctly, remote access to patient data will radically improve the ability of healthcare organisations to better service hard to reach communities.

Increased efficiency and cost savings

Covid-19 has pushed healthcare organisations well past what was previously seen as 100 per cent capacity. Consequently, finding innovative ways to increase efficiency, replace cumbersome paper processes, and enhance clinician productivity by embracing the latest digital technologies are top priorities.

Technology enables clinicians to be more productive by allowing them to prioritise patient care, substantially improving the productivity of staff. Enabling staff to deliver more services in the community and providing clinicians with access to the right tools to operate and improve communication flow, can transform the healthcare experience.

Additionally, technology can improve employee productivity by supporting clinicians working from home and enabling remote team-working across different locations, which speeds-up decision-making. Also, instant chat and document-sharing can assist teams in working together more effectively. Such tools help to ensure the right staff are at the right place at the right time during emergency situations, increasing staff availability and improving patient outcomes.

Looking beyond the Covid-19 crisis, hospitals face a myriad of day-to-day challenges including lengthy patient waiting times, frustrated staff, poor patient care, outdated technology, and ageing facilities. The digital technologies embraced over the last couple of months will greatly increase efficiency and cost savings, tackling many of the previous challenges faced by the industry.

Higher-quality care

A positive patient outcome is the end goal for all healthcare organisation. However, there is mounting pressure on providers to improve the patient experience. The often-slow moving technological progress associated with public organisations has led to a lack of innovation compared with other aspects of patients’ lives.

Interactions are often paper based or require one-to-one communications with an administrator. This leads to error, loss of important information, duplication, and increased staffing requirements. Technology can help to enhance the patient experience by increasing the efficiency of those interactions, allowing quicker rescheduling of appointments, better bed utilisation, and faster sharing of information. Efficient provision of information, good communication with staff, and timely guidance can all drastically improve patient care.

Patient experience can also be improved by enhancing the efficiency of the touch-points patients use to access care. Providing non-intrusive technology that removes unnecessary interactions with healthcare services can reduce pressure on staff and speed up patient care. Utilising modern digital communication systems that can quickly provide information, handle calls efficiently, and integrate online and on-phone communications can significantly improve the healthcare experience for both staff and patients.

Reduced employee stress

Healthcare professionals have been working longer hours throughout the pandemic causing fears of burnout and fatigue. The heightened pressure surrounding Covid-19 has also taken its toll on those in the industry. Embracing digital technologies puts healthcare workers back in control of how they spend their time at work and greatly reduces the risks of stress and burnout.

The roles of doctors and nurses are stressful enough. The technologies they use should reduce this not compound this. Therefore, ensuring staff are given the correct information at right time during emergency situations or increasing staff availability are both paramount to reducing unnecessary stress.

Having the ability to take a step back when needed is important. Doctors also sometimes need to be able to perform their duties to the same standard as they would in person remotely. This means providing staff with not only the tools but the training they need to be productive and to enable them to be able to collaborate wherever they are and whenever needed.

Providing the right technology and training to those in the healthcare industry is a must. Ensuring that they can do their jobs unimpeded is paramount to ensuring patients receive higher-quality care.

Remote technologies have proven that they work in the toughest of times, even providing tangible benefits including time saved, cost and efficiency. Consequently, the new more streamlined ways to communicate across healthcare are expected to stay long after COVID-19 and we can expect remote healthcare to become an essential part of the jigsaw of a great healthcare service.

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