“If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses”, is a quote often attributed to Henry Ford. The words are a poignant reminder of the power of innovation and the ability to look beyond status-quo!
In healthcare we find ourselves at a crucial juncture. The imperative need to provide access to high quality care to all is obvious – yet we largely try to do this within the confines of the existing paradigm of solutions that haven’t yielded success for decades. The question we must ask ourselves is, are we trying to make our horses run as fast as cars?
Quality critical care, for everyone, everywhere: A far cry from reality
Providing quality healthcare to people across India, with its vast population and diverse landscape, is challenging. It is further exacerbated in the case of critical care or ICU care. This is a field that requires immediacy in the provision of care, as every minute is crucial for the outcome of the patient. As such it is often not ideal to transport and move patients to ‘better and bigger’ centers to access care – rather patients need to be empowered to receive the care they need within their communities. This was apparent during the COVID crises of the previous two years. Critically ill patients often lose their lives due to the lack of access to a nearby facility that can provide them the care they need. Delivery of critical care is a challenging and complex task, it requires doctors and nurses who have the skills to rapidly assess and manage complex patients. It takes care providers years to acquire these skills and it requires the continuous, 24/7, presence of this level of expertise; in a critical scenario things can change in a second. Unfortunately, in India, nine out of 10 ICU patients do not have access to this level of expertise when they need it.
Technology as an enabler: Moving from horses to cars
In ICUs today, even though patients are critically ill, there is a lot of data, if used appropriately, could help improve the management of patients. However, technology is not used to the extent possible to monitor and prevent critical events. Similar to how smartphones transformed access to communication, financial services, information and more, technology in the form of Smart-ICUs can bring access to high quality care to critically ill patients. In addition to digitizing the data of patients in real time and using the power of technology and data science, Smart-ICU facilities are effortlessly blending technology and healthcare, enabling trained doctors and nurses who are remotely located to support patients irrespective of their location and time of day. These teams of specialist providers located at care centers have access to all the patient data, including vital signs, lab reports, scans, radiology, the history of the patient as well as high definition video feeds of these patients. All this data can be processed through the analytics engine of a Smart-ICU platform, so that the remote team of specialists can oversee the management of patients 24/7, thereby improving the quality of care for patients and saving lives of vulnerable patients wherever they may be. Having a Smart-ICU allows any hospital anywhere to provide world class critical care to its patients. Technology utilized in this manner is a great equalizer in lowering the barrier to access to high quality cost effective care for patients.
Smart-ICUs: Connected care is the way the forward
A Smart-ICU setup is connected to a central unit with superspecialist doctors, nurses, and other healthcare professionals who manage patients 24/7. Because a Smart-ICU room is fitted with powerful cameras, and the Smart-ICU platform gathers and organizes data for easy access, the patient may be monitored and managed remotely; doctors and nurses have real-time access to clinical data for immediate decision making. Patient data is exchanged with professionals over larger distances, in a secure and private manner, allowing quick intervention to save lives. Smart-ICU provides timely, standardized care to critically ill patients, increased access to intensive care, and efficient use of limited resources to serve a larger percentage of the population.
Path-breaking technology is bringing critical healthcare delivery to patients who did not have access to it before. Such systems and technology are being adopted across the country and leading to better outcomes for patients and lives being saved.
Empowering patient care: Providing access, quality and affordability
In 2022, with technology creeping into every aspect of our lives, the rate of change of how we live and work is being transformed rapidly. It is imperative that we use the power of this change to positively impact the care our critically ill patients receive. This will require changing the paradigm of care delivery and doctors, nurses, hospitals will have to move from business as usual to better, newer and safer ways in which critically ill patients receive their care. In an age when payment transactions, food delivery and communication can be obtained at the drop of a hat, patients who need critical care should not be losing their lives due to the lack of access to quality care. Every patient, irrespective of their location should get the care that they need. The time to act is now!
Views expressed above are the author’s own.
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