Digital mobility in healthcare

June 28, 2022
Digital mobility in healthcare

Healthcare organisations are tapping into digital mobility to improve their patient care reach and ensure quality service, and more importantly to alleviate healthcare worker burnout and accompanying psychological distress. Healthcare worker burnout due to the ongoing battle with the global pandemic far-encompassing – this could be further exacerbated with a possible, new pandemic threat on the horizon.

Digital mobility has much to offer in terms of care whilst keeping services simple and cost-effective. It is also fairly easily adopted into most healthcare systems. Dirk Dumortier, Head of Business Development Healthcare and Smart-City, Asia Pacific, Alcatel-Lucent Enterprise, shares with Healthcare Asia (HCA) on digital mobility and its perks.

HCA: What are the challenges in balancing patient care with healthcare worker burnout?

Healthcare workers are facing high levels of stress as they continue with this long-drawn battle with the global pandemic. In Singapore, reports say about 1,500 healthcare workers have quit in the first half of 2021 alone, compared to 2,000 annually before 2020. This exodus has put remaining workers under even more pressure, and the reduced nurse-patient ratio has also resulted in a lower level of patient care. Aside from the hospital setting, our primary care doctors – general practitioners and family care doctors – are also experiencing higher rates of anxiety, depression, and burnout compared to before the pandemic. This is according to a July 2021 study by the Institute of Mental Health.

Although the effect of healthcare worker burnout does not stop at doctors and nurses, burned-out doctors in Singapore were found to have reduced empathy towards patients. As patients tend to be more satisfied with doctors who are seen as more empathetic, healthcare worker burnout has a compounding effect on a reduced level of patient care.

While the pandemic will fade away over time, Singapore’s rapidly aging population and the tight balance between local and foreign healthcare workers will require a long-term solution.

HCA: What is digital mobility and how does it improve patient experience end-to-end?

Digital mobility refers to digital technology solutions that provide connectivity across people and machines, creating an organisational mesh in which the hospital is a hub: these run the gamut from a hospital-wide network and communication infrastructure to mobile wearables and tablets that can be used anywhere across the campus. Internet of Medical Things (IoMT), medical equipment, and wearable devices provide ubiquitous access to patient health data.

Digital mobility benefits both carer and patient by streamlining the caregiver’s time spent across their shift. A digital workplace can benefit clinicians, nurses, and caregivers across the hospital campus. For example, the digital workplace can offer secure mobile access to electronic health/medical (EHR/EMR) records and test results instead of having to log into a desktop at a central desk, which can occupy 20%-45% of their time. Mobile collaboration tools amongst staff frees up valuable time that can be used to engage patients instead, while asset tracking solutions reduces the time caregivers and nurses waste locating people and equipment.

Such a digital workplace can also improve the patient experience as well. Patient requests come in different shapes and forms, with differing levels of urgency and need. With only one call button for assistance, requests can span noncritical (asking for water) to urgent (assistance required for pain). Yet, they are treated with the same level of urgency, which creates inefficiencies. By categorising the types of patient requests, they can be dispatched to a nurse with the right skill set. This reduces frustrations for both patient and nurse and is a more efficient use of caregiver time.

Digital patient engagement empowers the patient to be educated about their health situation, [thus] creating a connected and knowledgeable patient. In fact, 360-degree digital patient engagement can deliver personalised care across the patient’s journey end-to-end – from appointment booking to home aftercare. This also leverages wearable monitoring devices to track their progress remotely using real-time data. This reduces hospital costs and frees up beds for more urgent cases.

In short, digital mobility can:

. Offer patients a better healing experience end-to-end

. Refine care delivery and simplify daily workflows of clinical staff

. Provide secure and reliable connectivity for patients, clinicians, and devices

. Ensure the efficiency, safety, and privacy of people, data, assets, and facilities

HCA: How does connectivity free up wasted resources to enable healthcare workers to refocus on the patient?

Nurses face major pain points in patient care delivery. They are often faced with issues such as the following timewasters: an average of 1 to 1.5-hour per shift spent on walking; an average of 1-hour per shift searching for assets and equipment; and alarm fatigue created by alarm notifications, despite 70%-90% of alarms being false or non-medical. As a result, nurses often spend only 35%-55% of their time on patient care. With asset tracking and mobile wearables, nurses can do less searching for people and things – letting them refocus valuable time on their patient for better and more detailed patient care.

Digital mobility also allows clinicians and doctors to achieve higher standards of care. For example, instead of having to leave a patient and log into a desktop some distance away – they can securely access EHR/EMR records, with 4K imaging and test results at the bedside. 

Additionally, patients currently have one call button for all requests, meaning all requests are treated with urgency no matter the circumstance. Hence, the streamlined management of patient requests can improve the efficiency of nurse-patient interactions. By categorising patient requests based on type and urgency, requests can be routed to a nurse with the right skill set – improving efficiency and enabling more patient care time.

Simply put, digital mobility enables clearer and more efficient communications, allowing healthcare workers to communicate and collaborate easily with their peers and patients.

HCA: What are some modern network infrastructure(s) needed to safeguard patient data while preserving a seamless workflow?

These days, much of healthcare has gone digital and healthcare organisations are facing the growing impact of a cybersecurity threat. Ransomware, especially, is on the rise in Singapore. The Cyber Security Agency of Singapore received 68 reports in the first half of 2021 compared to 31 reports in the first half of 2020 – with sensitive, personal, and confidential patient data at stake, big firms could face fines of up to 10% of their turnover in the event of a data breach.

It is essential for healthcare organisations to safeguard digital workflows and patient data across the LAN/WLAN network by building security into the architecture of the Wi-Fi network itself, rather than relying solely on the legacy approach of defence at the perimeter.

Healthcare organisations should seek out Wi-Fi solutions that are affordable, offer a low total cost of ownership, and can automatically onboard smart and IoMT devices to support connected healthcare services. Security should also be built-in to protect digital workflows and patient data against costly, disruptive data breaches and cyberattacks. The right on-premises security solution will also be able to manage the additional security requirements when dealing with smartphones that require an internet connection.

The network infrastructure of the hospital should be scalable, flexible, and highly reliable to securely facilitate asset tracking, alert prompting, and equipment monitoring. An intelligent network must keep mobile clinicians connected, ensure that smart systems stay online, and eliminate the need for investment in the maintenance of old technology.

Category: Features, Top Story

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