In healthcare, every delay has a human cost. When the pandemic hit, that cost soared.

The last two years have exposed the challenges facing our hospital systems. The healthcare ecosystem is complex, and the fractured and fragmented communications systems of email, spreadsheets, forms, messaging, telephone calls and even interoffice envelopes left information in isolated silos. Patient data was hard to track down, incomplete, and almost impossible to collate, particularly when the patient was transferred between locations and carers. 

As hospitals filled, healthcare workers were swamped with information overload from different locations and in different formats. Cross-referencing and double-checking details was frustrating and time-consuming, which ultimately had a detrimental impact on patient care. 

After years of lagging in digital innovation, it was time for the industry to catch up. COVID-19 was the catalyst for a digital revolution in healthcare. 

Recognising the need to streamline workflows was the key factor in the drive towards efficient and effective patient care. In forward-thinking health departments, cumbersome, manual processes were swiftly digitised, delivering convenience, accessibility, and most importantly, better patient care. 

Hospitals that combined purpose-built smart devices with healthcare-specific applications could share information instantaneously. Shareable on-call scheduling, immediate access to clinical test notifications, integrating task management, incident management, and location services all had a positive impact on both hospital staff and patient outcomes. Ultimately, digitising information and creating smooth workflows saved time and money, easing the pressure on overflowing hospitals as the pandemic swept the globe.  

Although those pressures may be relaxing somewhat in the short term as case numbers recede, there’s no doubt that we must be ready for the next wave of this virus as well as inevitable future pandemics. Tighter budgets, an ageing population, fewer medical staff, and higher patient expectations will also put healthcare systems under pressure. This creates a need to better design hospitals to deal with future pandemic outbreaks. 

Redesigning physical architecture to improve communication and accessibility, or reduce the risk of contagions spreading, may be out of the question, at least in the short-to-medium term. However, transforming the way healthcare teams work is definitely within reach. 

The pandemic has created a shift to patient-centric care with technology and digitisation leading the way.  

‘Care in the community’ has long been an idealistic view of patient care; however, as technology delivers purpose-built smart devices and secure healthcare specific applications, remote working care teams can offer high levels of personalised care beyond the hospital cubicle. Digitised workflows will ensure mobile healthcare workers are as informed as staff inside the hospital due to shareable patient notes, immediate access to reports, and instant visibility across team schedules and locations.  

This decentralised model supports the further shift towards the ‘care anywhere’ model, an interconnected health ecosystem that focuses on personalised patient care. Connected smart devices are already changing the face of healthcare and these will be further enabled by the rollout of 5G and the interconnectivity of the Internet of Things (IoT).  

To cope with new virus outbreaks, hospitals of the future must take a digital-first approach. Technology will underpin the development of dedicated communications processes and break down silos to deliver connected care.  

As we consider the risks of antimicrobial resistance and cross infections, we must also shift our thinking away from delivering patient care in a traditional physical hospital building. Instead of a ‘place-based’ approach, the new normal must be a healthcare ecosystem of interconnected devices that delivers seamless, efficient, secure data across multiple devices and locations, offering personalised ‘care anywhere’. Decentralising from the hospital base potentially reduces contamination risks, improves patient care, reduces costs, and significantly reduces the pressures on frontline hospital staff. 

All healthcare workers have one main goal; to help patients as effectively and efficiently as possible. As we consider the imminent threat of future pandemics, we must re-evaluate the way we deliver that care. New technology can deliver secure, immediate, cost effective, efficient solutions that reduce risks for both patients and carers, demonstrating that digitisation is a major game-changer and can deliver the proactive health management that we’re all aiming for.  

Connected Health, powered by Wavelink, is here to help. To find out how we can digitalise and streamline your healthcare facility’s communications, contact the team today.