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Telehealth Platforms: The Foundation for Digital Transformation

telehealth platforms, remote patient monitoring, benefits of telehealth

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To learn more about how telehealth platforms are transforming the healthcare world, read our articles: From Building Automation to Health Tech, Remote Monitoring: The Vision for Patient Safety, and The Doctor Will View You Now.

Transcript

Corporate Participants

Kenton Williston
insight.tech - Editor-in-Chief

Matthew Tyler
Wachter – VP of Strategic Innovation

Peter Smith
IAconnects – Head of Sales and Marketing

Jim Wright
Siemens Healthineers – Business Development Innovation & Digital Business

Presentation

Kenton Williston: Hello and welcome to the webinar “Telehealth Platforms: The Foundation for Digital Transformation.” I’m Kenton Williston, the Editor-in-Chief of insight.tech and your host for this webinar, and I’m joined today by our illustrious panel of guests from Siemens Healthineers, Wachter, and IAconnects. So, I’ll let our guests introduce themselves. Jim, if you could give us a start. Who are you and what do you do at Siemens?

Jim Wright: Thanks, Kenton. Jim Wright, I’m business development for Innovation and Digital Business for North America. So, what I do, Kenton, is I look at partnerships, I look at innovation in the marketplace, and evaluate those new digital solutions, and decide if it fits into where Siemens wants to go.

Kenton Williston: Fabulous. All right, Matt Tyler, if you could give us your credentials.

Matthew Tyler: Sure, I’m Matt Tyler, I’m VP of Strategic Innovation for Wachter, mainly responsible for looking at the marketplace and systems manufacturers that we can incorporate into our solutions that we deliver across North America.

Kenton Williston: Fabulous, and last but not least, Peter Smith.

Peter Smith: Thanks, Kenton. So, I’m Peter Smith, Head of Sales and Marketing at IAconnects. So, we have a wide range of solutions in what’s now known as the IoT space, and assisted living is one of those areas. So, we provide solutions alongside partners, which include the sensors and transferring that data to other third party platforms for end users and carers alike.

Kenton Williston: All right, before we get into our conversation today, just a quick preview of our agenda. We’ll be talking at a broad level about the role of digital transformation in the healthcare space, and particularly where telehealth fits into the picture. We’ll take a little bit of a look at the state of healthcare today. One of the important things that’s been going on is an influx of new data, so we’ll also take a look at how to make sense and use that data, and then we’ll also talk about the actual benefits of all these activities, both to the patients as well to the caregivers themselves.

So, to start with, what in the world is digital transformation in the healthcare space? I’ll go ahead and I’ll start in the same order we introduced ourselves. So, Jim, from your perspective, what does digital transformation mean in a healthcare context?

Jim Wright: Yes, so I think digital transformation in healthcare, you can look at it as a building block of a patient-focused approach, if you will, to healthcare. Helping care providers streamline their operations, understand what the patient requires, and build that loyalty and trust that offer a better healthcare experience.

Kenton Williston: Yes, and I think at the end of the day, it’s experience that’s a really big part of this, and I look forward to getting into that more.

Peter, from your point of view, I know one of the big things you’re doing at IAconnects is remote patient care. Of course, digital transformation, kind of a big concept, where would that remote care fit in, and what does that mean to you?

Peter Smith: Yes, so firstly, it’s having that added element for carers, for family, for next of kin, neighbors, whoever it may be who’s got a vested interest in that individual. We can pull that data into applications where anyone across the world, as long as they have the credentials to access the data, can see how their loved one is doing, and within their own home or within a care setting. So, being able to provide that data for someone else to then provide the real value to the end users, as kind of a business term, but in reality, it’s going to be the relations and the friends of those people. So, that’s where we see it having a big impact.

Kenton Williston: Yes, totally, and again, like I said in our kickoff here in our agenda, I think data is really the thing that matters when we talk about digital transformation and how you use that data. So, Matt, how are you seeing this play out with your clients?

