Last week, you heard James Woo, Zebra’s Asia-Pacific (APAC) Healthcare Practice Lead, as well as two of Zebra’s North America Healthcare Account Managers, Kathy Marchant and Katie Johnson, talk about what it takes to stand up a temporary hospital, technologically speaking.
In the second part of our interview below, these experts share some of the key challenges and best practices derived from the front lines of these projects in the hopes that other healthcare systems can learn from them as work continues to expand global care capacity.
Your Edge Blog Team: You’ve all been involved in setting up similar workflows and technology systems in a traditional hospital before. How are things different in this new acute environment?
James: Most hospital staffing, workflow, equipment and technology decisions are based on treating patients with problems ranging from non-infectious, critical conditions such as heart attacks and strokes to major trauma cases arising from motor or industrial accidents and viral infections such as hepatitis C. The new acute environment arising from COVID-19 forces them to re-think and review their existing staffing, workflows and technology adoption. They must be able to scale-up quickly should another major disruption occur and cause another secondary health crisis to occur, resulting in a surge in patient inflow similar to the current COVID-19 pandemic.
Katie: To James’ point, though, this is uncharted territory. Many customers I’ve been working with in the U.S. didn’t necessarily know what they needed technologically speaking when they first started scoping these temporary hospital projects. They knew they needed certain workflow capabilities, but they weren’t sure if the same hardware that they used inside the walls of a traditional hospital would be able to connect in a remote environment. Of course, there were network infrastructure and software considerations too. Could they implement a similar IT infrastructure capacity in the field or use the same mobile apps to facilitate COVID-19-specific workflows. And could they do all of these in two or three weeks knowing that it would normally take three to six months?
Kathy: Another challenge is the inability of solution providers to be on site to support healthcare workers’ efforts in the same capacity they would for other technology implementations. I used to be in a hospital at least once a week with our Sales Engineer, and this proved to be so valuable when understanding the customer’s application and providing support during solution implementation and refinement. Almost everything must be remote now due to travel restrictions and social distancing, so it is a bit harder.
Your Edge Blog Team: What would you say are the best practices derived thus far?
James: Hospitals have to review their current practices, processes and level of technology adoption to ensure that there is a “force multiplier” factor built into their design. When waging a war on a viral outbreak, maintaining status quo at pre-COVID-19 readiness is not an option unless your hospital has the right level of adoption in place to handle the surge and the ability to share data with government agencies in a near real-time manner to support public safety decision making.
Though, if I had to recommend one pillar among the three key pillars (process, people, technology) to scale up first, it would be technology – and mobile technology in particular. Doing so provides the much-needed force multiplier effect when the need arises, enabling current staff to handle higher volumes of patients received in a health crisis in a safer and more efficient manner. They can collaborate at a multi-disciplinary level, receive and act on real-time patient monitoring alerts, track the use of critical assets and/or quickly verify patient identities and health status for quick segregation and accurate treatment. Let me clarify that the other two pillars (process and people) are to be reviewed and worked on so that the three pillars work hand-in-hand to extract maximum benefits from the adoption of new healthcare technologies.
Of course, under infectious conditions, there’s an added advantage to using mobile devices to carry out daily tasks: social distancing. You can scan wristbands and barcodes – and communicate – from afar to minimize the transmission risk between caregivers and patients.
However, it is equally critical to regularly wipe down mobile devices, scanners and printers throughout the day using medical-grade disinfectants, as explained in this video: