Evolution of Technology in Healthcare Practice during COVID-19 Pandemic

Col Binu Sharma, Senior Director – Nursing, Max Healthcare Group

While the COVID-19 pandemic has placed unmatched demands on healthcare systems, the industry’s response has intensely demonstrated its resilience and ability to bring innovations and technologies to practice quickly. Relating to the COVID-19 pandemic and how healthcare practice benefited at that time by technology can be a great guide for

Technology has been a boon to healthcare especially in the last few years. From improved operational efficiency to standards in patient care, the healthcare transformation has enhanced the entire experience for both patients and medical professionals. Healthcare and technological innovation should go hand-in-hand for a healthier future.

Technology has made significant and revolutionary contributions in the field of healthcare during COVID-19 pandemic, which has eventually helped in handling pandemic in the best possible way. Besides, it has also improved the quality of care in an efficient way, in disease diagnosis and treatment. The healthcare industry has provided amazing examples of technological innovation in goods, services, procedures, business and care delivery models throughout the last few years. For example, Infrared thermometers for thermal screening, pulse oximeters for monitoring patients with COVID-19 at home, rapid diagnostic tests for COVID-19,  advanced supply chain management and E-commerce for managing resources on high demand like PPE, hand sanitizers and medicines, tele clinics and consultations, contact tracing and dissemination of medical advisories through mobile apps, user friendly apps to track hospital beds for COVID-19 patients and running COVID-19 Vaccination drive, Virtual meetings, e- learning etc. COVID-19 crisis also coincided with the progress and growth of several digital technologies including artificial intelligence and robotic technology resulting in further innovation in telemedicine.

Benefits of technology in Healthcare practice

Implementing technology into medical enterprises during COVID-19 has enriched the healthcare practice. Technology has plentiful advantages in healthcare business which allows scope for quick change in healthcare practice.

The following are ways technology impacted healthcare.

  • Easy access to patient medical records
  • Reduction in medical errors
  • Greater patient care
  • Improved patient education
  • Reduction in cost

Easy access to patient medical records
The collection of patients’ data called Electronic Medical Records (EMRs), or Electronic Health Records (EHRs)is one of the paramount aspects in the healthcare field. Medical data is essential for doctors and nurses’ to analyze the patient’s situation and illness and then to find a possible cure for it. In the past, patient records used to create large amounts of paperwork because everything was on paper and pen. Accessing past records was troublesome. However, with the advent of digitalisation, the medical information of patients can be keyed into a cloud-based, digitised system. Technology has not only simplified the collection of medical records, but has also enabled providers to mine out patients’ information in a matter of minutes.

Reduction in medical errors
One of the growing societal concern are the medical errors which is mostly due to unintended erroneous human performance. A recent publication in the Indian Journal of Critical Care Medicine, states that India experiences 5.2 million medical errors per year. Thankfully, technological advancements have aided in the development of solutions that have been shown to reduce medical errors and save more lives. For example linking of the Modified Early Warning scores and connecting it to an ‘alarm system’ that notifies the concerned team on clinical deterioration of patients status, has shown remarkable improvement in responding to critical clinical situations on time. We can find many supporting studies done globally, that highlights the importance on technology in reducing healthcare errors.

Greater patient care
Technology can improve patient participation by giving data that can be used to develop customised health and wellness strategies. Wireless / Bluetooth connected gadgets such as fitness bands can monitor a person’s blood pressure, heart rate and rhythm, oxygen saturation etc. These provide the clinicians with data that will enable them to treat their patients remotely. Clinicians can keep track of patients’ health. This was especially pertinent during COVIDtimes when the entire nation was under lockdown, patients were isolated and living alone, where their concerned healthcare providers were promptly alerted if any abnormality was detected. With the innovation of technological gadgets people around the globe now have the ease and comfort of enjoying enhanced high quality healthcare experience.

Improved patient education
Patient education is increasingly taking the major stake at health care delivery system. Every healthcare organisation is adopting technologies that can not only better inform but also engage patients to improve overall healthcare experience.

The newly launched software and applications provide patients with tailor made health education and information based on their specific conditions and needs. The data from health care facilities across globe have shown that the introduction of such systems has increased patients’ compliance to preventive medical precautions, their medical adherence, and self-awareness and management of their diseases. Education formats, such as interactive walkthroughs, educational videos, and text reminders, give patients options through which they can consume health information and become more engaged in self-care.

Reduction in costs
Medical errors are one of the major reasons for increased healthcare costs. Efforts directed towards bringing down the healthcare errors directly brings down the cost for both the healthcare provider and patients. Technology has shown to be more specific in reducing human prone diagnostic and prescription errors. While the shift from paper to Electronic Medical Records in clinics can reduce the costs of outpatient care by a considerable degree. A cloud Electronic Medical Recordssystem significantly reduces the usage of paper in practice and thereby saving cost.

Technology in Nursing Education and Practice
According to a report by the World Health Organisation, technology plays an important role in training, education as well as nursing practice. Technology has made it easier to access clinical records which aids in clinical decision making. Similarly innovations in technology have enabled global connection in regards to training and development. Nurses are at the forefront of digital advances in healthcare as hospitals and other healthcare facilities are integrating new technologies into their processes and systems. The COVID19 pandemic also facilitated the rapid and unprecedented application of computer technology in nursing practice. Much of this leap through the use of developments such as virtual consulting was driven by necessity; however the development of artificial intelligence (AI) and predictive analytics in nursing is also emerging. Nursing is evolving and caregivers need enhanced support from healthcare organisations to access and benefit from the ongoing Healthcare Technology Revolution.

Conclusion
Over time, we continue to formulate strategies to promote the quality of healthcare. Advancements in the field of medicine through technology have certified numerous life-saving strategies. One factor which the COVID-19 pandemic has pushed forward is digital transformation. In a time where the world is turning digital and so are patient experiences. Everyone, from patients to hospitals is using high tech devices in hospital rooms and outpatient units.  Technology is nothing but an asset in the healthcare industry. Going forward, technology is set to transform healthcare.

Col Binu Sharma

Col Binu Sharma is the Senior Director – Nursing at the Max Healthcare group of hospitals. She is an integral part of the Hospital operations team and is also a certified NABH Assessor. Col Binu has been awarded with the Commendation Medal Eastern command for Exemplary nursing services, she is the recipient of the Florence Nightingale award in 2007 and she has recently been awarded by Indian Achiever’s Forum with the “Women of Excellence” award. She has published a large number of articles on national and international nursing journals.

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