Due to COVID-19 restrictions, healthcare providers are facing a considerable amount of strain when attempting to maintain office hours and treat patients with health conditions while sticking to social distancing and occupancy control measures.
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Healthcare is seen as an essential business, but maintaining patient health and safety is crucial to stay in business and prevent receiving any government penalties.
Technology can assist healthcare professionals allowing them to negotiate through the lockdowns and restrictions facilitating remote diagnosis as patients capitalize on telehealth and telemedicine.
Unique challenges in healthcare
The Coronavirus pandemic gave rise to strict penalties for service providers who did not obey protocols. Naturally, essential businesses were granted permission to stay open. However, some healthcare providers were not regarded as essential (e.g., non-surgical procedures or elective surgery).
While these businesses couldn’t stay open, they still faced the challenge of supporting patients, maintain post-procedure checkups, and receive patient calls should any questions need answering.
Essential healthcare businesses also faced distinctly complex challenges.
They could remain open, but they had to maintain social distancing rules and limit occupancy inside the office, including staff: immunocompromised patients have a greater risk of severe complications from COVID-19, so it’s crucial that healthcare providers maintain strict precautions during standard procedures.
Safety for essential providers using telemedicine and telehealth
OSHA published a number of guidelines and approaches to offer healthcare providers assistance when safeguarding their patients, but it is still necessary for patients to see a provider to discuss concerns about their health, for regular checkups and any post-procedure follow-up appointments.
This eliminates a provider’s capacity to remain socially distant and also requires on-site support staff to sustain the day-to-day business.
Telemedicine offers a workable solution during lockdowns as telemedicine benefits health providers by providing them with the capacity to maintain revenue and care while providing immunocompromised patients with convenience and safety. Notably, both providers and patients don’t need to be computer savvy to use the technology.
Convenience and comfort are driving the rise in popularity of telemedicine and telehealth. Although providers and patients were suddenly dropped into situations where remote services were necessary, comfort and convenience have been acknowledged as an advantage that could be implemented permanently when businesses return to normal operations.
It is no longer necessary for patients to drive or commute to an appointment, which can be difficult for some patients with no immediate access to transportation. Thus, healthcare workers have more time on-site for appointments with patients who require a physical checkup in-office.
Patients often visit providers when feeling sick, so it can be a risk to everyone at a healthcare provider’s office, including staff and the other patients. Implementing telehealth means providers can limit the spread of infection of not just COVID-19 but other infectious diseases as well.
Telehealth technology can also be utilized for the prescreening of patients prior to their appointment and visitation to the office. With a prescreen, providers can ascertain as to whether it is necessary to conduct an on-site checkup, thereby reducing patient numbers attending the office.
Enabling providers to see the patient’s home environment can also help facilitate diagnosis. For example, a patient with certain allergies could be suffering from a chronic condition due to unknown variables within the home environment.
Providers can determine the issues within the home that could be exacerbating patient symptoms. Patients can also better explain to doctors their daily routine using their home environment and, therefore, acquire a more accurate diagnosis.
Telehealth saves healthcare provider costs while also saving patients money. Patients no longer need to travel, thereby reducing money spent on transportation, and the ability to take a consultation from home or even at work, limits the sick days or amount of time patients need to be absent from work.
For busy parents, childcare is no longer a significant issue, and patients need no longer worry about being late to appointments due to traffic and prolonged drive times, which is also benefits the providers. Additionally, not needing to sit waiting in a waiting room is a key benefit for patients.
In a number of scenarios, patients will still require access to specialists or need to ask certain questions. Healthcare providers can provide on-demand options that offer patients the ability to speak with a specialist or their general practitioner on the same day.
Improved access to doctors and other healthcare providers results in better diagnosis as patients can speak to their provider more often while reducing the chance of spreading illnesses – including Coronavirus – to other patients, all of which effectively results in enhanced healthcare.
Leveraging technology in telehealth
The main component driving efficient telehealth is the technology: technology that must be user-friendly so that patients and providers can easily operate certain features and receive the benefits today’s devices offer. It must also be able to withstand disinfectant (e.g., bleach) so that the device casing and enclosures do not start to erode after just a few uses.
Numerous advances in the current technology are optimal for telehealth and the multitude of challenges faced during COVID-19 restrictions. The technology supports both patients and their healthcare providers. There are some aspects of remote healthcare devices necessary for maintaining the convenience and effective diagnosis:
- Tablets with apps that dial a centralized number and work with a functional camera so patients can conveniently talk to their providers.
- Camera and soundbar for video and sound during consultations.
- Carts that offer the capacity to move the tablet around the patient’s home so that they can show the home environment and supply additional information that helps the healthcare provider and thus facilitates better diagnosis.
- A tracking system that enables providers to identify the location of their equipment, staff, and patients.
Advantech possesses the technology and equipment to facilitate telehealth, telemedicine, and remote access between patients and providers. Depending on the provider’s needs and patient preferences, both stationary and mounted solutions can be accessed.
Mounted options offer the capacity to move devices from room to room as doctors speak to patients, and patients can use this solution to move around their homes as they consult with their healthcare provider.
While the COVID-19 vaccine will soon be rolled out rapidly, telehealth is here to stay. It offers a range of benefits, including assisting busy healthcare providers by offering them the ability to see patients without leaving them waiting days for future appointments.
For patients, transportation, take off from work, or have the added travel time needed is no longer an obstacle when attending a standard doctor’s appointment. Telemedicine is allowing healthcare providers to move towards a more efficient future as it is a convenient and intuitive technology that takes up very little space in any office.
With decades of proven experience and trusted by 23 of the top 30 medical device manufacturers, Advantech is a leading player in the global healthcare market. Advantech partners with leading medical equipment manufacturers and system integrators to transform healthcare and elevate patient-centered care. Advantech’s medical device safety certifications and FDA registration, paired with high-performance and customizable products, meets the healthcare industry’s demands for both turnkey solutions and comprehensive design and manufacturing services.
Global headquarters located in Taipei, Taiwan, North American headquarters in Irvine, California and design center in Cincinnati, Ohio, Advantech is a global market-leader in industrial PCs and medical grade PCs. Offering a high degree of customization to meet unique customer requirements with in-house design and manufacturing, along with the deliberate selection of component, processor, and chipset for product designs, Advantech products are designed and manufactured with the primary intent of longevity and availability.
Advantech has been ISO 13485 certified for medical devices since 2003; its North American Service Center located in Milpitas, CA is also a FDA Registered facility. Advantech’s medical product portfolio includes medical-grade PCs, medical displays, medical tablets, mobile workstation and telehealth carts and healthcare information terminals. Medically certified for patient safety (60601), fanless and sealed for infection control, Advantech’s purpose built products specific for healthcare use cases are configurable and customizable, built for both acute care and non-acute care healthcare facilities.
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