Matthew Tyler: Well, the ability to connect the unconnected in prior years is really where we’re starting to see acceleration. Where you may have trained professionals in one geography, where they’re needed in another geography at the same time, we can utilize video and audio to really connect with patients to the specialists that really require the attention. Ultimately, in healthcare, just like any other industry, workforce is an issue, whether it’s nursing, whether it’s doctors. We’re seeing a huge need for additional manpower. So, utilizing technology to be in more places simultaneously is where we’re really starting to see the transformation happening.

Kenton Williston: Yes, absolutely. Matt, you mentioned a really important word there, which is acceleration, and I think there’s no doubt in anyone’s mind that the last 18 months drastically accelerated all kinds of digital transformation efforts.

So, Jim, I want to come back to you. In what ways did you see these efforts accelerate and particularly in the telehealth sphere?

Jim Wright: Yes, I think the current pandemic put a spotlight on telehealth technologies and remote patient monitoring, for example, and virtual visits, you know, for a lot of reasons, right? One was reducing potential exposure of the virus in patients and healthcare providers alike, that reduced exposure. So, as we saw this come of age, if you will, during the pandemic, it was a step change, and it was enabled by different factors. The increased consumer willingness, if you will, to use telehealth, the increased provider willingness as well, and then, of course, the regulatory changes came into play and those adapted very quickly to accommodate the telemedicine/telehealth situation.

Kenton Williston: Yes, absolutely, and so I think this is all things that you could say, a broad stroke, that digital transformation was accelerated pretty much everywhere during this pandemic, but I think the healthcare sector has had some specific constraints and specific ways in which that happened that are pretty different from other industries.

So, Matt, I want to come back to you. If you had to characterize how digital transformation is different in the healthcare sector versus other sectors, how would you describe that?

Matthew Tyler: I think there’s a level of regulation as it pertains to technology in how it’s utilized within the patient setting. The use of video, everybody says a picture’s worth a thousand words. Video is so powerful in patient care, yet with privacy concerns, there’s some strict guidance that we need to follow as technologists in applying that technology into those spaces. So, I really think that following within regulation, helping working with regulators to better understand what the technology is capable of doing, and then implementing that technology in a responsible manner is really what falls on our shoulders.

Kenton Williston: Yes, absolutely. So, on that note, we’ve talked a lot here about telehealth/telemedicine in particular. Of course, the video applications are a huge, huge part of that. But of course, that’s not the only place where telehealth has become really big.

So, Peter, what do you see big picture, where do telehealth and telemedicine fit into the bigger picture of what’s going on in the healthcare space, and in particular, this idea of having care on demand?

Peter Smith: Yes, so primarily speaking from a UK and European standpoint on this—I’m the only European guy on this today—but we’re seeing that a lot of both patients or individuals and loved ones, or even as far as the actual organizations and employers, are looking to find out how well people are coping, obviously, through the pandemic has been one thing, but in general now, we see mental health being one of the biggest areas for organizations who are looking to help individuals, whether it’s working from home, and that social anxiety about going back, or whether it’s coming into the office and only wanting to be around five different people in an area, so each person can be six feet or three meters apart. And the mental health side of it seems to have gone from kind of maybe just creeping into the top 10, to now definitely been in the top three of things that organizations are looking at doing in trying to find solutions around, so it’s not just the on-call thing, like you said, around with doctors getting appointments for patients. It’s organizations now looking to have a huge impact on their employees and we’re seeing a big, big change in that in the UK in particular.

Kenton Williston: Yes, absolutely, and I think looking forward, I only see this growing. I just can’t imagine going back to the way things were. And gentlemen, I’m wondering from your perspective where you see this concept of on-demand care, you get it from home. Heck, the providers can be at home. Where do you see this expanding as we go forward?

Jim Wright: Well, I think, no, good question. I think there’s a lot of discussion around that. I believe with what’s happened in the market, and because of the pandemic, remote patient monitoring is definitely in the future, and this idea of keeping tabs on that patient at home, not only from a visit, but also devices that will give those vital information back to the caregiver.

