Digital Health

COVID-19 Health Technology: What Works, What Needs Work

Provider using health technology during COVID-19 pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic continues to emphasize the global health challenges preventing people everywhere from reaching their maximum health and wellness potential. As we know, many of those health challenges existed long before the pandemic began. At the same time, countless health technology solutions meant to alleviate such challenges continue to evolve—but don’t always meet each mark, hindering quality of care and outcomes.

With so many tech solutions promising improved outcomes and more innovative care delivery, why are healthcare organizations struggling to find the value of the technologies they’re implementing? What are the most valuable technologies and solutions being utilized during the COVID-19 pandemic and why? Though we have much to celebrate with all the life-saving technologies available, we also have a lot of work to do to make these solutions sustainable and worthwhile—especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.

A survey conducted by Forrester and contributed to by HIMSS membership unveiled insights about the effectiveness of health technology in helping fight the pandemic. What we learned was many of these life-changing technologies are impacting people for the better, but almost all of them need work to become truly transformative.

Virtual Care Solutions Are Most Important

The findings showed that virtual care solutions ranked the highest among survey participants—as it relates to technologies considered most pertinent to their organization’s COVID-19 strategy.

Organizations respond about COVID-19 tech strategy

Source: Forrester/HIMSS Q2 2020 COVID-19 Technology Response Plan Survey

Why They Work

  • Contains spread of disease in overcrowded waiting rooms and facilities. By creating new virtual avenues for care, organizations can plan to have less patients physically present in their facilities, reducing chances of spreading the virus. Helps hospitals operate more efficiently without surpassing capacity limits. By virtualizing care, more patients can be seen in one day than ever before.
  • Keeps elective procedures and other less essential healthcare services operating. Many patients with elective procedures scheduled this year have been delayed, rescheduled and canceled. In order to keep all staff members working and taking care of as many patients as possible, virtualizing solutions that patients can utilize outside of their care facility can help streamline operations for departments facing different challenges with staffing, scheduling appointments and more.

Where More Work Is Needed

  • Accommodating a major growth demand for virtual visits. Forrester predicts more than 1 billion virtual visits to occur this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as regular healthcare maintenance, mental health, influenza, etc.
  • Improving integration between new solutions and existing clinical workflows. This way, platforms can exchange information seamlessly and information can be easily accessed by patients and providers alike.
  • Standards, standards, standards. To maximize the benefits of virtual care solutions, it’s imperative that data-sharing features are available and working. It’s important to ensure that any new platforms coincide with current standards, such as FHIR.

Remote Patient Monitoring

Remote patient monitoring is making more possible during the COVID-19 pandemic, but it’s not the star of the show when it comes to health technology solutions. Respondents from Forrester’s survey ranked it 2.4 out of 5 as it relates to the solution’s importance in developing a COVID-19 strategy, with 27% of respondents saying the technology needed more work from market suppliers to be useful during COVID-19. While this core technology could have a larger impact in the fight against COVID-19, longstanding issues like a lack of interoperable systems and workflow challenges stand in the way.

Why It Works

  • Patients get to recover at home. Individuals diagnosed with COVID-19 who have milder symptoms can recover in the comfort of their own home, while still under the care and surveillance of their medical team.
  • Reduces potential for transmission. Mount Sinai Health System, for example, is streaming real-time video feeds of inpatient rooms to nursing stations so nurses can monitor and communicate with patients, reducing the amount of physical contact and lowering transmission risk.

Where More Work Is Needed

  • Foundational strategies for implementing technology. There’s a definite need for remote patient monitoring solutions with the number of patients suffering from COVID-19, but many healthcare organizations were not prepared to be surveilling this many patients at once—and therefore don’t have the infrastructure to do so. Even when organizations have the appropriate resources to spend on new solutions, it should be a thoughtful endeavor when selecting these technologies—it’s important the pressure to stay on top of the pandemic doesn’t compromise quality of care.
  • Developing scalable solutions. Technology solutions need to be scalable to improve patient care and to integrate with clinical workflows, and in many cases, remote patient monitoring solutions are not. This can hurt, not help organizations without the right strategy to drive the solutions forward.

Predictive Analytics

Of all health technology solutions, predictive analytics has played an essential role during the pandemic—one that has made history by exposing health disparities with data-driven insights.

Why It Works

  • Helps gather specific data on populations in order to better serve the health needs of each community. Predictive analytics can help stratify risk and give a more detailed picture into the collective health of a single community. This way, providers have additional ways to plan and prepare for future patients with COVID-19.
  • Supports forecasting efforts and alleviates capacity strain. Predictive analytics have taken forecasting efforts to a new level for many healthcare organizations across the nation and throughout the world. For example, during COVID-19, forecasting with insights based on predictive analytics helped both anticipate patient deterioration levels and speed patient discharges where appropriate to free up space in facilities.

Where More Work Is Needed

  • Making data actionable. To deepen understanding of what the insights mean and what can be done based on findings, it’s important that healthcare organizations place effort into ensuring all stakeholders understand the data and how to apply it.
  • Analytics help shine a spotlight on proactive approaches to keeping people healthy and well. “It’s all about working with real-world evidence to help us better understand where and what, and more importantly, how to proactively mitigate risk,” shared Anne Snowdon, RN, PhD, FAAN, Director of Clinical Research at HIMSS.
  • Helping people understand the problems and the potential of solutions with predictive analytics capabilities. “We know through emerging outcomes data—that not every pathway has the same impact or value for every patient,” explained Dr. Snowdon. “Decision-making has to be informed by accurate, real-time flow of data and evidence.”

COVID-19 has helped us refresh mindsets and increase urgency in providing quality, timely care—and health technology is making that possible. Though it’s clear we have work to do, continuous improvements made to virtual solutions will ultimately pay off in the long-run.

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