As the news of the pandemic outbreaks occurs, and as patients start seeing flu like symptoms, it’s natural for patients to show up in hospitals and urgent care centers. The care givers that the patients with flu interact are at higher risk of exposure. The US occupational safety and health administration (OSHA) has classified healthcare workplaces to be at very high or high exposure risk for pandemic influenza. For example, a personal that is collecting specimens from pandemic patients is at a very high risk of exposure.
According to CDC guidance, People with flu can spread it to others up to about 6 feet away through droplets made when people with flu cough, sneeze or talk. So proximity and in person interactions must be managed carefully while services are provided.
If we were to track the imaginary path of the flu virus (as a person with flu travels to various places in a hospital), every interaction he has with a staff in person is a potential touch point where he can spread flu. It could be the parking lot, the lobby where he might be passing through healthy visitors, care givers or other patients, the staff at the registration/check-in desk, the nurse or the doctor in the examination room, the staff in the lab, the checkout desk, and list goes on.
Now, let’s look at how virtual care technology driven strategies can help reduce the risk of exposure and at the same time provide essential services to patients. Here are few approaches:
Providing Care at origin: As patients start to see symptoms, if they can interact with their care teams from their home using video solutions, it enables early and convenient care. The care team is also able to educate the patients on driving their wellness during the pandemic using relevant information.
Pre-screening for Early elimination: When a patient calls for scheduling an appointment, they can be pre-screened. A video enabled pre-screening workflow can be used to identify healthy patients and sick patients. This can help avoid healthy patients from coming to the hospital and at the same time provide special care to sick patients
Line of sight Separation with Remote staff assisted Check-in: When a patient comes into the hospital, an automated, non-touch voice and video enabled kiosk can be used to interact with the registration staff remotely to perform tasks such as check-ins, payments and verifications.
Detour and Special Designated areas in the hospital: To limit proximity and exposure to healthy patients, the hospital floor can be reconfigured with dynamic signage and video enabled concierge services that directs pre-screened infected patients to special areas
Far end controlled, Assisted Exams: Leveraging collaboration technologies such as video, remote camera control, application sharing and annotations, the nurse or doctor in a remote location can guide the patient to perform various procedures using step by step instructions and provide tele-consultations
Workflow Automation with Time Separation: In some cases, such as sample collection, it requires a staff to go inside the room to collect the sample. In order to avoid direct exposure, one of the approaches could be enabling the workflow with Time separation. Based on the guidance of the staff appearing on video, the patient performs the sample collection such as throat swap, labels the sample and drops it in a container which can be collected by the staff at a later time.
Proximity Care centers with condition based Separation: Centers specific to managing patients with influenza can be set up to provide care closer to home. This can help limit exposure to a larger population. The remote clinic connects with the providers at the main hospital using video and TeleHealth workflow.
Online checkouts from personal smart devices: Smart apps that identify location of the patients and pushes check out workflow can enable seamless self-services. Check-out staff can interact with patients on their smart phone using video to provide additional help.
In all these above process transformation models, virtual care enables not only business continuity and reduces the risk of exposure for the staff and patients during a pandemic, it also provides enhanced patient experience and improved process efficiencies.
Cisco’s healthcare focused care at a distance and patient engagement solutions strive to enable such process transformations to enhanced patient experience and improve process efficiencies.
Part 3 of this blog series will focus on why cloud is key to such strategies and approaches.