Complete health care is premised on the idea that people have a spectrum of needs that contribute to their overall wellbeing. This factors in their biological health as well as their psychological, social, economic, and sometimes spiritual health as well. Take the economic side of the equation for example. Low-income individuals who face poverty must also meet a deluge of additional challenges like poor nutrition and inadequate housing conditions. These adversities ultimately impact their health and their ability to receive care when it’s needed. Caring for the full spectrum of a patient’s needs ensures they have the best chance at recovery.

Mental health care in particular has been shown to have a dramatic effect on patient outcomes. Not only does an improved mental state enhance compliance with medical care plans, it lowers health costs and frees up limited resources. It is well-known that this facet of health management is a powerful player in patient outcomes, and it’s for this reason that most hospitals have some form of psychological care. Even digital tools are finding their place and have gained a strong foothold. PoE medical computers and medical tablets, for example, are revolutionizing the way mental health care is administered. 

Mental Health Care Improves Inpatient Outcomes

Patients who are hospitalized for long periods of time, who are bedridden, and who are quarantined need reliable access to psychological support. Having the right devices on hand ensures that patients have ready access to useful resources like mindfulness apps, online support groups, self-help books, and more. These would supplement the personalized care provided by medical social workers and psychologists and allow patients to feel connected to some level of support at any given time.

Perhaps the greatest and least acknowledged benefit of using tablets in healthcare is that patients can bypass the stigma that generally comes with seeking mental health services. By accessing resources on their own terms, they gain a sense of empowerment over their concerns and are more likely to utilize the available resources to their advantage. Other clear benefits include increased adhesion to care plans (even after leaving the hospital), improved depression and anxiety, and increased overall patient satisfaction.

Reducing Depression and Anxiety 

In meta-analyses on the subject, findings suggest that patient depression shares a strong connection with nonadherence to medical treatment. Overall, the risk of nonadherence is 27% higher in the presence of depression than it is otherwise. This is an obvious concern because a hallmark of depression is loss of interest in normal activities. When caring for one’s health feels like an insurmountable chore, it’s no surprise that depressed patients fall out of compliance with medical instruction. 

Patients often don’t recognize the symptoms of depression or understand the consequences of neglecting their mental health. In fact, they may erect a barrier for themselves by disregarding their symptoms or failing to admit them for fear of the stigma tied to mental illness. If patients had a way to access information tailored to their condition — and this is excluding the unreliable information a patient might find on his or her own via the internet — they will be better equipped to recognize such symptoms and more likely to initiate a discussion with their provider. Having a medical tablet or PoE computer at their bedside would allow them to browse these curated informational resources as needed.

In addition to educational content, such devices are also compatible with apps and games intended to combat symptoms of depression and anxiety. Mindfulness apps, for example, offer patients on-demand guided meditation and breathing exercises which are proven to reduce anxiety. Similarly, games like Project: EVO are developed to exercise those parts of the brain that don’t receive enough use when a person is weighed by depression. The result of essentially retraining the brain is increased neurological efficiency which allows patients to regain mental processes like decision-making, concentration, and motivation.

Because depression and anxiety are linked to nonadherence to treatment, they are consequently linked to longer or more complex recoveries. There is also a marked increase in the risk for self-harm. Having ready resources to combat these mental health concerns is a significant piece of the healthcare puzzle. 

Improving Compliance With Care Plans

Studies have taught us that, when patients actively participate in their own health plan, they are more satisfied with their care and more likely to adhere to the dispensed treatment recommendations. A group at the Mayo Clinic understood the role of the patient in their eventual treatment outcome and deployed an interactive tablet-based patient program

The Mayo myCare program was designed to provide patients with details about their treatment plan, to highlight clinical milestones, to supply educational materials, and to provide patients with a daily “to-do” list so they may report their progress and identify problems to their providers. Before and after surgery, patients would use the tablet to understand their plan for the day and to complete their daily education, self-assessment, and recovery-planning modules. Thanks to cloud aggregated data, nurses and physicians could view the data and track patient progress across the various modules.

The results indicated that an overwhelming majority of patients who used the program felt they were well-informed about their care and also felt that it prepared them to better manage their post-discharge care at home. 

Because we know that patients who are informed and motivated will stick to treatment plans better than patients who are not, these findings essentially demonstrate that interactive technology is likely a key factor in maintaining that engagement. There are, however, a few important considerations when it comes to deploying technology in a healthcare setting. 

First and foremost, devices should have a 60601-1 electromagnetic and radiation emissions rating so they are safe for near-patient use. Additionally, ingress protection is important to protect the device from water and dust. A rating of IP65, for example, means the device can be directly sprayed with disinfectants without fear of damaging the internal components. Medical-grade tablets like the CyberMed Rx are designed with these specifications, making them easy to implement for patient-use.

The Technology That Makes it Feasible

While on the subject of frequent disinfecting, hospitals that employ a “check-out” option on their tablets (like libraries do with books) derive even greater benefit from IP65 rated devices. The mental health rehabilitation unit, Pinewood House, is a great example of how such a system plays out. With only two iPads on-hand, they must rotate the devices through their various uses. They are used to facilitate group sessions, are used by patients to access online mental health support, and they even go home with patients should they need to video call staff for extra support. 

Unlike iPads, medical-grade tablets can be thoroughly disinfected and are also ruggedly built to withstand drops and impacts. Comparatively speaking, they would make a more financially-sound investment in an environment where they are subjected to heavy use and likely to switch hands often.

In a hospital setting, the same concepts that Pinewood House employed can be put into practice. If the portability of a tablet is not a matter of interest, power-over-ethernet computers can serve the same function. Because they can be powered by an ethernet cable, they circumvent the need for nearby AC outlets and bulky power cords. Additionally, having a resource-efficient computer at the patient’s bedside involves a lot less transporting of your devices and grants patients 24/7 access to the digital tools that help them mitigate insomnia, depression, and anxiety.

Behavioral Health Can and Should Be Accessible

Integrating behavioral health services emphasizes the comprehensive and continuous nature of patient care. It has been proven that patients who receive some level of intervention for their mental health concerns have better overall outcomes than those who do not. This is why the use of devices like medical tablets has expanded so quickly. 

Often, patients don’t want an in-person visit from a social worker or psychologist. There is a greater level of comfort in the ability to self-treat with interactive education, assessment, and mental exercise tools. The options for text therapy and online therapy allow for even greater possibilities in mental health management. Not to mention, such online resources reserve scarce PPE supplies as services are conducted virtually instead of in-person. 

There is great potential in utilizing tablets in healthcare. If you are interested in expanding your behavioral health services with medical grade tablets or PoE computers, contact the experts at Cybernet today!