Eight weeks after California put into place the first statewide lockdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the United States is still in the thick of the public health emergency. With over 80,000 American deaths and no standardized central public health response from state to state, patients and families are desperately seeking expert, up-to-date healthcare information.
Health systems are in the perfect position to provide it.
Technology of all kinds has long been used to assuage fears during epidemics or natural disasters, and the COVID-19 pandemic is no different. The University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) has been earning praise for their predictive modeling projections.
UK HealthCare, the hospitals and clinics of the University of Kentucky, has used virtual connection and information to keep the patient-provider bonds strong during a difficult situation. From drug delivery services to AI consultation platforms, tech companies and healthcare organizations are stepping up in the globe’s time of need.
As the pandemic stretches on for an indeterminate amount of time, more and more questions will arise. When is it safe to be in public? What symptoms should concerned individuals be on the lookout for, and which will indicate that impacted individuals are recovering?
Now more than ever, patients and their families are looking for education rather than fear-mongering. But it can’t be just any education — it must be authoritative, trustworthy and delivered in a manner that’s easily digestible.
Healthcare tech has a role to play
Due to both the personalized and automated nature of patient engagement solutions, they are an ideal fit for this type of international public health emergency. Through utilization of digital health tools, care teams can scale customized messaging, patients can receive thorough and painstaking care through virtual mediums and all parties can stay informed and engaged with the ongoing response around them via information from authoritative sources.
- Educate and inform with customized messaging
According to the World Economic Forum, getting out community and national messaging is one key role technology can play during an epidemic or natural disaster. This tracks with the intentions of patient engagement software, which can often offer video or text messaging capabilities to get alerts out to local communities.
Importantly, tools like these can allow for nuanced messaging and differing language depending on the audience. This is crucial during a pandemic like the COVID-19 outbreak, where patient numbers may range from state to state or country to country, thereby dictating different messaging based on audience.
- Provide options for telehealth
At almost no time is the ability for teleconsult more important than in the middle of a pandemic. To reduce the risk of exposure to patients, clinicians and families, patient engagement tools can play a crucial role in facilitating remote connection. External parties should be able to call in via video or audio conferencing, enabling them to stay clear of a hospital room unless absolutely necessary.
- Act as a conduit to authoritative sources
In a time of uncertainty, patients are searching for reassurance from authorities. Providing education and updates from resources like the CDC and WHO can go a long way to making them feel calm and reassured. The choice of these resources is a purposeful one; healthcare consumers want a definitive source of information. They want to know what to do without having to search the answers out themselves.
A comforting and authoritative presence goes a long way, and health systems are in a good position to both share information and act as leaders during this time.
Streamline workflows and improve safety
Technology (such as patient engagement tools) can be used in a crisis to help streamline the workflows of healthcare staff and improve safety across the board. Digital patient check-in systems, for example, can screen for common symptoms of the coronavirus, enabling care teams to divert patients upon arrival to Urgent Cares and other acute care centers.
Digital care management software enables patients to receive competent, personalized care without needing to go into an office or hospital pre- or post-procedure, reducing the risk to patients of contracting viruses while lightening the burden on overtaxed healthcare staff and allowing them to focus on the patients who really need it.
The bottom line
Lack of healthcare education in uncertain times can lead to a rise in panic in patients and other vulnerable populations. Health systems can turn to technology to help combat this concern educating patients en masse.
Patient engagement technology enables seamless outreach to every patient in a hospital, care setting or at home at the same time — no need to hire additional staff, no extra workload for care teams and no communication delay for the most important stakeholder: the patient.