The ongoing global health crisis may have wreaked havoc on a wide range of industries, but, believe it or not, there is at least one good thing that came out of it. And that is the radical reinvention of today's healthcare systems.
The pandemic not only highlighted the many faults hospitals and other medical facilities have — it also shattered decades-old assumptions about how the healthcare industry, as a whole, should be conceived and operated. With that in mind, this article will discuss some of the ways the current crisis has changed healthcare systems for the better.
Accelerated telemedicine by a decade
Telemedicine has been in existence for many years now, but medical practitioners have been rather slow in adopting it. Today, with social distancing and quarantining as the norm, healthcare professionals are compelled to rely on telemedicine to continue providing care for non-COVID-19 patients. During the onset of the pandemic, virtual care visits skyrocketed as self-isolating users tried telemedicine platforms for the first time.
At one point, providers like Teladoc and Amwell recorded over 20,000 and 40,000 remote visits a day, respectively. According to consulting firm Frost and Sullivan, if telemedicine’s popularity persists, the industry can expect a seven-fold growth by 2025. Unfortunately, as pandemic fatigue prevails among individuals and lessens their fears over the ongoing crisis, telehealth visits are plunging. This development requires providers to recalibrate.
Nonetheless, healthcare strategist Jonathan Wiik believes that telemedicine will continue to be used widely — especially as patients realize that it's a viable alternative. Additionally, the growing prominence of smartphones as the primary device people use to stay connected can also help propel telemedicine. After all, many of the telemedicine platforms available on the market today are essentially mobile applications. Some popular examples include MDLIVE and Lemonaid: Same Day Online Care, both of which can connect users to state-licensed and board-certified physicians for a virtual consultation.
Ushered the shift to online learning
Aside from successfully integrating technology into the delivery of care for outpatients, current circumstances have also ushered in a whole new approach to healthcare education. Like most educational institutions, medical schools were left with no choice but to shift to online learning to ensure the safety of both current and future doctors and nurses. Of course, this necessary transition has been met with a lot of challenges.
Since medical training is a very hands-on activity, some educators fear that it will be extremely hard for students to learn certain skills without lab practicums, internships, and job shadowing. Thankfully, students can now count on simulation labs while educators can use a combination of connected devices to record certain medical processes step-by-step. Online RN-BSN programs, too, are responding to industry trends to provide an updated, practical focus for future nursing leaders still earning their degrees. Though coursework is 100% done over the digital space, these are constantly updated based on healthcare employer feedback and relevant industry trends, like telemedicine, so that students are able to apply the knowledge directly to clinical settings — whether that is in brick-and-mortar hospitals or the telehealth field.
Despite the difficulties online learning has presented, most medical educators remain hopeful that these hurdles will eventually help shape a better workforce capable of utilizing telemedicine.
Sped up the adoption of the Internet of Medical Things (IoMT)
Beyond telemedicine and online learning, the pandemic’s influence can also be felt in the way the healthcare industry is rapidly transforming in the digital sense. Currently, there are over 500,000 types of technologies that can be used in medical institutions. As computing power and wireless capabilities improve, this number is expected to significantly increase through the addition of IoMTs.
Since IoMTs are able to generate, collect, analyze, and/or transmit health data, they can be leveraged to increase efficiency, lower the cost of care, and reduce friction points. In some cases, IoMTs can also be used to enhance the patient experience and help healthcare providers better track and prevent diseases and chronic illnesses. Apart from the IoMTs that can be used in hospitals to monitor and treat inpatients, some digital medical companies are also utilizing this technology to gauge the effectiveness of certain treatments.
For example, Proteus Discover created a smart pill that can measure the potency of specific medications in order to improve clinical outcomes. On the other hand, HQ’s CorTemp is using special pills that can transmit data wirelessly to monitor a patient’s internal health. Such pills can be used to keep tabs on highly important measurements that can be critical in life or death situations.
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