It’s been nearly a year since the first cases of COVID-19 found their way to the United States. And, as the country battles a continuing surge of COVID-19 cases, there are far too many patients filling our hospitals.
The influx of patients has become so critical that some states have nearly one-third of their hospital bed capacity filled with COVID-19 patients. In Los Angeles County, California, the Los Angeles County's Emergency Medical Services Agency has instructed paramedics not to transport patients with little chance of survival into hospitals due to the overwhelming number of patients currently in hospitals there. The situation in California is not unique; healthcare organizations across the nation are struggling to keep up with the patient demand.
The surge in patient admissions has resulted in a dire staffing situation in many healthcare settings. With some nursing teams looking to strike, and other locales offering up to $10,000 per week for travel nurses due to staffing shortages during COVID-19, nurses are exhausted and in high demand — a dangerous combination.
Digital health technology, like GetWell Loop and GetWell Inpatient, can go a long way toward helping with staffing needs during difficult times. While perhaps not a completely comprehensive answer — there are many aspects to staffing shortages during times of crisis — such technology is a step in the right direction to address these concerns.
Digital health technology can help reduce staff overwhelm
As the number of patients being treated for COVID-19 rises, the demands on staff increase. Ordinary tasks and decisions — like understanding which patients need outreach and which incoming phone calls should be addressed first — can rapidly become overwhelming when staff members are faced with a growing number of hospitalizations.
But technologies like GetWell Loop’s COVID-19 digital care plans or GetWell Inpatient’s COVID-19 promotional space serve a number of purposes to help decrease the burden on staff during this difficult time. With these solutions, organizations can:
- Direct patients to public health information and guidelines such as the CDC and WHO sites
- Broadcast messages to patients in real time with custom, systemwide, or localized content
- Establish a triage process for prioritizing testing, virtual visits, or hospitalization
- Receive real-time alerts about escalating symptoms
Developing processes and implementing notification systems help to prioritize patients for staff, ultimately lowering the amount of necessary phone calls and hospital visits, helping to prevent burnout and reducing — or at least leveling — the workload for front-line workers.
Digital health technology can support vaccine compliance efforts
Technology will never replace the crucial front-line staff providing vaccines and ensuring that patients are comforted and at ease. However, digital health technology has a role to play before and after vaccine appointments by:
- Informing and educating people
- Influencing attitudes
- Addressing fears and safety concerns
- Helping improve appointment compliance
- Tracking expected side effects of the vaccine
By lifting the burden of education and monitoring of vaccine compliance off of nurses and providers, digital health technology enables them to better focus on providing direct patient care.
Digital health technology can help address staff shortages
With so many patients in need, one of the most pressing concerns for healthcare organizations today is addressing staff shortages. This is where scalable technologies like GetWell Loop come in, since the right remote patient monitoring tools enable triage of patients and remote monitoring, reducing overwhelm on the healthcare system.
In addition, digital health technologies that integrate with EMRs are invaluable since they reduce additional workload on staff, allowing patient care to scale without requiring staff training or logins for new systems outside of their current workflows.
Digital health technology can improve patient access
Another reliable way of mitigating staff shortages is to put patient reliance on technology itself, rather than requiring and relying on the intervention of staff at all times. Providing patients with multiple ways to access educational or therapeutic offerings — offered via in-room television or on their own devices — removes the burden from staff to be constantly at the beck and call of patients and empowers patients to seek the information they need, when they need it.
With more than 81% of U.S. adults owning a smartphone, Americans have acclimated to mobile technology and have come to expect the same convenience in other parts of their life, including healthcare. Mobile offerings allow patients to consume information and care on their own terms. And, by embracing a mobile-inclusive strategy, healthcare staff are freed up to focus on those most in need. In an era with widespread patient needs, every extra helping hand can make a difference.
The bottom line
Reducing overwhelm, addressing staff shortages, and focusing on a mobile-inclusive strategy are all crucial ways that digital health technology can aid in the global fight against COVID-19 and other public health emergencies.
By working together to alleviate the burden on the health system, healthcare organizations and digital health technology providers can offer nursing staff and other front-line workers a much-needed reprieve.