Recent global events have shown healthcare providers what being underprepared truly looks like. Not having enough staff, not having enough personal protective equipment, and especially not having the right alternative methods of administering care at the ready have rocked acute and emergency care facilities to their core. Thankfully, we’ve seen efforts made to remedy this from happening again as care facilities reach out to manufacturers for more PPEs, adopt telehealth through remote care optimized medical computer systems, and update triage practices among other things in order to prepare for the coronavirus second wave predicted to hit in fall.

This can be very reassuring to see, but we’ve all learned that just a little bit of foresight isn’t enough to render us impervious to unexpected hits to the ways we can administer care. In asking the question of how healthcare facilities can adapt for further changes in the future and what investing in medical devices will look like post-COVID, it’s important to look at both the past and present. 

Truthfully, hints at where HIT investments should be placed have been observed since well before the spread of COVID-19. Current pandemic conditions have only further facilitated focus in these pieces of technology we’ve long understood would benefit healthcare. IT leaders and decision-makers in healthcare facilities owe it to themselves and their patients to look to these pieces of tech to further fortify healthcare in 2021 and beyond.     

Remote Care Systems

Remote care and telehealth have long been carried as the next big step in healthcare. COVID has only proven the efficacy of such technology by showing us how helpful it would have been if the infrastructure was in place before the global pandemic. Several facilities that were forced to adopt telehealth technology and virtual care have realized it’s been a major boon to their efficiency and plan on keeping these systems in place even after the pandemic is dealt with. 

In a recent interview, Valleywise Health executives mirrored this sentiment, explaining that 80-90% of patients who had engaged in remote care expressed high levels of satisfaction and staff were excited to keep the systems going forward. And it’s no surprise why when you consider just how many processes, from diagnosis and triage to testing and patient education can be handled remotely through something as simple as a video call on a medical tablet, eliminating unnecessary infection risks for both patients and physicians.

Many hospital systems beyond just Valleywise Health have been able to see these improvements as well, making it very likely investing in medical devices that promote remote care will skyrocket. Unlike before, however, where it was understood these systems were beneficial but adoption was slow, investors can expect these advances to be arriving much more quickly now that their effectiveness has been proven in the field.

Infection Protection Hardware

For those times that require an in-person visit, infection control becomes the main topic of conversation. HAI Prevention has become an industry-wide focus for 2020, and hardware designed to diminish infection risk is going to be highly sought after. Fanless medical computers have already been employed to great effect in several medical facilities, however, with sneeze and droplets being the main culprits behind COVID infections, the need for computers designed to cool themselves without the added risk of circulating those droplets is compounded. 

It also goes without saying that antimicrobial hardware will continue to be a staple in healthcare facilities. That said, however, when looking to invest in these antimicrobial solutions, special attention now needs to be paid on how these antimicrobial properties are applied. Simple coatings of antimicrobial properties aren’t enough in a Post-COVID world where disinfections are going to be happening much more frequently. That’s because, unfortunately, these coatings can be easily wiped away after multiple cleanings with abrasive sanitizing products.

More consciously developed hardware, such as medical computers that employ nano-silver technology baked into the actual components of the device, more effectively destroy sickness causing pathogens by destroying the DNA in bacteria that allows for them to proliferate. Devices with these properties baked into their casings and touch glasses won’t have them wiped away after repeated cleanings.

Interconnected Wearables 

Once a patient has been seen and diagnosed, whether through a virtual appointment or in person, a healthcare plan is prescribed. This almost always falls on the patient to implement and follow. Sometimes, this can work out quite well. Most times, however, it ends with patients either misunderstanding care instructions or simply not following them, resulting in heightened patient readmission rates. Interconnected wearables are the next phase in keeping track of and empowering patients as the industry moves towards a more value-based mode of care.

With the push for patient data access and healthcare consumerism, the average patient is becoming a much more active player in the way they receive care. Medical devices can be designed to integrate with medical tablets to gather important vitals allow for patients to be more involved in their care. Because tablet technology is fairly ubiquitous, it makes it far more intuitive for patients to use the devices, while also giving physicians more insight into how patients are responding to treatment plans. Those tablets can automatically upload data to their physician’s office, or the tablet can be brought in for in-person visits to review information. From there, doctors can adjust, adapt, or even change plans completely in order to better allow patients to actually follow through with discharge instructions and avoid an unnecessary readmission. 

HIT investors interested in the next step in healthcare technology will likely want to keep an eye on these vital tracking devices as well as the interconnected medical grade computers designed to gather this information in real-time for physicians.  

Early Detection Technology

Building on that need for more early detection, it’s very likely we’ll see an increase in the use of other hardware designed to assist in just that. Namely, we’ll see investing in medical devices that assist in the visual diagnostics department rise. COVID has shown us that keeping track of a patient’s condition from well before suspected infection is key in prioritizing those who may be immuno-compromised due to a pre-existing condition. 

4K Medical displays and scanners designed to assist in the digital pathology process have already been well-proven in their ability to improve successful diagnoses as well as facilitate proper clinical collaboration since scans drawn by them are much higher quality and reveal more red flag symptoms early on.  

Fortified Cybersecurity Solutions

Naturally, with new means of delivering healthcare remotely, new means of protecting patient data need to be developed as well. We’re still dealing with patient data, an incredibly valuable commodity for cybercriminals looking for something to profit off of. Taking that patient data and having it accessed at home by a doctor or nurse working remotely can understandably raise concerns about the safety of that data. It’s unlikely, however, that these concerns are going to be enough to stop the push for remote care after observing just how effective it’s been for many facilities. Thus, we can expect much more investment in proper healthcare cybersecurity solutions.

Virtual Private Networks (VPN), to give one example, are likely going to see an impressive rise in use now that home IP addresses need to be fortified against patient data breaches. It’s also very likely other already widely used means of providing cybersecurity will also see a rise in investment now that remote care has become more accepted. Tech such as single sign on solutions, RFID tablets, and medical workstations that are Imprivata certified and support multi-factor authentication will continue to be applied to combat cybersecurity threats that are sure to only increase. 

What’s Important When Investing in Medical Devices

COVID has opened many providers’ eyes to the types of tech and innovations needed to better care for their patients when their status quo is challenged. Using these insights and learning from them when investing in medical devices for your facility is going to go a long way towards fortifying you against the future pandemics, outbreaks, and policy changes the world will throw your way. For more information on what medical innovations are worth your attention and bandwidth, contact an expert from Cybernet today.