Without a doubt, the world has been forever changed by COVID-19. This is particularly evident in healthcare, where the novel coronavirus has prompted a rapid acceleration of modernization efforts. Acute and non-acute care facilities alike spent much of 2020 trying to scale infrastructure, systems and staff in anticipation of what was to come in the coming months, with many racing to source supplies and stand up extraordinary care capabilities in an often-unconventional manner. The collective creativity – both at the individual and industrial levels – is proving paramount to healthcare’s agility. But so is technology.
As you can see in the headlines, manufacturers are retrofitting assembly lines, employing 3D technology and quickly introducing new biotech solutions to help arm front-line forces with the tools they need to fight back against COVID-19. Yet, one of the most effective ways to advance healthcare workers’ capabilities in any scenario – and especially in a crisis – is to ensure that every care team member or patient coordinator has a clinical smartphone in hand.
In a recent tweet chat with HealthTech magazine, Zebra’s global healthcare lead, Chris Sullivan, explained why care team mobility should be one of healthcare providers’ top technology priorities at this moment in time. Here’s a transcript of the conversation in case you missed it:
HealthTech: What’s the biggest way that mobility is changing healthcare right now?
Chris: Mobility is bringing more real-time patient data to caregivers, enabling them to spend more time with patients and make decisions faster. The combination of these changes contributes to a higher quality of patient care and an improved experience.
HealthTech: How do mobile devices help doctors provide virtual care?
Chris: Mobile devices help enable virtual care by providing voice, text, and video streaming that can successfully replicate the experience of an in-person physician visit. Mobile devices also allow physicians to respond to emergencies and unplanned patient interactions in a more impactful way because digital health records, imaging and diagnostics of a patient can be remotely accessed on an enterprise-class mobile device.
HealthTech: Why are mobile tools so valuable during a public health crisis?
Chris: Mobile devices bring real-time data to the point of care, which is essential to reducing false information and uncertainty. These devices facilitate quicker, more seamless communication between caregiver team members, the caregiver community and patients themselves. When effective communication methodologies are established, everyone benefits from improved operational efficiency and increased patient capacity management.
HealthTech: What are the key capacities of handheld mobile computers?
Chris: Zebra’s purpose-built handheld mobile computers may look similar to smartphones but offer significant differences. Our devices are built to last featuring a healthcare-grade plastic material designed to reduce the spread of infections, sturdy exterior shells, long battery life and industrial-strength scanning for data capture accuracy. Software features provide necessary enterprise-class security and manageability options.
HealthTech: What challenges can hinder healthcare mobility initiatives?
Chris: Security and interoperability may seem like opposing forces, but when these platforms are utilized, enterprise data management activities become easier on the IT organization to support. They also allow for better integration with disparate health information systems and patient monitoring technologies.
HealthTech: What infrastructure needs must be addressed before developing a mobility strategy?
Chris: A robust Wi-Fi network is critical for enabling mobility strategies and improving communication and data exchange. This topic is particularly critical for large hospitals and older buildings that are susceptible to Wi-Fi dead spots. As advanced clinical mobility use cases become more common, it will be more important to adopt high-streaming and medical device Internet of Things (IoT) interoperability strategies.
HealthTech: What qualities make for effective staff training when deploying new mobile tools?
Chris: Dedicated staff training budget and resources such as visual props, video training and digital learning tools are important along with selecting a mobile device vendor with strong professional services functions.
HealthTech: Why are scanners a valuable tool in healthcare?
Chris: Scanners are a critical tool that can help improve patient safety and staff productivity. They are vitally important for most healthcare workflows and functions and reduce human errors. Medication administration, specimen collection, blood transfusion management, unique medical device identification and many other patient functions depend on barcode scanners for optimal patient care.
HealthTech: What has changed about RFID technology in the healthcare setting?
Chris: Price points and implementation costs have decreased while implementation software and service offerings have significantly strengthened the user experience and ongoing program management effectiveness. Use cases have also expanded into tissue pathology, laundry and linen management and surgical instrument set reprocessing among other areas.
HealthTech: Where do you see the future of mobility headed? What’s next?
Chris: Healthcare mobility is just getting started. In the future, we will be seeing a significant ramp up in both the volume and sophistication of use. Zebra Technologies’ healthcare clients are already engaging in 25+ distinct healthcare mobility use cases which fall into one of the following four meta solution categories: communication, data capture, clinical decision support and workflow efficiency. Each use case has a varying degree of adoption maturity.