And there’s a lot of reasons why, right, because it improves the flow of that information, it improves the adherence to instructions by the patient, the cost of care is reduced. Gosh, it reduces patient expense, improves productivity. And probably one of the more important things, the patients want to be at home, right. They don’t necessarily want to be in the hospital. And of course, that data that’s gathered is—if it can be harnessed—is a valuable asset as the clinician treats that patient.

Kenton Williston: Yes, absolutely. And so, on that point, I think it’d be good just to take a survey, as it were, of where things stand today. We’ve talked a little bit about some of the use cases that have risen up, so I think, you know, Peter mentioned a really good one here that mental health has become one of the key areas for telemedicine, which really wasn’t a thing at all prior to the pandemic. But I think, at the same time, there’s been some challenges because a lot of these new approaches to care that have come online in the 18 months have been done in a very ad hoc manner, you know, as necessitated by the pandemic, and maybe are not as well integrated into the larger healthcare infrastructure as well as they could be.

So, as we think about the current state of affairs, Matt, I’d love to get your thoughts on how well these sort of ad hoc solutions have been implemented, and how well they fit into the rest of the healthcare infrastructure.

Matthew Tyler: Yes, coming from the physical layer perspective as a solutions integrator, we see a lot of technologies being implemented, especially when it comes to video around the pandemic. You know, we’ve had customers back and say, “Hey, we’ll use a baby monitor if we can get away with it”. Those systems don’t tend to integrate very well. So, we do see a lot of siloed approaches when it comes to very specific use cases.

Where I think if, we as the integrator or any of the manufacturing partners we work with, sit down and really try to address the bigger picture with our customers, they can better have a way to collect all of the data that’s being acquired throughout a healthcare organization, bring that back into a central database and be able to use it more to their advantage.

So, I would say the state of the industry is still very segmented at this point, although they are trying to become more integrated, to be able to collect that data, and even more of the data beyond what they’re already capturing today.

Kenton Williston: Yes, for sure. And so, Jim, I know one of the big things that Siemens Healthineers is doing to address some of these things, you’ve got some platforms that are intended, specifically, to collect and collate and understand this data. So, what do you see are some of the key things that need to happen to better pull all of these systems together?

Jim Wright: Well, as Matt said, I think this idea of aggregation of data not only, you know, as I said earlier in our remote patient monitoring devices in the home, but then it becomes, how do we take this data, aggregate it into a patient-centric record, serve it up in a manner to a clinician that gives them better insights of how to treat that patient in the best possible way.

Next evolution of that, obviously—well, maybe not obviously—would be this idea of building algorithms around artificial intelligence and helping, and be a partner to that clinician as they’re diagnosing and treating that patient in that way as close to real-time.

So, I think—I hope that answers your questions, what you were asking.

Kenton Williston: Yes, absolutely. And I want to come back and touch on that idea of AI in just a moment. But before I get to that, I think there’s one other point that’s really important, which—Pete, you brought up some of the regulatory concerns, and I know that’s been a big issue, right. So, for example, you know, we’re on a Zoom call right now, recording this webinar. Maybe it’s not the right platform to meet the regulatory requirements, you might need to use something more specialized, right. So, there’s a regulatory element of things, but there’s lots of other concerns too, like security comes to mind. You know, we’re talking about a lot of very sensitive data, so even above and beyond the regulations, healthcare providers might want to take extra safeguards to really protect that information.

So, where do you see that, I guess, first, appetite for risk? And what are some of the key considerations healthcare providers need to keep in mind as they’re looking to further their telehealth and overall digital transformation efforts?

Peter Smith: So, I think the appetite for risk has kind of definitely dwindled a little bit over the last 18 months where people have seen more positives than negatives about being able to remotely monitor people. I think people are willing to take slightly more risks than they may have been two years ago.

But on the flipside, because there’s so many different providers of kind of remote healthcare or healthcare, in general, the bigger the name of the company that is providing that solution, so like an IBM, for instance, that has a huge security system behind it, if someone just sees a brand name like IBM, like a Siemens, and thinks, “Right, they’re involved with it, it must be secure”. If anything, that’s more important to people than actually looking at what security is behind it.

So, being able to have kind of the right partnership and ecosystem within a solution is definitely a big thing that we see and that has kind of been the same ever since we’ve been involved in this area for kind of—maybe five or six years now. That hasn’t changed, but it’s just meant that more people are willing to take a risk on something if those big names are involved.

Kenton Williston: Yes, absolutely. And you know, the other thing that comes to mind there when I’m thinking about risk is not just the risk of, will this project actually do what I want it to do, will it protect the patient data? But there’s also the question of, will I be able to pay for all this? Right, and I think one of the things that has changed a lot during the pandemic is the reimbursement structure from insurers has grown to accommodate a lot more of these telehealth solutions.

So, Jim, I’m wondering what you’re seeing in that area.

Jim Wright: No, exactly, Kenton. Those coding and reimbursement not only from CMS, folks may know last—I guess it was November of last year, the CMS Medicare came out with Hospitals Without Walls program and reimbursing structure for those patients that would be admitted as an inpatient but treated at home, along with coding for RPM. And of course, right on the heels of that, will be the therapeutics.

So, there’s certainly an eye on how do we pay for this and reimburse providers, not only from the government in the way of Medicare, but private insurers have stepped up to the plate too and are certainly active in making sure that that reimbursement is addressed.

Kenton Williston: Absolutely. So, with that, Jim, I want to come back to the point you made earlier about AI. I promised I’d get back to you on that. So, again, I think one of the key things that’s happened here is, on one hand, a lot of these services were implemented over the last 18 months out of necessity, but I think that also means we’ve got all new kinds of data that we’re collecting now, or at least able to collect now that just weren’t possible before, because things are being done digitally. But there’s, I think, a question there of, you know, first of all, are we capturing that data to begin with? And then secondly, how can we actually make use of this data, so it’s not just sitting in a repository somewhere gathering dust, as it were.

So, Jim, can you give me a little more of your thoughts on that?

Jim Wright: Yes, so, again, this idea of how do you aggregate this data and then how do you monetize it, or how do you use it for better clinical care. So, building those algorithms around AI, and then again, delivering that information up, we feel that we augment what the clinician is trying to achieve, not only in the diagnosis, but in the treatment of, say, best practices or best pathways, excuse me.

So, as that clinician—as we know, there’s a lot of different—when you’re diagnosing a patient and treating a patient, there’s a lot of pathways that folks can use, and that data that becomes available will help that physician, and we almost partner with that physician or clinician to help them make more informed, better decisions.

Kenton Williston: Yes, absolutely. And Matt, I know that’s something really important to Wachter as well. Can you tell me a little bit about your perspective on how to better capture and utilize all this data?

Matthew Tyler: Absolutely. So, there’s a lot of areas that I don’t think healthcare providers take into account. Patient satisfaction is a huge scoring factor, especially in reimbursement. So, if we go back to the whole payment topic, if we’re putting technology into a patient bed space, we should be collecting as much data as possible. We can understand, with the solutions that we already provide, how many times a nurse has been redirected, how many times they’ve had to intervene. But how can we take into other—or take into account other topics such as ambient lighting conditions, temperature, humidity, all of the environmental senses that a patient has to live through while in-stay at a hospital. And then, how can we improve those conditions automatically without having to send a human in to take care of those for the patients?

With some of the technology that’s available, that’s very inexpensive, we’re able to collect a heck of a lot more data now and provide it back to like, say, a Siemens where they can do that slice and dice of the data to provide a better patient experience while they’re in the care of the caregiver.

Kenton Williston: Yes, absolutely. And I think this is an important thing for the industry to keep in mind, right. It’s not just about the outcomes, although those are very important, but it’s also about the quality of care and the patient experience. So, I’d like to get into that a little bit more now.

So, Pete, I’ll turn this over to you. How has the patient experience changed during the pandemic and what new expectations might they have going forward?

