For the past few years, healthcare has been in the midst of a pivot towards patient empowerment. Value-based care, the abandonment of fee-for-service payment models, pushes to allow patients to access their own data, and many other recently advocated programs are all testaments to this pivot. Even now, as the world changes and the way we deliver care changes along with it, we’re seeing further pushes for telehealth and more mobile medical computer systems that provide more value to the average patient.   

And while 2020 has been tumultuous to say the very least, it has surely shown us the innovative nature of the healthcare sector as we see quite a few new applications of telehealth and social distance-conscious applications of care come into the spotlight. The trick for many healthcare facilities now has been blending both distance and patient engagement technology into how care is administered. How can facilities provide value and improve patient satisfaction in a time where there is decidedly less personal, face-to-face interaction between patient and physicians? 

Thankfully, with the incorporation of medical grade tablets, several unique patient engagement systems have come out of the woodworks – owing their inceptions once again to the ingenuity of the healthcare sector. Below are only a few of the more effective and interesting applications that have been observed. 

Patient-Controlled Robots

In one of the more exciting applications of patient engagement technology, AdventHealth has leveraged healthcare tablets in order to give patients the ability to interact with loved ones and explore the hospital from the comfort of their patient room. They did this by equipping a remote controllable segway transportation device with a medical grade tablet. The children’s hospital was able to use these new robots in order to give their patients the ability to more comfortably socialize with doctors, nurses, other patients, and parents who now need to isolate due to the recent pandemic developments. Several staff members comment that these kinds of interactions are very important for their patients and the need to facilitate them hasn’t diminished despite how healthcare has changed in recent months.  

While the program hasn’t been deployed long enough to measure any results as of yet, AdventHealth’s efforts to boost patient engagement during these tough times in their patients’ lives shows us the push for value-based care has done little slowing down during these uncertain times.

Real-Time Data

Entertainment and social applications of patient engagement tools have their merit, but there’s still a need shared by patients to receive more real-time, data driven understandings of their treatments and conditions. Both entertainment and education are two sides of the same coin here. Darren Dworkin, Chief Information Office at Cedars-Sinai Los Angeles emphasizes this in a recent interview in which he states, “Our encounters with our patients are often at a time when they are most vulnerable and looking for answers. One of the most helpful technologies we have found to engage patients in their journey with us is real-time information.”

This real-time information can span a number of pieces of data ranging from test results and doctor’s notes to even payment information. Dworkin even emphasizes that healthcare tablets have functioned as wonderful middlemen for this type of information, allowing patients to access patient portals, web applications, chat programs, and more all from the comfort of their own hospital bed with little difficulty. Applications of patient engagement technology such as this empowers patients, raises satisfaction rates, and goes further into pushing a facility into more value-based care by becoming more transparent with things like pricing, procedures, and treatment options. This transparency has proven to be essential as we move further into patient empowered modes of healthcare consumerism.

Patient Edu-tainment

Education and entertainment may be two sides of many patient engagement solutions, but that doesn’t mean these two parts need to be split. Patient edu-tainment solutions exist that perfectly blend these two facets into one. Healthcare tablets are able to meld these two in multiple ways.

Several hospitals and care facilities have employed tablets at the patient’s bedside that can be loaded up with educational modules, activities, and more on a given patient’s condition. Depending on patient age, these modules can range from games and chatbots to detailed presentations and more. Many times these devices can even be loaded with things like streaming services, games completely unrelated to conditions, and other strictly entertainment applications whose benefits can’t be understated when patient stress is at its highest.

Remote Monitoring Programs

Remote monitoring as a branch-off of telehealth has exploded in popularity for obvious reasons as we enter a more socially-distant mode of healthcare. Remote monitoring allows for physicians and care professionals to track important patient vitals from afar. This is done, usually, by giving patients a pack of vital tracking and reporting tools that can be used from home and whose findings can be shared with providers. These patient engagement systems are incredibly effective, engaging patients with their care while also educating them on how their vitals and treatment play into each other.

Michigan Medicine utilized medical tablets in their own remote monitoring program to great success. Loaning a wireless digital tablet and vital monitoring devices to their patients, Michigan Medicine was able to effectively engage patients with their care, reduce patient readmissions, and further delve into the future of healthcare which is looking to be more and more remote. 

Meeting Patient Expectations at Check In

As patients continue to become more active “healthcare consumers” it becomes essential to meet their expectations of a streamlined means of care as early as possible. For many care facilities, according to interactive tech specialists at Elo, this has resulted in wider adoption of touch screen solutions such as those provided by medical grade tablets. Providing a familiar piece of technology like a tablet with a touchscreen allows patients to easily check into the facility, share key concerns with their physician or nurse, and elaborate on any pre-consultation information they feel may help in their treatment. As they do this and also fill out consent and health status forms, patients get to feel heard as they share their concerns while also helping physicians and nurses with triaging in the process. 

On the topic of how these tablet check-in solutions help the providers themselves, they eliminate the need to run triage interviews and manually ask these questions of their patients. What this opens the door for is more time actually spent speaking to a patient about what they came in to discuss: their condition and how they can treat it. Again, this raises patient engagement and satisfaction rates as they feel their needs are met while physicians get to sidestep the draining administrative work that would have otherwise sapped away this time they now have to speak with their patient.  

What to Look for In a Healthcare Tablet

It stands to scrutiny that a mobile solution like a medical tablet would benefit a healthcare industry that’s increasingly understanding the merits of remote care. That said, not just any medical tablet is fit to be deployed within a care facility. The average consumer-grade tablet isn’t fortified against infection and as effective for near patient use as a device that carries proper certifications and hardware requirements. 

When browsing for tablets to deploy, a few key features and certifications are required. Often, devices such as tablets can give off electromagnetic waves that can affect other nearby devices that are being used to maintain a patient’s health. Thus, any tablet you decide to implement should hold an IEC60601-1 certification, ensuring that it has been tested and proven to be safe for near patient use.

Secondly, in an age where infection rates and the need to lower them could not be more pronounced, a tablet that is IP65 certified is also paramount. This certification guarantees that the device is fortified against dust and, more importantly, liquid ingress which means staff can disinfect the tablet repeatedly with liquid sanitizing agents without damaging its internal components in the process. If the tablet is also designed with antimicrobial properties that are baked into the material of the device as opposed to using an antimicrobial coating, those properties also won’t be rubbed away by repeated disinfections.      

Getting Started with Patient Engagement Solutions

Medical tablets and patient engagement solutions have been part of healthcare for quite some time. It’s only now, amidst a wildly changing industry and world, that we’re beginning to see more use cases and more innovative applications of this same technology. We’re confident that the healthcare sector will only continue to innovate and improve care and patient engagement solutions in the process. For more information in how you can get started with medical tablet-fueled patient engagement solutions yourself, contact an expert from Cybernet today.