Written by Deepak Patkar and Ashwini Jogade
Healthcare systems around the world have a common goal: To ensure appropriate treatment and management of COVID patients, while maintaining continuity in the treatment of non-COVID patients, and also guaranteeing the safety of healthcare workers.
The clinical manifestations and complications related to the disease have become apparent over a period of time. As a result, treatment protocols have evolved over the course of the pandemic. The only way to decide the correct line of treatment is for clinicians to keep themselves updated about the pattern of the disease. With the emergence of digital solutions, understanding a disease, its dynamics and managing patients has become easy, which in turn has enhanced clinical efficiency.
The current pandemic has highlighted that education, awareness, adaptability and continued learning are important tools of medicine. It is this evidence-based learning process which acts as a crucial tool in decision-making to empower medical services for better patient outcomes. For any disease, understanding the clinical pathways, clinicopathological correlation, clinical management, and, in fact, the treatment procedure as a whole, has always been an exhaustive process. The modern era has also seen the evolution of digital libraries for teaching. Medicine is an ever-evolving field and doctors need to be constantly updated.
One of the major concerns during this period was the management of COVID positive pregnant women during their delivery. Imagine a situation, where a pregnant woman in labour faces hardships because she has unfortunately contracted the virus. There would be a risk to the lives of both the mother and baby. Creating guidelines to manage such conditions have become a matter of extreme importance. This is where tools of digital support systems come into play. Doctors can read about these guidelines, that are updated in a timely manner, based on published data.
Along with the management of COVID patients, hospitals also need to prioritise the care and management of emergencies like stroke, myocardial infarction and surgical emergencies. Appropriate protocols and guidelines need to be used in the imaging departments for management of patient movement, safety and sanitisation.
There has been a shift towards tele-consultations for non-emergency cases, and a boom in tele-reporting and remote access for medical care in the last few months. Curbs on movement and restrictions in access to libraries or textbooks has fostered new ways of learning. Electronic meetings, online discussions and webinars have helped doctors understand the course of a disease, and devise management strategies. For example, chest physiotherapy, rehabilitation and counselling have acquired a new potency because of digital advances. The best possible clinical digital solution is healthcare services delivered home to stable patients; the advantage being continuous monitoring of patients at home to detect any impending complication. This not only provides ease of treatment, but also helps release hospital beds for those in need.
Technology or digital based platforms are not restricted to the management of the disease. They have also helped epidemiologists and various experts to collect, assimilate and analyse data to understand the virus, and come up, possibly, with solutions for treatment and vaccination.
Digital health has proven to be a blessing in diagnostic modalities like imaging as well. Teleradiology has become a key enabler during these difficult times. Hospitals have provided home-workstations with remote access to radiologists wherever feasible. Teleradiology has made it possible for radiologists to view and report scans from their homes and provide immediate guidance for patient care and management.
COVID-19 can be fought by being connected with the help of these digital solutions and thus relying on evidence-based, comprehensive treatment and care. Medicine and technology have joined hands to provide a better future to everyone.
Patkar is Director, Medical Services and head of department, Radiology at Nanavati Super Speciality Hospital. Jogade is also at Nanavati Super Speciality Hospital
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