Peter Smith: Yes, so I think particularly in the UK, again, we’ve had periods of three or four months at a time where the country has been in lockdown, and unless you’re in a specific bubble or you’re allowed to travel for work, you don’t get to see many family or friends across kind of those lockdown periods.

So, speaking from personal experience, my grandma is in her 90s, she lives probably only about 40 minutes away, but because she was at such a high risk due to some health factors and also the age concern, the only time I or the family members were allowed to see her were when you’re taking shopping to the door, you unlock the door, you put the shopping in, you come back out again, and then you talk to them through the window.

So, having that as the only interaction with them, from a personal point of view, isn’t very nice. You can’t really tell how well they’re doing. But by having these monitoring solutions in there, it gives not only the patient, but then other people as well peace of mind that that person is being checked on, but it’s in a non-invasive way. They know there’s sensors around the house, but they’re not cameras, they’re just picking up environmental factors or movement.

So, having that and then alerts being able to be created from them as well gives that overall peace of mind.

A very quick example is my grandma wears one of these little—it looks like a watch, it’s not quite—but a little band on her wrist and if she was to fall over, it would detect a fall. Being as stubborn as she is, she took that band off, put it on the worktop, knocked it on the floor. Obviously, that then sent an alert to me, to a neighbor, to the emergency services. And within about 17 minutes, there were three people at her house checking if she was OK. And of course, she was, she was making a cup of tea and she doesn’t like wearing the band.

But old people are different, and there’s lots of different solutions out there, which I think can help both patients and their loved ones as well.

Kenton Williston: I incredibly strongly resonate with your experiences there, Peter. I’ve got an elderly aunt who happily is only on the other side of town in an adult care facility, but boy oh boy, it was very frustrating. Much like you, the only time we got to see her for months on end was through a pane of glass. And much like you said, she is a stubborn old lady, and various technology solutions that the facility tried, she just didn’t want to have anything to do with them. So, I very much understand that experience.

Peter Smith: Yes, there’s lots of different things out there. I think there’s a happy medium for almost everyone out there with different solutions. So, that’s a good thing to hear as well.

Kenton Williston: So, Jim, I’m really interested, you know, we’ve touched briefly on some of the AI and, you know, data aggregation ideas. So, how do you see these technologies being applied to—like we’re talking about here—give the patient, really, a better experience?

Jim Wright: You know, and we think about that quite a bit, Kenton. So, we’re observing a quick evolution of space and innovation, you know, beyond the virtual urgent care convenience. So, these innovations around virtual longitudinal care and enabling care at the home and remote patient monitoring, and investment in this digital front door, if you will, is all coming to be, let’s just say, adopted and accepted by the medical community, not only from the physician, but from the patient.

So, I think you’re going to see this grow. I think it’s going to help clinicians, providers as they stretch their resources become, let’s just say, more attentive and have—be able to do more with less, let’s just say, as it relates to their resources.

Kenton Williston: Yes, absolutely. And I think you’ve touched on an important point, so a perfect segue, thank you for setting me up, that it’s not just about the patients. We also want to take care of the caregivers. And I think, boy, this has just been a really rough period. You know, I’m really good friends with a nurse in a step-down ICU and it’s—I mean, boy, it has been a rough go of it these last 18 months. And I think the world at large has shown a lot of appreciation for our caregivers, and I think there’s, you know, a real mandate, in my mind, for the industry to carry that thoughtfulness forward and find new ways of making life better for the caregivers.

So, on that point, Matt, I know that Wachter has some really cool solutions that can help in this regard. So, how do you see this whole concept of digital transformation facilitating a better workload balance and just, generally, you know, better quality of the work experience for the caregivers.

Matthew Tyler: Sure. So, when we started putting video into patient bed spaces, we got a lot of pushback from nursing unions, as well as other caregivers, just they had this perception that Big Brother is going to be watching over them. Their evaluations were going to be performed based off the video that was being captured. And once the video got in, into the space, the observation tech were monitoring the patients without the nurses having to be in the rooms at all times, we actually got a lot of feedback from the customers that nurses’ anxiety and stress levels were coming down because they knew that someone else had eyes on their patients. And they realized that it wasn’t Big Brother, it was really just better patient observation and satisfaction that was coming down.

