by Dr. Vesna Cado
Sept 28, 2020
Apparently, the COVID-19 virus will remain a health threat longer that we expected. What we hoped would be a transition phase is becoming our future reality. Hospitals are under constant pressure to re-design hospitals’ physical environment and enforce new clinical protocols for use of personal protective equipment, antibody testing of staff, social distancing, scheduling templates and re-design communication models to ensure high quality of care. The faster we adapt, the better we will create positive experiences for our patients, employees and medical businesses. Following, 4 main trends for future hospitals, that emerged from best practices of Sistina Ophthalmology Eye Hospital:
1.Re-designing of physical environment and new healthy policies.
Hospitals should look toward continually providing safe high-quality care, including upgrading their ventilation systems and hospital air filtration. Developing Servicescape with clear plastic barriers according to latest safety directives would be an essential part of future hospital designs. Discussions will continue regarding the appropriate use of personal protective equipment (PPE) for medical workers and screening of patients to prevent the spread of COVID-19 within the hospital setting. Such policies will inevitably continue to change with PPE supply, evolution of testing, knowledge regarding the spread of the virus, treatment protocols and vaccine development. Additional efforts should be invested in ensuring an effective regulatory environment for digital health along with official country policies and strategies to open the market for public reimbursements in digital health and protection
2.Focus on the wellbeing of medical staff.
Physicians’ needs, attitudes and suggestions about the way they practice medicine in the new circumstances are becoming extremely important to ensure high quality care and deliver excellent patient experiences. The medical profession is one of the most educated and experienced with “licensed authority” over humans’ health and lives; it is also the most needed and most vulnerable profession during the COVID-19 pandemic. Therefore, hospital management should invest additional efforts and resources in self-care practices for the medical staff to reduce their psychological stress levels and increase their wellbeing. Such programs should include e-coaches, such as social workers, nutritionists and others who can provide personalized guidance for the caregivers. Studies show that physical activities help overcome mental stress and anxiety. Supporting group or individual activities for medical staff, engaging them in physical activities, practicing mindfulness and meditation techniques and yoga, as well as self-help sessions with a therapist or counselor could help medical staff to accept the new rules more rapidly, safely and voluntarily in their personal and professional environment.
3.Digital transformation of communication.
The Cleveland Clinic has reported that during the crises, 80% of all their patients’ visits were done via telehealth technology. Digital transformation of communication with patients will significantly influence patient experience and innovations in healthcare in the future. It will involve several aspects, such as personal engagement tools (through mobile devices, mobile apps for monitoring and tracking and wearables); health technology (patient-centered records); as well as analytics of big data to reap the expected information benefits and assemble knowledge assets. Digital health strategies will be essential for every healthcare provider, whether used as a preventive examination or used in a mix of in-person and on-line examination, as is the case of Fundus Explorer device in eye examinations. Advanced use of certain innovative digital tools through remote monitoring will also improve mobility of patients ensuring accuracy of medical results. The digitalization of the medical practice will definitively help reduce the time patients spend in hospitals, reduce risk of viral transmission and possibly improve clinical outcomes.
4.Further academic research
Further academic and managerial practice effort is advisable to establish pathways for crisis management, including elective surgeries, because those affected most seriously by the crisis will require extra resources to recover from the backlog. A joint international effort in research is desirable to face the COVID‐19 fallout and establish paths for crisis management, thereby minimizing contact exposure where possible. While guidelines and protocols are considered universal, every practicing surgeon should adapt and modify his/her practice on the recommendations and guidelines of their local professional medical society and their national and institutional guidelines.
Evidently, many questions regarding patient experiences remain. These include privacy of medical reports, together with the list of diagnoses and services in eye care suitable to be digitalized, next generation of skills and staff’s ability to adapt to a digital future, as well as patients’ experience of digital care because, contrary to prevalent belief, digital transformation is less about technology and more about the people and their positive experiences.