Digital considerations while planning for an uncertain future

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By Renee Patton

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, healthcare providers were focused on improving patient experiences, streamlining clinical communications and supporting collaboration, while also maintaining safety and security of all involved. How could healthcare providers provide quality experiences to patients, while also ensuring clinicians were able to deliver a high level of care and remain efficient?

These priorities still remain; however, the COVID-19 pandemic has also led to the emergence of new needs for patients, clinicians and administrators. With a surge in demand for virtual care, evaluation and testing, as well as shift to remote work for administrative staff, the pandemic has accelerated the disruption of healthcare, creating new challenges and leaving providers trying to plan for a future very much in flux.

Despite this uncertainty, having the right collaboration solutions, security applications and an elastic network in place can play a crucial role as organizations look to ensure positive patient outcomes, safety and success. Here are the key areas where the adoption of these technologies can make an impact.

Expanding access to care

Patients are increasingly seeking out virtual interactions to speed-up access to care and reduce the risk of infection — a June study by the Canadian Medical Association found almost half of all Canadians have now accessed a physician using virtual care options. The pandemic has compounded existing challenges in delivering healthcare, while also bringing into focus the ever-growing need for safe, secure virtual care that protects both frontline workers and patients.

In response to this surging demand, the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH), Canada’s largest mental health teaching hospital, worked closely with Cisco to put in place an easy-to-use, reliable and secure video conferencing solution that could be deployed at scale. Cisco’s Webex technology has helped CAMH deliver a smooth experience to patients, enabling greater flexibility in scheduling appointments and follow-ups, shorter wait times, ease of communication with clinicians, and the ability to access secure, quality care no matter the location.

Improving patient and clinician communication will be vital for any healthcare system in the future. People feel safer and more able to engage, and it helps to expand overall access to care.


Building security into everything

Security must be built into the very heart of any healthcare network. The number of connected devices on these networks is rising as more devices — such as personal and medical devices — require network connectivity. As healthcare providers continue to expand their digital footprints, their potential exposure to online security threats increases exponentially.

Not only can the cost of breaches be high for organizations, sensitive patient information is put at risk. With the right security applications in place, healthcare providers can improve their threat hunting capabilities, leading to faster detection and response against advanced threats. In addition to protecting patient records, the right solutions can also reduce the amount of unplanned downtime, risk associated with both medical and IoT devices, optimize workflows, meet utilization demands, and drive lifecycle management schedules.


Facilities Transformation

Healthcare facilities are undergoing a transformation, from taped floor markers to the set-up of waiting rooms to encourage physical distancing and maintain patient and clinician safety. This has led to new questions around the use of physical space: with the effective rise of remote work, do hospital administrators always need to be physically present in the facilities, or can they work from home? And, if so, do they need the facilities they have had in the past? How else could these spaces be used?

As temporary measures become more permanent, there is an opportunity to introduce smarter, data-driven solutions. Connected buildings can provide greater insight into population density, with wireless networks helping determine who needs to go where and if too many people are gathered in high concentrations. They can also support asset tagging, tying hospital resources to the network to track and manage ventilators, wheelchairs, and more. Smarter facilities, supported by data-driven models and engines, can ultimately be more flexible, and support faster, more informed decision making.

A trusted technology partner can help adapt and scale to serve patients and staff during this global pandemic and time of uncertainty. With Cisco, you can provide secure, efficient care throughout the continuum of care delivery — whether that’s scaling telehealth and virtual health capabilities with collaboration solutions, securing ever-expanding healthcare networks with the right applications, or creating flexible networks and data-driven facilities to improve safety, streamline workflows, and inform short and long-term decision making.

Renee Patton is the Global Director of Education and Healthcare at Cisco.