So, you know, early on prior to the pandemic, that’s where we really faced the obstacles and noticed that it was providing a better quality of life for the caregivers themselves.

And then during the pandemic, the use of video, you know, two-way video/two-way audio into the patient bed spaces has allowed the reduction in PPE. So, maybe a nurse or a doctor doesn’t need to don all their PPE to go in and just have a quick conversation with the patient. They can actually do it remote from a monitoring station or their phone. That also gives a whole level of comfort and a lot less anxiety or stress about having to go enter into a patient bed space that may be suffering from the pandemic.

Kenton Williston: Yes, absolutely. And Pete, I think that’s one of the big advantages that some of the IAconnects solutions bring as well, right. It’s both the reduction in workload, continuous monitoring so you don’t have to worry as much, and last but certainly not least, keeping both parties safe from any sort of transmission.

So, can you speak a little bit more to where you see these factors playing a role going forward?

Peter Smith: Yes, so I think when we finally are out of the pandemic, the ability to decide which patients you’re going to see first based on the remote monitoring solutions data that you’ve already acquired, that can be a huge, huge benefit. Typically, you would go from either—if it’s in a care facility—bed one right the way through to however many beds they are. If it’s in a retirement village, you probably start at one side and go to the other side. But the data, that will be telling you that you need to go and see Pete in house 17, followed by Matt in house 33, and so on. And being able to build your rounds, as it were, based on the data is something that can be beneficial, both to the caregivers, because they know exactly what they’re going into and why, and also for the patients, there’s the obvious benefit of the people that need to be seen sooner will be seen sooner.

But some of the environmental factors that are being monitored, so CO2 as an example. In the past, we’ve had CO2 monitoring solutions, because it can affect productivity levels. And the higher the level of CO2, the lower your concentration, the lower the productivity as a general rule. But it also has a similar effect for the transmission rates and kind of transmissible effects of COVID and other diseases.

So, when the CO2 levels increase, that means there’s a higher chance that COVID can be transmissible. So, if you can reduce the CO2 levels as much as possible by having less face to face meetings, by having less people in a certain space, then that can only be a good thing as well for everyone involved including the carers.

Kenton Williston: So, Peter, that’s a great opportunity, I think, for us to talk about where all of you have actually seen some implementations of these technologies we’re talking about. So, I know, for example, you’ve done some work with IBM to implement your remote patient monitoring technologies. So, if you could just tell me a little bit about that and what kinds of outcomes you saw from that engagement.

Peter Smith: Yes, thanks, Kenton. So, a few years ago now, we were approached by IBM who wanted to build an ecosystem of partners to offer an assisted living or a smart assisted living solution, as they called it at the time. They wanted to use their Watson IoT software, which incorporated the AI piece. They wanted the IoT non-invasive sensors from IAconnects. And there was another partner in the mix as well who built the actual mobile application, which can be used by both carers, family, and patients alike.

So, we provided sensors which looked at environmental factors, so temperature, humidity, CO2, vibration monitoring for when people sat in their favorite chair or getting in and out of their bed, and then also occupancy for bathrooms and other main rooms that they used in the place they live. And finally, some contacts—magnetic contacts for windows and doors, mainly for security purposes, but the initial use case was for patients with Alzheimer’s and dementia. So, knowing when a door or window had been opened, if it has been opened at three o’clock in the morning, you know there’s probably something that ought to be looked at and send someone around to check that that person is still in their house and hasn’t gone walking about in the middle of the night.

So, by being able to collect all of this, primarily environmental data amongst the occupancy stuff, we could send out to this application, which then used AI from the IBM side to monitor and build up a picture of what a patient’s day-to-day routine might look like. So, it knows that Pete gets up at about 6:50 every morning. The first thing he does is go to the bathroom, then he goes and makes a cup of coffee, so he’s been downstairs. Then he comes back upstairs again to get dressed. And then from about 8 a.m. until probably 8 p.m. most days at the moment, sits at his desk, does a lot of work, does a lot of Zoom calls, and then he goes back to bed at, say, 10, 11 o’clock at night.

