How Technology is helping Healthcare Organizations Respond to COVID-19 Surges?

healthcare-technology-covid-19
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The healthcare industry is probably one of the worst-hit by the COVID-19 pandemic and is going through immense pressure to withstand the crisis directly on the frontline while also confronting the challenge to protect their own employees and deal with the financial realities of the situation.

When healthcare leaders around the world say that they have not seen anything like this, they really mean it. 

COVID-19 is pushing the limits of the system across the world in terms of professionals and resources such as protective equipment, testing kits, and ventilators. Healthcare organizations are being forced to be agile, adaptable, and rethink traditional ways of delivering care. 

As governments have started to plan their exit strategies out of the lockdowns, restarting economies will not be easy and it will not be a one-size-fits-all approach, says McKinsey & Company.

The readiness to put the economy back in action will directly depend on how prepared the healthcare system of the country is to respond to the COVID-19 situation there. 

This places a lot of pressure on our healthcare leaders to institute the necessary infrastructure in place and respond to the exponential surge in COVID-19 patients. Rapid Surge Response has been one of the major challenges that the industry is facing currently as the demands on healthcare’s finite resources increase with the rising number of active cases.

Healthcare technology is stepping up to solve this problem so that care can be consistently delivered to patients. The COVID 19 crisis has mercilessly brought out the need for innovation to make our healthcare systems more resilient. Public health dashboards, tech in testing & diagnosis, apps & tools are all examples of how healthcare technology is supporting the fight against COVID 19. 

Let’s take a look at how healthcare organizations must adopt technology to deal with a rapid surge in the volume of cases across the globe.

Upscale Virtual Care capacity 

The Challenge: Frontline healthcare workers have been overwhelmed since the pandemic broke out with concerned citizens calling up to speak with physicians to enquire about their symptoms. Healthcare technology is turning to AI-enabled virtual assistants and establishing contact with patients via the web, mobile, social, email, or text.

The solutions

Chatbots & Voice Bots, for instance, are turning out to be amazing triaging tools to handle increasing call volumes to check for symptoms. 

Case in point: Providence Health in Washington State was working at the epicentre of the pandemic in the US. They reprogrammed their chatbot called Grace to include FAQs and assessments that people could take for their COVID-19 like symptoms. It brought amazing results with 70k patient logins and about one million messages within the first month of the pandemic.

Contact center virtualization has become necessary as social distancing measures have forced contact center employees to work remotely. But healthcare organizations struggling with rising call volumes from concerned citizens are facing a new challenge – equipping their contact center employees with the right technology to work from home.

The physical model of call centers used to have physical offices with multiple rows of agents being trained at one place. But as organizations plan for business continuity amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, this model is practically impossible. Contact center virtualization allows the contact center to be hosted on the cloud and leverage healthcare technology to fight COVID 19.

The cloud-based model allows employees to work from anywhere in the world. Whenever demand shoots up, the flexibility of the cloud allows companies to add in part-time employees to handle the increasing volumes. Unlike virtual call centers that can only handle calls, contact centers process a huge number of emails, support tickets, live chats & texts and audio/video calls.

Triage patients with Artificial Intelligence

The challenge: As hospital emergency rooms & hotlines across the world get flooded with patients due to the pandemic, healthcare workers are finding it hard to triage patients. This means segregating incoming patients according to the severity of the illness to determine who needs intensive care. 

80% of the people who get infected with the Coronavirus actually do not need to be hospitalized but need appropriate care and a place to recover. But how do hospitals & healthcare organizations make the crucial decision regarding who needs intensive care and who doesn’t with healthcare technology amidst COVID 19? Here’s how Artificial Intelligence is helping triage patients. 

The solutions

AI-powered hotlines are solving a critical challenge – the long wait times in virtual queues when patients call up government or healthcare hotlines. 

Case in point: A hotline by Partners HealthCare in Boston was instituted to address COVID19 related queries coming in from both patients & clinicians with the aim to direct them to the appropriate care according to the severity of symptoms. When the hotline became flooded with calls, average wait times peaked to 30 minutes and callers started to give up before they could speak to an expert. At this point, the company opted for an Artificial Intelligence based solution. 

