Two years ago we posted what the medical device industry could be like at the end of the COVID-19 pandemic. While we’re not quite there yet, a light can definitely be seen at the end of that tunnel. Here are our latest insights into that post COVID-19 world, and why medical grade equipment and features will continue to play a vital role in it.

Lesson One Keep Equipment Safe from Germs

Even before COVID-19, healthcare was already contending with well-known diseases like the flu as well as the persistent issue of hospital-acquired infection (HAI). In 2019 alone, the CDC estimates HAIs had caused 99,000 deaths while infecting 1.7 million patients. Now imagine what it was like in 2020 as medical personnel had to contend with an unknown and highly contagious virus as well.

Standard hospital infection prevention and control policies became top priority. Clinics and hospitals turned to medical grade equipment in their management efforts. Why? Antimicrobial properties infused in the housing and even the screens of medical grade computers and tablets protected them from microbial contamination. Fanless design prevented or at least stalled the circulation of airborne and potentially lethal pathogens. And IP65-rated sealed front bevels shielded the screens of these computers from harsh cleaning chemicals during the frequent wipe downs required in the pandemic. Since these features are built-in with most medical grade equipment, healthcare will also be able to weather any future outbreaks. 

Lesson Two Telehealth Is Here to Stay

COVID-19’s highly contagious nature meant medical clinics had to stop taking inpatient visits unless it was absolutely unavoidable. People still needed medical attention, though, for non-urgent but still important health issues like diabetes, blood pressure, and pregnancy. 

Telehealth proved to be the solution. Already used in cases like remote patient monitoring and video telephony, telehealth ﹘ especially through its telemedicine branch  ﹘ allows clinicians to communicate with patients safely and securely via medical panel PCs and even tablets. A 2021 study of Medicare telehealth visits by the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services revealed a staggering 63-fold increase in those visits from 840,000 in 2019 to 52.7 million in 2020.

Telehealth’s success in bringing patients and clinicians together safely has led to a push to make it a permanent part of healthcare post COVID-19. The technologies that make telehealth possible like medical grade tablets will only grow as a result.

Lesson Three Right Monitor for EMR

As mentioned earlier, clinicians and other medical staff could no longer meet directly with patients due to fears of infection. Patient histories to follow-up visit details thus became even more vital. Clinicians sometimes had to rely on that information alone, which are stored in electronic medical records (EMR), to make a proper diagnosis and create treatment plans.

Healthcare groups shifted their technologies to accommodate EMR’s more central role. One way they did so was seeking medical monitors best suited to the software. The program Epic, as an example, is best displayed on 24-in. screens. This allows clinicians to quickly find vital patient information without constantly scrolling all over the screen. An EMR paired with the right monitor can even prevent physician burnout which sadly rose during the pandemic. 

Like telehealth, the use of EMRs will only continue to grow in a post COVID-19 world.

Lesson Four Low Failure Rate Saves Lives

Traditionally medical groups, when faced with a faulty IV unit or PC, would simply call the Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) to either repair or replace it. This usually took a week or two, a few days, or even hours depending on the manufacturer. 

The COVID-19 halted such turnarounds almost to a standstill. Repair staff fell ill or were overwhelmed by their workloads. This proved lethal to hospitals as ventilators and other vital medical devices began to fail. In desperation, many pulled old machines out of storage or had  been decommissioned for use. Several even resorted to repairing the equipment themselves, a contentious issue with OEMs. 

To make sure they’re not caught in such a position again, medical groups are assessing the durability of their equipment. This includes computers, which played a vital role in providing information during the pandemic. Healthcare IT (HIT) wanted to make sure their PCs were durable enough to withstand the rigors of the typical 24/7 hospital setting with minimal failure. Off-the-shelf brands, at 15-30 percent failure rate, just won’t do. Thus HIT is eyeing medical grade PCs and their failure rate at less than 2 percent thanks to extensive use of industrial grade components.

Lesson Five Supply Chain Reliability Starts Locally

Illness and fatigue were not the only reasons hospitals couldn’t get their equipment repaired or replaced on time. Most companies and even entire countries shut down to contain the spread of COVID-19. This disrupted supply chains as OEMs could not get the necessary materials to manufacture their products, and resellers could not ship them to buyers. Organizations that primarily relied on suppliers from overseas were especially hard hit. Healthcare was not  immune as medical clinics and hospitals faced critical shortages in ventilators, personal protection equipment (PPE), and COVID-19 test kits. 

Unsurprisingly, countries, OEMs, and companies in general are reevaluating their supply chains as part of their post COVID-19 plans. For healthcare, that means establishing relationships with local vendors to supply vital equipment like PPE and medical grade PCs. Local suppliers with excellent customer service can also handle issues quickly, inexpensively, and with far less hassle than an overseas supplier. 

Closing Thoughts

2020’s COVID-19 shook the world as the first global pandemic since the Spanish flu of 1918. Many people believe it is coming to an end, and are gearing up for the post COVID-19 world. Healthcare, having borne the brunt of the pandemic, learned many lessons like the importance of medical grade PCs to why local vendors are best as suppliers for vital equipment. 

These lessons will be useful for the next major disease outbreak. Many people have forgotten that COVID-19 is the third coronavirus to catch the world’s attention. The first was severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS-CoV), which was first reported in 2003. It was then followed by the Middle-East respiratory syndrome (MERS-CoV) in 2012. Two other viruses, the lethal Ebola (2013) and the deforming Zika (2015) also made headlines. While none of these had the global impact of COVID-19, they show that another pandemic is not a matter of if, but of when. Global healthcare, hopefully having learned from COVID-19, will be better prepared to deal with these future pandemics.

Contact an expert at Cybernet if you’re interested in learning more about these lessons and how they can be applied to your healthcare organizations.

Join the conversation and connect with us on this and other relevant topics – Follow us Facebook, Twitter, and Linkedin.