Digitizing Hospitals During The COVID-19 Pandemic

With the COVID-19 pandemic hitting the world at such a fast and unexpected rate, digitization in healthcare is gaining more and more attention as a way to build more hospital resilience against crises. Although the global economy is taking a big hit, digital healthcare startups are witnessing a rise in investments, especially in telemedicine. One example of this trend, tracked by mobihealthnews, are the investments in US digital healthcare startups that jumped from 49 deals worth $1.4 billion in the first quarter of 2019 to 82 deals worth $2.9 billion in the first quarter of 2020. Why should this be an eye-opener for hospital executives struggling to maintain their hospitals financially in the midst of this crisis?

   A wave of change is hitting the healthcare systems and will continue to do so after the pandemic. The innovation in digital healthcare is tremendous, but the pace of application has been slow for years, and very few hospital executives have taken it upon themselves to begin a digitization strategy.

   Many of the digital healthcare solutions presented by vendors are not suited for everyone. They require large capital investments; intensive training for medical staff, and a minimum level of infrastructure to support these solutions to mention a few obstacles. Even with the evident success with some digitized hospitals, getting the support of the hospital board, and building a sense of ownership among the staff is, for many hospital executives, challenging. Even hospital executives are busy resolving financial issues like revenue collection and operating margins which have placed on the top of their priorities list.  

   With all these obstacles, and the COVID-19 pandemic on the rise, should the hospital even consider proposing to digitize in such a situation? The answer is a definite yes!

   Digitizing your hospital is not a checklist you tick off, but a shift from a traditional approach to working to a data-driven approach that optimizes your performance and boosts your efficiency.

   At the core of your digitization strategy, you will find two elements, people and technology. Training and engaging your staff is a necessity to succeed in digitization, as is selecting the right technology. Although with the current COVID-19 pandemic, and with medical teams placing all their efforts on their patients, maneuvering your digitization strategy to be more focused on selecting the right technology for the situation could be a better approach. Selecting solutions that require minimal interference with staff-patient dynamics, and that equip the hospital with the infrastructure needed for continuous growth may pave the way for future digital applications in due time. Here is a list of some digital solutions worthy of being your first step in digitalizing your hospitals:

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Integrated ICT environment:

Digitizing your hospital requires a minimum level of technology infrastructure. This ICT environment, usually a SCADA system, will be the first layer that the solutions will be built upon. Digitization solutions consist of a hardware layer and a software layer. The hardware layer is a network of sensors that collect analog data from various points, and the software layer will turn this data digital and maneuver it into useful information. Although selecting the right hardware is important, it is in the software layer that commercial value is generated. Data visualization, analytics, prediction, and AI and machine learning applications all happen in the software layer.

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Critical Asset Tracking:

Hospital assets are impacted by being lost or destroyed, modified without authorization, and when access to them is interrupted. Assets such as wheelchairs, respirators, and defibrillators are such critical assets that may be needed urgently and at any given time. A digital asset tracking solution can provide real-time visualization of their location/movements and reduce the risk of not authorized movement and reduces damage through predictive maintenance.

Generator management:

The value you need obtain from a digital generator management solution is a real-time visualization of the generators’ health & operational status, improved control inactivation and usage aspects, and most importantly in predictive maintenance.

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Linen management:

Hospital laundry services, washing and replacing linen, is crucial to maintaining the sanitation of the hospital and everyone in it. With large quantities of linen used in hospitals, the risk of incorrect assortment increased purchase and management costs, and low customer satisfaction is a major issue. Tracking linen using RFID tags can ensure good washing quality, optimizing labor and linen costs, and that sufficient linen is stocked as per demand by tracking its location.

Utility management:

Hospitals consume water and electricity at expensive rates annually. A utilities digital solution can optimize usage, reduce unnecessary consumption, and mitigate malfunction risks. Using smart water, and smart electricity meters allows improved control of water volumes and usage, creates real-time visualization of usage, and reduces the risk of wastes, leakages, and unforeseen power failures.

Environmental monitoring(HVAC):

Optimizing your HVAC efficiency, and reducing its costs would be amazing, and an HVAC malfunction would be awful due to its disruptive in a hospital. An HVAC digital solution can reduce costs while optimizing performance by monitoring and visualizing airflow, the temperature in rooms/sectors, and manage energy consumption and threshold limits based on staff and asset absence.

References:

The Digitization of the Healthcare Industry: Using Technology to Transform Care – Cisco

How the digitization of hospitals and health systems marched on in 2018 – mobihealthnews.com

Digital health funding is off to a roaring start in 2020– mobihealthnews.com

HVAC Failure Causes Big Problem at Hospital – contractingbusiness.com

COVID-19 outbreak threatens health systems with new financial challenges – healthleadersmedia.com

Hospital linen workflow management system – orient-business.com

One thought on “Digitizing Hospitals During The COVID-19 Pandemic”

  1. Walidbatakji says:

    Very insightful!

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