They introduced a screening tool that presents a series of questions to people via a simple chat interface. The self-triage tool decides which ones are severely sick from the others and triage them to the relevant care setting.

Clinical Decision Support goes a long way in helping doctors & nurses to triage patients judging by the condition of their lungs. Decisions at this point could be life-saving and bad ones could have fatal consequences. But AI-based systems  trained on Machine learning models to provide clinical decision support are coming to the aid of doctors.

Case in point: The University of Chicago, for instance, is upgrading an existing AI system of its own that can predict which patients need intensive care by analyzing data from Electronic Medical Records.

The university is currently coming up with a new system to work on COVID specific outcomes to mitigate emergencies and allowing doctors to act well in advance.

Leverage technology for Clinical Testing

The challenge: One of the many ways that the COVID-19 pandemic can be curbed is through increasing the number of testing instances. However, it’s easier said than done looking at the surge in numbers. Moreover, scaling up the testing process is in itself a challenge with reports of insufficient RNA extraction kits and RT-PCR tests. Kits being imported from abroad have turned out to be either faulty or delayed because of rising global demand.

The solutions

An AI-based chest X-Ray system is giving a major boost to the testing process which traditionally can take hours or even days to reveal results.

Case in point: The AI-solution called qXR scans chest X-Rays, identifies how much of the lung is infected and then classifies patients according to the extent of risk for COVID-19. All this is done within minutes! 

Patients are triaged according to who needs further testing and who needs to self-isolate. This is a significant step towards solving the problem arising due to the shortage of test kits.

Tap into Data & Analytics 

The challenge: Predicting where cases might surge in future and managing resource shortages like PPE, ventilators, testing kits etc have become some of the major challenges that healthcare organisations are dealing with. Clinical data from hospitals and public health departments are being combined with the power of technology to arrive at solutions. 

The solutions

Real-time technology came to the rescue of the Arizona Department of Health Services that decided to build a statewide surge line to help in load-balancing of patients and attain transparency in resource shortages. The first of its kind hotline would ensure that no hospital is overloaded with COVID-19 patients while others have empty beds.

Case in point: The Arizona Surge Line tapped into real-time data of bed capacity, clinicians and ventilators across the state which was centralized at one place using a Microsoft Azure-based platform. The system assimilates data from Electronic Health Records, inventories and more pulled out of the state’s health information exchange.

Dashboards provide real-time visibility into data that helps healthcare organizations to predict where COVID-19 surges are possible to plan a suitable response. The dashboards built by tech organizations are helping hospitals & governments take informed decisions regarding where to bolster hospital resources to fight possible surges and step up clinical infrastructure.

Take the example of the COVID-19 dashboard created by Knoldus.

Case in point: The dashboard gives a real-time, deep dive into the impacts of the pandemic on various countries in a single view. If you want to customize this dashboard specifically for your healthcare business needs or create similar dashboards to predict how surges can impact your frontline workers, we are here to help.

Knoldus can help you navigate the COVID-19 crisis with the right technologies…

At Knoldus, we believe that collaborative efforts will go a long way in managing and responding to this crisis. We highly recommend you to better serve your customers by enhancing the support of digital solutions & prepare for the next normal. Our digital transformation solutions include technologies like Reactive microservices, Fast Data, Artificial Intelligence, Real-time Data Analytics at scale and more.

Knoldus has brought together insights and solutions to help you overcome the COVID-19 business challenges you currently face and help you prepare for the future.

We are also helping our customers in these tough times with Pre-assessments of their current IT infrastructure. If you’re looking for similar solutions to determine gaps to automate your operations, reach out to us. Get in touch with us to schedule a call with our expert or drop us a line at hello@knoldus.com.

Written by 

Niharika has around 3+ years of experience as a Content Professional. She loves writing about technology and the latest trends in the online world although her rich writing experience spans across diverse business domains. Apart from writing, she has also worked on YouTube audience growth strategies. An ambivert by nature, she likes to grab a snack with a warm cup of coffee accompanied by a good book or a close friend.