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We Have Failed Our Healthcare Workers

Nov. 10, 2020
Existing technology and systems fall short in enabling healthcare workers to handle global pandemic.

COVID-19 has been an eye-opener for most industries globally. It showed the fragility to crucial supply chains, highlighted cracks in the global healthcare system and exposed many of its structural and technological challenges.

With shelter-in-place orders being mandated in many locations throughout the globe, and hospitals being overwhelmed with an influx in patients, the healthcare industry needs to implement fast, efficient and safe ways to care for their patients – virtually and in-person.

However, according to a new global research report commissioned by SOTI, Critical Technology for Critical Care: State of Mobility in Healthcare 2020/21, half of healthcare employers in North America need to invest in new or better technology to improve the patient care experience. In fact, 77% of healthcare workers stated they struggle with technology setups in the field and 50% revealed that trying to use their employer’s technology wastes time they could be using to help patients. 

“Mobile technology has never been more business-critical in the healthcare industry than it is today. For years, we at SOTI have been helping equip healthcare organizations with reliable and efficient digital technology needed to better serve patient needs. This pandemic has only heightened the major gaps in organizations that have not prioritized integrated mobile technology solutions,” said Shash Anand, VP of Product Strategy, SOTI. “Implementing mobile technology solutions provides healthcare workers with a seamless, safer and faster patient experience and equips them with the tools needed to provide critical care.” 

Time to Get Strategic

According to SOTI’s report, the healthcare industry is using technology in the field, but is not being strategic about how employees use their devices, leading some to continue to rely on paper and pen processes, Anand tells IndustryWeek.  

“We found that 39% of healthcare workers’ time is spent handling mundane tasks, such as accessing and updating patient records, accessing test results, travelling and recording information for administrative purposes. In addition, we are seeing a lot of healthcare tech systems are not adequate and the integration of multiple devices is not singular – this is slowing down the industry,” says Anand. “Employees are not using their devices correctly and some devices are not being updated in real-time – which opens the door for mistakes and security issues. Furthermore, over 70% of frontline workers who are provided a device said that the online systems they use do not run on their mobile device, and between 26% to 39% confirmed they still rely on paper and pen before inputting data into a device.”

Those who are using devices in the field also face technical difficulties very often, explains Anand. Specifically, 54% say using the tech their employer provides wastes time they could be spending with patients. In fact, frontline workers in North America are losing 432 hours per year dealing with system difficulties. “Often staff have mobile devices, but use them only to stay in touch with head office, for instance in the case of care workers in the field. The systems they use are not seamlessly integrated and, partially in consequence, are unreliable,” says Anand. “This requires staff to perform a significant amount of troubleshooting, taking them away from their core tasks. Yet, with a mobile technology strategy in place, IT teams can remotely fix any device issue at hand and allow an employee to go back to work faster. This in turn, allows doctors, and those in other medical professions, to receive and access all data in one location and act as quickly as possible – especially in a setting where every second counts.”  

Inefficient Technology Strips Time Away from Patient Care  

SOTI’s research found that 432 hours are lost, per healthcare worker per year, dealing with technical or system difficulties in North America. On a global basis, this means that only 39% of healthcare workers’ time can be spent focused on patient care. The rest of the time is spent on tasks like accessing and updating patient records, accessing test results, travelling and recording information for administrative purposes, which technology could help to automate.  

According to Anand strategic use of mobile technology can help to reduce downtime and automate many of the activities that are keeping healthcare workers away from their patients. “Whether it’s providing apps that can easily capture and share patient healthcare information, such as lab results, or troubleshooting devices in the field,” he says. “Having immediate accessibility to business-critical tools where every second counts is now essential and can be done by implementing a mobile device into the daily activities of a healthcare employee.” 

Time for a Brighter Future

SOTI learned that 60% of U.S. healthcare workers believe their employer needs to invest in better technology, further emphasizing how business-critical mobile technology is in the healthcare industry.  

Healthcare employers need to leverage mobile technology in order to enable their workers to be better prepared to quickly respond to patient needs, as well as position them to continue serving patients with minimal disruption when using devices in the field. Beyond the global coronavirus pandemic, mobile technology empowers medical staff to provide high quality care to patients even when in-person visits are not possible, and when they are needed most. 

“By implementing mobile technology solutions, patient data, for example, can be securely shared and accessed by a team of healthcare providers, which helps testing centers, doctors and nurses ensure they are all aligned from the moment an individual undergoes an examination,” says Anand. “Looking ahead, the market for healthcare-related mobile innovation is forecasted to reach $188.2 billion by 2025. This means that mobile devices (smartphones, tablets, smartwatches and more) will become increasingly common in hospitals, outpatient care and other clinical settings.”  

Anand provides a few examples of how innovative technologies can be used in healthcare moving forward: 

  • A wearable device which monitors the vital signs of cancer patients, allowing staff to intervene to prevent discomfort. 
  • Continuous glucose monitoring devices which alert diabetics as soon as their insulin levels are too high or low. 
  • IoT devices worn by elderly patients in their own homes, which alert remote care staff if that patient falls. 
  • Non-invasive ingestible sensors that sit in the patient’s gut, monitor the diffusion of a selected drug and alert clinicians if medicine is being taken improperly. 

Even from these few examples, it’s clear that mobile technology has the potential to improve patient care and the quality of outcomes. But we cannot take this for granted.

“For it to happen, healthcare providers must be able to continuously capture, secure and process the often-vast amounts of data that connected devices produce,” he says. “The global pandemic has shown the healthcare industry that technology is critical. While during the pandemic, a third indicated that new systems and technology were introduced, 71% of U.S. healthcare workers said their technology and systems were not prepared to manage any situations related to COVID-19. This number increased in Canada to 78%.” 

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