In 2020, the way the world functioned changed. With stay-at-home orders leading to an explosion in telecommuting, telehealth, and virtual collaboration, healthcare had a major consideration during this transition: security. How do you keep patient data secure in a virtual world? Additionally, how do you connect Covid patients in isolation rooms with both care teams and their families? Luckily, technology found its way into every aspect of healthcare, bringing innovation into a historically traditional industry.
One thing’s for sure, 2020 fundamentally changed the way that we offer healthcare around the world, for the better.
The growth in telehealth during 2020 was staggering. An already existing option in some areas with small pockets of users prior to 2020, telehealth is the ability to meet with providers for appointments using video conferencing. In March of 2020, telehealth visits were up 154% from the previous year due to COVID-19. The CDC mentions the benefits of telehealth, including “expanding access to care, reducing disease exposure for staff and patients, preserving scarce supplies of personal protective equipment, and reducing patient demand on facilities.”
With secure apps like Teladoc, patients can meet with doctors for check ups, therapy sessions, regular visits, and more. Patients can message with providers using apps like MyChart and access their records, have a virtual visit, schedule appointments, and more.
Telehealth provides the exciting opportunity for people to see specialists and meet with doctors in areas where they otherwise would not have access to these specialty teams and services.
During both the first and second waves of COVID-19, most healthcare facilities had to make the difficult decision to completely close their doors to visitors in order to slow the spread and protect patients and healthcare workers. Enter: virtual visits with families and loved ones. By incorporating iPads, FaceTiming, and video calls with families, patients’ spirits have been lifted, and families have been able to check in on family members who otherwise wouldn’t have been able to call themselves.
Johns Hopkins even created a Virtual Resource Guide to help their patients’ families navigate the new world of video conferencing, Zoom, and virtual visits, many of whom were using these tools for the first time.
Source: Johns Hopkins
During COVID-19, apps helped with more than televisits. Apps were developed to quickly help employees to track and monitor symptoms of Covid, and for workplaces to screen employees for Covid symptoms. They helped with contact tracing, and were even developed to help people sick with coronavirus to manage their illness from home. Here are a few apps developed in response to COVID-19.
During COVID-19, healthcare facilities still had to hold daily rounds, train new employees, hold family team meetings, all with restrictions on the number of employees who could physically be in one room at a time due to social distancing precautions. This presented a challenge for many healthcare teams. How could they include interdisciplinary teams, patients, and families all at once, securely? Video conferencing technology.
St. Louis Children’s Hospital began conducting virtual rounds with patients, families, and in-person care teams with the Meeting Owl.
Dr. Stuart Sweet, Director of the Pediatric Lung Transplant Program at St. Louis Children’s Hospital, told Owl Labs that he hopes that connecting care teams virtually will extend beyond the pandemic, adding the ability for people who otherwise weren’t able to contribute to have a say during care team discussions and patient rounding.
Beyond video conferencing tools like Zoom, many healthcare teams used tools like Microsoft Teams to conduct regular team meetings and provide education, onboarding, and updates.
Collaboration tools and other healthcare technology like remote patient monitoring has helped UCLA track patients after they’re discharged, connecting inpatient teams with outpatient teams. Using collaborative, patient-centered tools like this can improve patient outcomes, prevent readmissions, and save healthcare organizations money.
While healthcare may look much different in 2021 than it did in 2019, healthcare providers are excited about the newly digitized world of patient care.