Imagine rushing to the Emergency Department, half-blind with mind-numbing pain, and desperate for help. Imagine expecting to be greeted by qualified, well-rested staff—nurses, doctors, therapists, and others—who are ready to take care of you, as much or as little as needed. Now, imagine arriving to find an overflowing ED filled with weary patients who have spent hours waiting for a hospital bed, attended to by overworked care providers who can barely muster a weak smile. They’re trying to reassure you, but all you can see is exhaustion, crowded hallways, and restless, disgruntled patients—a world without effective telemedicine applications.
This may sound like the beginning of a dystopian fantasy novel, but unfortunately scenes like this one are becoming a stark reality in hospitals around the country. On top of a pre-existing health care labor shortage, the COVID-19 pandemic has prompted many health care workers to retire earlier than planned or to leave the industry altogether, burned out by the unrelenting surge of needy patients. To add insult to injury, some of these essential workers are falling ill themselves or are refusing to follow COVID vaccination mandates, effectively removing themselves from the available labor pool. The end result is an unsustainable model of health care delivery. Despite their overwhelmed status, defined as having over 90 percent bed occupancy, some hospitals must temporarily close beds because no one is available to care for the patients who would normally occupy those beds. With a rapidly shrinking labor pool, hospitals and medical facilities are quickly running out of options for maintaining standards of care.
If the current system is failing to meet patients’ and health care workers’ needs, then it may be time to adopt a new model that eases workloads and provides more staffing options while preserving high-quality care. What might such a strategy look like? One approach, thanks to recent advances in technology, offers telemedicine applications as a game-changer.
Before COVID was coined as a new term, telemedicine programs were often seen as a “nice-to-have” future offering, not necessarily a priority. However, the sudden onslaught of the COVID-19 pandemic jolted the health care industry out of our comfort zones and into new paradigms that require the provision of care in a way that reduces contagion—such as telemedicine.
Telemedicine applications encompass a variety of services. In this instance, having a reliable real-time virtual care system can help ease labor shortages in two key ways: First, any individual provider can monitor and treat more patients in more locations, both directly and by consulting with specialists more easily and quickly. Second, quarantining and unvaccinated workers can remain an active part of the health care team by remaining in a remote location while monitoring patients and communicating with team members, thus reducing potential exposure to illnesses. Combining both applications through a comprehensive, dependable telemedicine platform can significantly increase overall productivity without overworking physicians and nurses—and perhaps even while reducing workloads.
This is where swyMed comes in: Our strong platform, which maintains stable, effective connections even in the worst network scenarios, empowers health care teams to implement the two processes described above. The live video medicine component enables providers to remain in one physical location as they monitor multiple patients in different geographic locations and provide specialized support to workers on the front lines. swyMed’s ability to integrate with Electronic Medical Records software and PACS imaging (picture archiving and communication system) provides immediate access to patient data and history, while the capacity to interface with third-party medical devices presents providers with up-to-date medical information for each patient. On a simpler level, swyMed interacts smoothly with third-party and legacy video conferencing systems, thus allowing front-line workers to consult specialists virtually anywhere at any time.
As the old proverb reminds us, “Necessity is the mother of invention.” In this case, the technologies have already been invented; it’s up to us to figure out the best ways to apply them.