If you haven’t read Paris Martineau of Wired’s article iPads Are Crucial Health Care Tools in Combating Covid-19, then do yourself a favor and go take a look now. It’s a really insightful piece that shows the major impact that the iPad and other smart devices are having right now and in real-time across US hospitals and healthcare systems.
One thing to note at the outset is that health systems here in the US tend to be mired in regulations and restrictions, many of which are absolutely necessary, while others are born of red tape and bureaucratic entrenchment. Change is often very slow and gradual and real disruption is nearly impossible to set in motion. That landscape is what makes the content in this article so interesting.
One very small positive that has come from the coronavirus pandemic that we find ourselves in is that it has relegated the red tape and bureaucratic roadblocks to the back seat. As hospitals here that aren’t in current hotspots gear up to take on their biggest challenge in over 100 years, they are fast-tracking solutions that work and embracing the technology that’s available to them to make the best uses of the resources that they have available.
According to Wired, the simple and easy to use but powerful iPad has found itself in a starring role on the front lines.It makes perfect sense. It is easy enough for even tech novices to use for basic tasks, such as FaceTiming friends and family, making it the perfect device to put in a patient’s hands. There have also been lots of stories about families with no other alternative than to use iPads and other devices to say a final goodbye to loved ones who they cannot visit, which is absolutely heartbreaking. However, what I found eye-opening in this article is how hospitals have gone a step further and started to use these tablets as a key element of the actual treatment process.
I found the story about how Massachusetts General is using iPads to help them monitor COVID-19 patients who are in isolation particularly interesting. They have cut their PPE usage by over 50% by harnessing the power of telemedicine for routine monitoring of and interactions with patients, which is pretty remarkable. Considering that the masks and other necessary equipment are in short supply in the US right now, this is a big deal. It’s a true necessity is the mother of all invention kind of solution that could end up having a big positive impact in that hospital.
It’s also quite ironic that, according to the article, many patients felt that talking to someone who’s face they could see remotely with the device was more “personal” than having to try to talk to people in the room who are covered in layers of necessary protective garb. It’s bad enough being laid up in the hospital for days (I know this from some personal experience). I can’t imagine how scary it would be to be stuck in isolation with so little person-to-person interaction. This is a great example of how good of a job the iPad still does of getting out of the way and letting what you are doing take center stage.
Another standout in the article was how some hospitals have been able to keep doctors who are either Immunocompromised or who have been exposed to the virus and are in quarantine, but haven’t gotten severely ill, involved in patient care. This is huge, considering the staffing shortages that many areas of the country already face. The ability to keep doctors who would normally be completely sidelined involved and contributing can help to relieve the heavy burden on those still in the daily fight, especially in virus hotspots.
This pandemic and the potential disaster scenarios that accompany it have swept aside the non-essential aside in favor of the best solution to get the job done. This Wired article is full of examples of how hospital admins and doctors have been given the green light to find solutions to the massive challenges that they face. I am absolutely not surprised to see the iPad front and center here and being used in some of these solutions. Its simple but flexible nature lends itself to a situation that requires both.
My only surprise is that hospitals have been given the latitude to think outside the box, roll out new systems and workflows quickly, and make changes on the fly. However, like I said above, a pandemic has a way of bringing things into focus and eliminating the BS. If the iPad is the best tool for the job, then hospitals in the US should be able to use them wherever they see fit- not just in the midst of a crisis, but all the time.
One quote from the article seems to sum everything up nicely:
“This digital surge that is preceding the actual Covid-19 patient surge is going to transform health care permanently in the United States,” said Dr. Lee Schwamm
I certainly hope he’s right.