For someone who doesn’t have any kind of medical conditions, that might change quite a lot depending what time of year it is, whether he goes to play sports or whatever it might be. But if it’s a patient who has medical conditions, that generally means they have the same routine every day, being able to spot when something has changed, so like they’ve left the house at three o’clock in the morning, or that they haven’t got out of bed until 8:30 that day, it allows alerts to be spent to people who need to see it, so the neighbors, the carers, the next of kin, so they can go and check on those people without having to physically go and do that every day. That has been a blessing throughout the pandemic, something which obviously nobody knew was going to happen. But having that solution pre-pandemic was definitely beneficial and could be adapted slightly during the last 18 months.

Kenton Williston: Yes, absolutely. And I think that’s one of the most important things to take away from all these innovations is that, you know, as we move forward, these things will continue to be of great value and, you know, the world continues to be an uncertain place. So, you know, having these systems in place will be fantastically valuable, no matter what comes next.

So, speaking of complexity and the great unknown. You know, I know Siemens, Jim, has just a tremendous amount of technology for the healthcare space. We’ve been talking about data aggregation, for example, AI, all these sorts of things. So, in this great world of all the things Siemens is doing, is there a use case that comes to mind that’s relevant to this conversation? And if so, what were the outcomes there?

Jim Wright: Yes, there is. We stood up a program called HerzConnect, and this program was a technical partnership, if you will, of the Heart and Diabetes Center in Bad Oeynhausen, Germany, and Siemens. And so, this idea of—the program aimed to provide patients with care according to the guidelines, slow the disease progression, and certainly by close monitoring of the patient. The outcome was a marked improvement in their condition, and that ability to keep tabs on that patient that had either heart failure or cardiovascular problems, if you will.

So, as we developed that program, which was in existence—oh, it’s probably been three or four years now—and so, this idea of connecting with the patient, not only through virtual visits, but this idea of remote patient monitoring and collecting that information, whether it’s, you know, weight gain over scales or blood pressure cuffs or other types of equipment. And so, you know, a lot of that technology we’re just now starting to introduce into North America around harnessing, not only the collection of that data, but then, like I said earlier in the program, is how do you use that data for better clinical insights and augment what the caregiver is already doing with that patient, whether it’s diagnostics, or treatment.

Kenton Williston: That’s fantastic. And Matt, I want to come back to you here at the end. So, you talked a little bit earlier about some of the things Wachter is doing in relationship to some of the monitoring and working with nurses. So, I’d love to hear a little bit more detail of a specific use case that you’ve had there.

Matthew Tyler: Sure. So, we have a solution that was tailored to reduce the need for one-to-one sitters. So, any fall risk patient that may require a nurse or a caregiver to sit with that patient 24 hours a day, we found that working with our customers that it’s an extreme stress on their workload. So, what we were able to do is utilize video and audio capabilities where one person or maybe two would be able to monitor a number of other patients, a one to 12 ratio from that one to one.

So, we’ve seen a tremendous amount of success around reducing that workload, but then also offering the data that we’re capturing. So, we’re charting on the number of redirects, the number of interventions, things like that, being able to integrate with the customer’s EMR of choice. And then even taking it beyond that.

So, mental health is always an issue. Mental health regulations and requirements have changed recently, where now we can utilize video and audio within those spaces, the lower risk levels in those spaces. We were able to develop, in conjunction with some of our partners, some anti-ligature devices that work well in mental health situations. So, we’re really seeing this expansion of the use of video and audio throughout the hospital, and it’s really up to the customer’s imagination of where the best fit is.

Kenton Williston: Well, that’s a great segue into our last topic, which is where are things going to go next, and how can healthcare providers continue their journey, or start their journey.

So, Matt, I’ll stay with you. As healthcare organizations are thinking forward, where should they be focusing their efforts?

