COVID-19 has put unprecedented pressures on U.S. and worldwide healthcare systems as they deal with strained supplies and overworked equipment. Technology is crucial in combating this pandemic, but technological solutions have been varied across healthcare systems and may even differ from one facility to the next.
Healthcare facilities — and by extension healthcare technology management professionals — must innovate to solve the known and possible future threats that result from COVID-19. But new routines, softened regulations, and breakthrough technologies are set to change the fundamentals long after the pandemic has passed.
A survey by 24×7 Magazine is monitoring the short term effects of COVID-19 on HTM firms. From the initial responses in late March/early April to now, 24×7 Magazine noted a minimum 15 percent increase in reported struggles in categories including scheduling, equipment rentals, and general difficulties.
The most dramatic shift was in sourcing parts — early survey results showed 34 percent of surveyed firms reporting difficulties with renting, but a month later that number jumped to 69 percent as supply chains tightened and supplier doors shut.
Medical practitioners, especially front-line individuals such as doctors, nurses, cleaning staff, and others do not have enough of the proper protective gear necessary to keep them safe from infection. Ventilator supply is inadequate for the volumes of patients who need them, and screening procedures that don’t require physical proximity or contact are becoming increasingly vital in the fight to reduce the risk of transmission.
As issues within the healthcare system become uncovered, more and more technological innovations are rising to meet these needs. Facilities and HTM professionals are repurposing equipment to treat COVID-19 patients and more patients are opting for telemedicine services.
Healthcare regulations have even been relaxed to help extend the lifetime of personal protective gear and move more patients to digital diagnostic channels in order to reduce the threat of possible infection for a facility’s staff and patients.
The biggest changes will come after this pandemic has passed and healthcare professionals and patients alike refuse to return to the status quo. Regulations that have been an obstacle to technological innovations like telemedicine have been relaxed quickly to respond to the pandemic, but re-upping strict guidelines following the pandemic will not be such a speedy process.
Patients who have been moved to digital channels for services like physical therapy, diagnoses, and more are becoming accustomed to the new normal and will likely expect those same digital services in the future. Therefore, data security is even more crucial as patient data and conversations are taken online and potentially into digital third party services.
As healthcare technology management professionals, this is a pivotal/decisive/momentous turning point in the industry, and it’s time to be at the forefront of the cutting edge technologies that are filling the holes in healthcare exposed by COVID-19. Healthcare is altering in fundamental ways toward a more remote, technologically dependent system. Stretched to new levels of technology and care, healthcare professionals must gain knowledge of these new platforms, their weaknesses, and how to best incorporate them once the day-to-day disruptions of COVID-19 have passed.
A lot can happen in a month, especially in the middle of a pandemic. 24×7 Magazine surveyed HTM professionals, and they’ve seen increased changes across many areas including schedules (15% change), trouble sourcing parts (35% jump), experiencing general difficulty (15.5% increase), and difficulty renting equipment (13% increase).
51 percent said PM schedules have changed in some capacity, now 64 percent have
34 percent experiencing difficulty sourcing parts, now 69 percent
5.5 percent experiencing significant difficulties, now 21 percent
44 percent had some or significant difficulties renting equipment, now 57 percent experiencing difficulties.