How Technology is Changing Healthcare, Driven by the Pandemic

The BTC Team

Now more than ten months since the CDC confirmed the first Coronavirus case in the U.S., efforts by healthcare professionals, hospitals, and the technology used to treat patients suffering from this disease have also more broadly changed the way healthcare is being delivered. What technological advancements have been made? How are these changes keeping patients safe during the pandemic? And what does this mean for the future of healthcare delivery? Keep reading below to learn more.

How has technology played a role during the pandemic?

Virtual solutions:

“The pandemic has increased the need for our healthcare system to adopt a more proactive care model, an approach that is all about anticipating patients’ needs before an emergency healthcare event,” Adam Sabloff, the founder and CEO of VirtualHealth said. As a result, technology such as mobile contact tracing, virtual care solutions, remote patient monitoring, patient portals, and other technologies have been used to treat patients and gain valuable data to anticipate patients’ needs.

According to a survey by Forrester and the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society on how to benchmark your COVID-19 digital health response plan, virtual solutions ranked the highest among survey participants. Why? Virtual solutions such as remote patient monitoring and video appointments have helped contain the disease’s spread by reducing the number of individuals in waiting rooms and facilities that might otherwise be crowded. Using these remote telemedicine options also provides patients with direct access to healthcare providers, their medical information, and other valuable tools.

Things that can be improved moving forward, such as accommodating significant growth for virtual visits, improving integration between these new solutions and clinical workflows, and improving data-sharing features, are vital areas that healthcare organizations can work on to deal with future scenarios similar to the pandemic.

Contact tracing:

Another type of technology that has been key in helping track and understand this virus’s spread and impact is contact tracing. During the beginning of the pandemic, contact tracing was mostly done manually. However, this process has been quickly digitized to gain more accurate and accessible data.

To do this, companies have developed contact-tracing technology such as smartphone apps, online surveys, and data aggregators. Contact tracing apps use GPS, Bluetooth, and other smartphone features to determine when people are close to one another and for how long. As for online surveys, they require a participant to supply information about symptoms, location, age, gender, medical condition, and contact with COVID-positive individuals.

Lastly, data aggregators collect location information from smartphones to provide insights such as COVID-19 cases by location. Other apps might use datasets maintained by academic institutions, governments, and open-source projects. Most offer risk assessments and provide data-visualization features to delve into the data and interpret trends.

However, despite having all of these options to contact trace, further improvements can be made, such as having a broad adoption of these types of technology, timely reporting of confirmed diagnoses, and encouragement to share data. Currently, only 17 states and the District of Columbia are utilizing apps such as California COVID Notify to alert residents if they have been exposed to COVID-19 as a result of being close to someone else who has the virus.

Another concern related to using apps, online surveys, and data aggregators to contact trace is the sensitive nature of the collected information. As a result, strong privacy and ethical safeguards need to be worked on and put into place.

Remote patient monitoring

Increased amounts of technology are being used to treat patients through remote patient monitoring, which is the software, hardware, and digital connection that captures and transmits data through the internet. Many remote patient monitoring tools are commonly used consumer devices such as an Apple Watch or Fitbit. They can capture everything from exercise to heart rate, pulse, blood pressure, and more. Other remote monitoring devices are patient-implanted such as cardiac devices that sync to a transmitter in a hospital or other external tracking health devices such as a glucose monitor. This technology aims to reduce costs, provide proactive care, and allow patients to continue their lives while tracking their healthcare outcomes.

Why it works

Patients get to recover at home. Individuals diagnosed with COVID-19 who have milder symptoms can recover in the comfort of their own home while still under the care and surveillance of their medical team.

Reduces potential for transmission. For example, Mount Sinai Health System is streaming real-time video feeds of inpatient rooms to nursing stations to monitor and communicate with patients, reduce physical contact, and lower transmission risk.

Where more work is needed

There’s a definite need for remote patient monitoring solutions with the number of patients suffering from COVID-19, but many healthcare organizations were not prepared to be surveilling this many patients at once—and therefore don’t have the infrastructure to do so. To address this, changes such as accelerating virtual and digitally-enabled care by making electronic health record’s (EHR) as easy as possible to use for clinicians or, using EHRs to provide alerts to identify and help treat particularly at-risk patients, or creating user-friendly patient portals, are just a few ways this can be improved.

Developing scalable solutions. Technology solutions need to be scalable to improve patient care and integrate with clinical workflows. Not all remote patient monitoring solutions are currently scalable, requiring more improvements before fully incorporated into a healthcare organization.

So, what does all of this mean for the future of healthcare? More room to grow and build off the technology being developed during the pandemic to continuously create improved options to deal with future health crises and improve healthcare delivery. Options could include creating more scalable remote patient monitoring solutions to develop new contact tracing apps that protect individuals’ information or more virtual solutions to help patients with chronic conditions such as heart failure, atrial fibrillation, or other virus events such as COVID-19, etc.

So, how can BTC play a role in this process?

With demonstrable experience developing and deploying web, mobile, and Cloud-native applications, as well as product engineering and quality assurance testing, Boston Technology Corporation can help your healthcare organization build, maintain, and operate technology solutions to adopt a safer, scalable, and more proactive care model. To see how BTC can help you achieve this, click here to learn more.

[Image source: Photo created by ijeab on freepik]


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