Forbes Technology Council September 20, 2022 Iain Scholnick

Although we’d all like to put the recent pandemic in the rearview mirror, it’s important that we take the time now to reflect and revise our approach to healthcare so that if and when a similar crisis hits again, the impact will be far less hard-hitting. Covid-19 was a public demonstration that when stressed beyond what we believed was the max, our current healthcare system might not be up to the task. Although technological advances rolled out in quick succession to help fill the treatment gap caused by a need for social distancing that still persists, there’s much left to be explored and built to create a new healthcare infrastructure that’s more resilient to a major crisis such as this.

The pandemic paradox: When there’s a massive need for treatment and nowhere to get help.

Covid-19 showed the nation that our healthcare system isn’t dynamic in its ability to treat patients of differing severity when faced with a medical crisis that affects entire communities, cities and states. On an average day before the pandemic, any hospital or other treatment facility was able to effectively triage patients based on who was experiencing the worst symptoms in their lobby. Covid-19 disrupted this basic function of patient evaluation and monitoring with devastating effects. These problems are further compounded in rural settings where there’s been a growing shortage of medical care professionals and facilities.

Without widespread technological infrastructure that could connect patients to their doctors from the safety of their homes, patients and doctors were left to risk infection by having patients of all levels of criticality coming into hospitals and doctors’ offices. Beyond the risk of infection, Covid-19 patients who would likely be fine being monitored remotely took up capacity from those who needed it for the treatment of other health complications. Without the ability to quickly integrate telehealth options on a large scale for the monitoring and evaluating of Covid-19 patients into national strategies to mitigate the pandemic, everyone was left to continue risking themselves with in-person evaluations.

In July 2021, it was reported that telehealth utilization rose by 38 times from pre-pandemic levels, and the exploration and expansion of alternative options to the status quo for patient monitoring must continue. Treatment solutions that keep capacity open at critical facilities, such as hospitals, are a must. One such solution, community healthcare, has seen a resurgence in the wake of Covid-19, with centers opening up for vaccinations among other minor medical checkups.

Where can healthcare go digital today?

Although telehealth appointments via virtual conference are a step toward a digital-first approach to treatment, the healthcare IoT space is where we can expect to see the true revolution. Remote patient monitoring (RPM) tools are quickly becoming realized as a next-generation solution to the everyday monitoring and treatment of patients. But as with so many other IoT devices, their impressiveness is quickly nullified without a user-friendly interface to translate sensor readings into digital results. The attractiveness of consumer-focused medical technology can be significantly amplified by combining RPM solutions that allow medical practitioners to access the patient’s vitals even when they’re not sitting on the examination table.

The ideal pairing of hardware and software is the connection point between what’s in the hands of the patient and on the screen of the doctors. Hospitals, doctors’ offices and outpatient centers have robust databases of patient records that can help track the progress of short- or long-term medical complications. By bridging the gap between consumer technology—which can tell the patient what their glucose level or heart rate is—with the records and recommendations of their doctor, warning signs can be flagged and acted upon by doctors without the patient ever needing to leave their house. This both fills the current gaps in care in rural settings and unlocks new opportunities for improved patient outcomes.

How can community healthcare step into the picture more?

These technological advancements can and should start a discussion about the nationwide approach to patient care. By connecting more locations and patients with their main providers, medical evaluations can increasingly be handled by noncritical facilities. This can be made possible by investing in community healthcare providers and nontraditional treatment centers. It’s already known that keeping patients out of hospitals improves outcomes of care and lowers costs. Yet, this approach to care has faced opposition from industry stakeholders whose profits are often rooted in the treatment of patients at major facilities.

Community healthcare centers across the country such as those in retail outlets or local community centers currently facilitate healthcare outreach programs for disease testing and vaccinations. With more technology being developed for patients to use at home, the industry needs to consider what additional treatments such as advanced testing or checkups for minor issues can be initially handled by visiting a local treatment center, especially when a hospital or doctor’s office may be tens or hundreds of miles away.

Is this version of healthcare a far-off dream or closer to becoming reality than we think?

Since Covid-19 hit, a massive uptick in interest surrounding RPM technology has occurred. Studies indicate that roughly 88% of healthcare providers are starting to invest in various forms of the technology with a focus on early symptom management tools and improvements in patient monitoring for those with chronic illnesses. As case studies continue to roll in validating the many benefits for both clinicians and their patients that RPM tools provide, the industry is expected to continue to shift investment.

Although healthcare providers want to provide the best possible treatment for their patients, medical technology often slowly moves at scale, with high priority set on accuracy and compliance regulations around patient data. Companies offering contextualized services in the way of IoT devices and CPaaS software that connects patients with their doctors may see improved results by offering an all-in-one solution to better out-of-office care.

Iain Scholnick is the founder and CEO of Braidio (@braidthis), an award winning Customer Engagement platform powered by low-code and AI and delivered to the mobile edge of global CSPs such as AT&T, e&,  Kandy and more. Braidio is CPaaS-enabled and integrated with AI powered productivity orchestration that threads all necessary information, knowledge, people, and business tools into a single point of white label ready, verticalized app productivity. To learn more about Braidio’s opportunities for small businesses and enterprises  visit here.

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