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Telehealth to flourish in post-COVID recovery era

By Leah Gabbert

The COVID-19 pandemic has profoundly altered the healthcare industry over the last 12 months. Perhaps the most visible change has been the pivot to digital to support telehealth and work-from-anywhere initiatives, creating a new intersection point among the technologies that consumers use everyday.

Healthcare providers have adjusted to a more digitally driven clinician-patient relationship, including interactive telehealth appointments, text reminders and notifications, and patient portal email communication, to name only a few. This new form of care stretches from the cloud, to the clinic or hospital, and to the home, and it all rides on IT.

Leah Gabbert, Senior Marketing Manager, Healthcare, Nutanix, examines some of the key trends, drivers, multipliers, and outliers that are shaping the future prognosis for healthcare IT around the world.

Plugging In To A New Era Of Telehealth

The COVID-19 pandemic has shown that telehealth and remote healthcare work (both clinical and non-clinical) are here to stay. Continued adoption of virtual clinician visits and the expansion of telehealth options will become increasingly commonplace as patient care evolves to fit this new digital landscape.

Although healthcare compliance regulations clearly prohibit the use of social platforms for personal interactions, they are used for public guidance and broad information sharing. In the near future, these platforms could be used to mine population health data and other big data initiatives.

End User Power, In Healthcare Workers’ Hands

Part of this continued adoption of virtual healthcare and telehealth initiatives is user empowerment at the device level. But the need to empower end-user healthtech computing at an increasingly high level has a number of compound effect realities.

Greater development may be seen in ruggedized device technologies that are applicable to heavy-duty workplace usage. However, a ruggedized device is a weak device unless it has a solid cloud service behind it. This may run in line with greater use of biometric security protection layers such as fingerprint logins and facial or voice recognition.

Healthcare organizations themselves will need to ensure that there is the correct level of system provisioning and network bandwidth available to provide access to core systems in a connected collaborative way. 

IT System Health Equals Patient Health

New technology platforms and device-level developments mean that both our IT system health and patient (consumer) health are now more intrinsically linked than at any time in the past. If remote diagnosis and real-time communication between clinicians and patients was important before, now it’s critical.

Quick healthcare worker login times, zero system downtimes (both clear benefits of end user computing tools), and always-on support services enable healthcare workers to provide the best patient care. This new era of healthcare IT poses challenges at the frontend (user), the patient perspective (consumer accessibility and engagement), and the backend (network and platform).

The critical ability (and capability) here is around ensuring that devices can rely upon a secured presentation and streaming layer of network operations. This means that the right devices can get the right information at the right time in the right format, all in the hands of the right user. We must also ensure that the backend server-side of the network has enough abstracted insight and control layers over it to allow network engineers to serve healthcare workers and patients with high uptime and secure access.

The 2021 Outlook

Analysts agree that 2021 will once again be a year of major change – there is no going back to the pre-COVID-19 world.

In healthcare, telehealth solutions must easily integrate with clinical workflow tasks, and support administration tasks. Healthcare organizations will continue growing patient engagement initiatives that include virtual office visits, real-time communication, and more. As a key part of their IT stack’s architectural development, it is believed that many of these organizations will turn to hyperconverged infrastructure (HCI) to allow for the scalability needed to accommodate new clinical and non-clinical applications and solutions.

Progressive healthcare organizations will now work to grow an IT stack that broadens and widens in scope and functional competency. A new underpinning software fabric allows some non-clinical task workers whose regularly prescribed set of tasks is normally more back-office (or desk-based) able to play a more hands-on role throughout the organization, because more and more workflow elements are being shouldered by new artificial intelligence (AI) engines. This is important because the joint phenomena of national lockdowns and remote work initiatives creates a massive spike of non-clinical or back-office workers in healthcare organizations moving to work from home for the medium- to long-term. 

A New Normal 2.0

The new normal 2.0 means everyone must anticipate ongoing change. We should follow the healthcare field’s own principles of triage, prioritizing those who need the most attention. End-user compliance controls ensure that organizations can comply with all regulatory demands and prevent data loss by removing local access to endpoint devices.

The future of healthcare will be more connected with ample real-time communication between clinicians and patients. The future of healthcare will be full of more informed consumers taking advantage of wearables and other connected devices to become health-aware. And perhaps most importantly, the future of healthcare will be security-focused to maintain privacy protection, especially surrounding the way we use cloud network technologies and connected devices, and how we share data from consumer wearable devices. 

It’s a healthier world ahead. But today, tomorrow, and always please wash your hands, check your patient portal or text messages for clinician communication, and track your steps.

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