How COVID-19 will impact the future of healthcare IT

The COVID-19 pandemic is reshaping the healthcare sector. It is also fair to say that it has already largely reshaped the healthcare sector.

Digital transformation efforts are assisting patients with remote patient monitoring technology that forwards information to medical practitioners and healthcare workers, so they can treat patients from afar.

The long-term benefits of telehealth are becoming evident, and it is a trend that will indubitably continue long into the future. However, the healthcare sector is under fire from numerous cyber attacks targeting the COVID-19 pandemic.

 

Reprioritisation of digital transformation efforts

Digital technologies are redefining the healthcare system and assisting in addressing the COVID-19 crisis.

Digital transformation within the healthcare sector is now primarily focused on advancing telehealth technologies to assist both patients and practitioners. Healthcare vendors have released a variety of tools in remote patient monitoring, reporting, and self-triaging to assist with treatment.

Virtual appointments have flooded the healthcare system, with patients waiting in virtual queues due to the lack of available trained clinicians. The number of telehealth consults in the US alone saw a 500% increase during the first few weeks.

 

Telehealth: the new normal

With social distancing being one of the primary measures to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, telehealth provides a means for safe and efficient healthcare. Telehealth decreases the demands on the healthcare system worldwide, flattening the curve of transmission and incidence spreading. Telehealth may become a permanent alternative model for clinical services.

Healthcare professionals are currently leveraging telehealth in the following ways:

  • Monitoring and treating patients who present mild COVID-19 symptoms.
  • Following-up on patients discharged from the hospital.
  • Clinicians with mild symptoms working remotely.
  • Providing mental health support.

Telehealth may endure after the COVID-19 pandemic, due to its flexibility. Patients can gain access to medical care leveraging various devices – such as computers, smartphones and tablets – so it removes traditional mobility and distance barriers. The solutions often include dashboards, statistics and e-scheduling, which will be particularly helpful for patients and practitioners to organise treatment. For practitioners to provide the best possible care, telehealth will need to integrate with digital medical devices that will record information, such as the patient’s vital signs, and send it to the practitioner.

The telehealth model also proves useful in uniting medical organisations through a virtual network, no matter their location, which will foster connection and information sharing between healthcare providers.

 

New cyber security threats to healthcare

Many cyber criminals are targeting healthcare data. The spike in security concerns is pushing for new approaches to patient health records and online care. The US has issued new healthcare data rules that will ensure patients have complete access to their health data and better control over their treatment.

Cyber criminals target the healthcare industry due to the enormous amount of information and details available. Ransomware attacks are particularly prevalent. Therefore, you must implement penetration tests to ensure the security of your healthcare facilities. The analysis exposes vulnerabilities (like weak firewalls or insufficient security protocols), and provides you with a clear understanding of what you need to focus on to protect patient information.

You can also implement blockchain to protect your patients’ data. A blockchain is a chain of individual pieces of data that are secured independently. Accordingly, each patient is assigned a block that they control. They have the power to decide on the data added to the system, and a personal electronic key protects it. If healthcare professionals want to view the data, the patient has to give their consent.

 

 

AI and healthcare

The healthcare system cannot meet everyone’s needs during a pandemic if it has no additional support. Quarantine, social distancing, and isolation are some of the methods being used to assist in flattening the epidemic curve. However, we need to do more. The need for artificial intelligence solutions that seamlessly integrate with electronic health records is immense, as this could provide real-time information on prognosis and treatment effectiveness.

AI could aid the development of incident command responses for hospitals, which will assist with delivering care in a crisis, such as coronavirus. When hospitals are at risk of overcapacity – the recent lack of ICU beds in the US – hospitals could leverage AI to manage care demand. AI could be the extra support that understaffed hospitals desperately require.

Moreover, AI can assist with patient care; if integrated into hospital equipment, we could have volume cycled ventilators connected to alarm systems, all managed by AI. But the right funding must be devoted to these areas first.

 

Fluffy Spider Healthcare Solutions

Fluffy Spider builds custom software solutions for the healthcare industry, bringing together specialised medical devices and cloud services. We work closely with our clients to take ideas to a cutting edge commercial reality. In the telehealth space, we have partnered with the world-leading Australian company, Visionflex, to bring their devices and cloud products to market. Get in touch with me for more information on healthcare software, advice, or to discuss new product concepts.