As coronavirus-fueled uncertainty spreads among the world’s inhabitants, many are turning to official sources for practical advice, treatment, reports, and forecasts. The healthcare industry as a whole has responded in kind with unprecedented clarity and commitment to guiding its community through the ongoing crisis.
Through the use of new strategies, the adoption of innovative technology, and the implementation of enhanced cooperative measures, healthcare organizations have found ways to more effectively combat the virus’s spread, while further streamlining existing operations. Here are just a few of these latest developments and their impact on the industry:
Adopting Novel Strategies
As the COVID-19 situation develops worldwide, health organizations have had to adopt new approaches to keep services running smoothly for the public. As a result, we’ve seen both procedural and technological shifts - the lasting ramifications of which remain unknown.
When it comes to technology, hospitals and governments alike have turned to innovative measures in an attempt to gain control over the virus's proliferation.
The wider use of telehealth solutions such as Amwell and Doctor on Demand has enabled healthcare practitioners to handle home-based care while safely limiting viral exposure.
In fact, the Federal Communications Commission has officially launched a telehealth program intended to mitigate COVID-19-related healthcare risks and limitations. This program comes as part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act (CARES), thanks to special funding allocated to healthcare organizations to support their telecommunications efforts and connected care services.
Harnessing Wearables Data
The data collected by consumer wearables such as smartwatches could potentially be used to aid in COVID-19 case predictions. This possibility is being explored by researchers at Stanford, who see great promise in the devices' capacities to accurately measure heart rate, temperature and more.
The team of researchers, led by Michael Snyder, PhD, aims to develop algorithms capable of detecting early-onset signs of an infection in individuals before they exhibit serious symptoms, allowing them to take appropriate measures ahead of time.
Dr. Snyder's earlier forays into intelligent infection monitoring found a clear link between heart rate alterations monitored by wearables and developing illnesses. This additional research could curb viral transmission significantly by giving consumers greater insight into their own condition, aiding decisions on when to self-isolate in order to prevent potential viral spread.
Emerging procedures for monitoring and testing individuals have seen rapid adoption among health care organizations during the coronavirus pandemic.
Microsampling allows individuals to submit biological samples (usually blood) safely to healthcare practitioners and researchers for further analysis.
The National Institutes of Health have begun a wide range population test for coronavirus exposure that implements such measures through the use of at-home blood collection kits developed and provided by Neoteryx.
One example of remote monitoring finding footing among individuals in need and healthcare providers is the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Coronavirus Self-Checker tool.
This simple tool gives individuals a quick and effective means of assessing their own health conditions from the safety of their own homes, helping lighten the operational load at local hospitals. The self-checker is powered by Microsoft's Azure platform and offers a series of survey questions meant to gauge an individual's health and risk factors.
Drones and Autonomous Vehicles
Drones and autonomous vehicles have also surfaced as aids in addressing the many struggles faced around the world as authorities race to fight COVID-19's rapid spread.
From medical supply delivery to sophisticated monitoring applications, drones have drawn increased interest from the health industry and government bodies alike for their unique pandemic-fighting strengths. Test samples have already begun to be delivered by drone from rural areas in Ghana to hospitals in major cities, improving assessment speeds despite land-based logistics being impacted by COVID-19 regulations.
As a far less intrusive monitoring option than the standard, physical-contact-based tools currently being employed, drones represent a particularly appealing advancement in monitoring technology. Such an approach also opens the door to more advanced monitoring, as drones could potentially be used to track blood pressure and heart rate, among other health metrics.
A wider trend of contactless consumption appears to be emerging as well, with drones and autonomous robots picking up the slack in stalled supply chains and delivering everything from medical goods to meals. Such advancements have proven particularly helpful for individuals who have been instructed to self-quarantine and who don’t have friends or family nearby to lend a helping hand.
Healthcare providers and organizations caught up in the unfolding coronavirus crisis have ramped up cooperation with the government and one another to better handle the situation. Such cooperation has brought about rapid shifts in regulations and standards in a relatively short period of time.
Cooperation Between Healthcare Practitioners and Government
Before the pandemic began, the healthcare industry was largely regarded as having entered a standstill period of regulatory stagnation. In the face of a growing crisis, however, regulations have shifted and loosened to allow many health organizations to adopt innovative new strategies quickly for the benefit of their patients.
Notably, the Centers of Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) have altered regulations to allow practitioners access to common video chat and messaging applications for conducting telehealth services. Skype, Apple Facetime, and Facebook Messenger, among other programs, are available for use during the pandemic, opening doors for practitioners to improve service while cutting costs and limiting viral exposure.
Cooperation Among Health Organizations
To help prevent overwhelm by a large influx of patients from exhausting healthcare resources, many regions' hospitals have begun cooperating with one another. Supplies and vital patient information are being shared among former competitors to aid in combating the strain the virus has placed on the industry.
In light of monumental systemic stress affecting most sectors, crippling workforce participation and impairing supply chain mobility, healthcare organizations the world over have found ways to increase their positive impact on the public.
A notable uptick in information delivery from prominent practitioners and health authorities has found footing on a broader variety of channels and communication mediums than ever before to better reach individuals in need of guidance.
Hospitals impacted by a sudden rise in patients have turned to their own websites to more effectively prepare the public and advise individuals on proper precautions to take to limit their exposure to the virus. Some organizations have gone so far as to establish entire video-based resource centers for public use during the pandemic.
Public Service Announcements
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have effectively led the way in the realm of Public Service Announcements (PSAs), equipping citizens with up-to-date information on the virus's spread and relevant safety precautions.
The need to curb the spread of COVID-19 has proven to be a catalyst for positive technological developments in the healthcare space, yielding more efficient healthcare processes for the public and greater precision in treatment delivery to individuals at risk of infection.
As the pandemic runs its course, many such changes could become battle-tested new industry standards for the future. But while we wait to see how these and other developments shake out, all of us at Simpat would like to extend our sincerest appreciation to healthcare workers - from front-line medical workers to those operating behind-the-scenes to bring about these and other innovations.
These are scary times, and every day brings greater uncertainty as to how and when individual cities, states, and countries will be able to return to “business as usual.” We’re grateful for all of those who are working together to build a new normal that’s as safe, healthy, and productive as possible.