Matthew Tyler: Every one of our customers seems to be unique in where their deficiencies are. So, it’s really doing that investigation of where they stand, set that benchmark, and then look for the gaps that need to be filled. Though not everyone’s issues or deficiencies are unique, certain customers have deficiencies where others do not.

We’re seeing a big play in the 5G in the private networking space in connecting very rural, very remote locations. So, we’re seeing a tremendous amount of success there in being able to provide quality and equity amongst the care, right. If you’re out in a rural area, a rural setting, you can receive the same level of care utilizing some of these new technologies out there that, you know, maybe a very urban environment may already have within the confines of that city.

Kenton Williston: Yes, absolutely. That totally makes sense. And Pete, I bet you’re seeing some similar things, and I’d love to hear your thoughts on some of the steps healthcare organizations can take to set themselves up for success in these efforts.

Peter Smith: Yes, so there’s—a lot of the things now are we’re getting healthcare organizations come to us asking for things and suggesting things, whereas even two years ago, they would come and say, “Have you got something that can monitor patients for us?” not “We need to monitor occupancy, we need to monitor CO2”. It was very much a one-way street before, whereas now we can have those very open conversations with customers to work out what the best solution is for people. And the fact that the pandemic has driven a mass production and kind of a huge increase in different organizations building sensors, for example, it means now that there’s such a wide range of sensors on the market, that it’s also driving the price down of hardware. Also, even increased problems of actually getting some of the sensors and component pieces at the moment, but the actual increase in products is definitely driving down that cost, which then allows the solutions to be accessible to a lot more people, which is ultimately where we all want to get to. We want to be able to offer these solutions to as many people as possible that can benefit from them.

So, the continued increase in products, the continued decrease in price, and the kind of the different API connections and MQTT connections, data is now at a huge, huge step forward, and I only see that continuing as the months go by.

Kenton Williston: It totally makes sense. And Jim, I’ll leave some of the final words with you. I’m wondering even just from an organizational perspective if there are different ways healthcare providers can be even conceptualizing what they do to set themselves up for continued success, better patient outcomes, better patient experiences, and better experiences for the workers themselves.

Jim Wright: Yes, good question. We think about that a lot, and it kind of goes somewhat what Peter was talking about. So, if you talk to clients, customers, providers, and they talk about, you know, what’s on your radar screen for the future. They’ll talk about, you know, increasing that digital transformation through readiness, if you will, and this greater investment that needs to be made as it relates to transformation. And of course, the security things that come into play with that.

And so, this whole idea around continuing increase of telehealth and, as we mentioned earlier, the aspects around collecting information off of remote patient monitoring equipment, or artificial intelligence, harnessing that data that’s collected.

So, I think as we see this unfold, those conversations that are happening with our customers are very in tune to how do we harness this technology to deliver better, quicker, less expensive care. And more importantly, what does that do to the outcomes for the patient, I should say, in their care.

So, I think you’re—I really believe you’re going to see this continue. I don’t think even down the road, two or three years after the pandemic hopefully is behind us, that we’re going to go back to where it was. I think—let’s just say, to use the term the genie is out of the bottle, right. So, I think you’re going to see a continued interest in these types of solutions.

Kenton Williston: Yes, I certainly agree. Well, that just leaves me to say thank you to all of you for joining us today, both our panelists, really appreciate your time, as well as our guests. Thank you so much for your kind attention. And I would just like to encourage all of our attendees to visit insight.tech to learn more. We’ve got a ton of great information there about the latest in healthcare technology, not least of which are some fantastic articles featuring the technologies that we talked about today from Siemens, Wachter, and IAconnects.

So, with that, I’ll just say once again, thanks so much for your time and look forward to seeing you on insight.tech.

About the Author

Kenton Williston is the Editor-in-Chief of insight.tech and served as the editor of its predecessor publication, the Embedded Innovator magazine. Kenton received his B.S. in Electrical Engineering in 2000 and has been writing about embedded computing and IoT ever since.

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