By: David Maman, CEO and founder of Binah.ai
Long before the COVID-19 pandemic, relationships between health care organizations and their workers were strained by years of cost-cutting, which trimmed staffing levels, supplies and space to the bone. These trends have been exacerbated by the pandemic, which has in many cases brought health care systems to the financial brink and increased the risk of burnout among employees.
Since the onset of the pandemic, the risk of burnout and insufficient sleep has surged among health care providers. Amid the pandemic, a recent study by the Journal of Diabetes and Metabolic Disorders reviewing the mental health status of healthcare workers during COVID-19 revealed that a considerable percentage of medical staff experienced mental disorders, including anxiety and depression. The same study also revealed nurses, front-line health care workers and younger medical staff in areas with higher infection rates reported more severe degrees of all psychological symptoms than other health care workers.
A study at Houston Methodist Hospital system, found that an unprecedented number of staff members were experiencing burnout attributed to pandemic-related stresses on the system and the high risk of contagion among health care providers and their family members. This included fear of exposing family members to infection, emotional exhaustion in the intensive care unit (ICU) and pressure to choose between family responsibilities and their inner sense of duty toward patients.
A potential solution to these deep-seated financial and quality issues is to adopt technological innovations that facilitate remote patient monitoring and care, thus reducing workload and diminishing the risk of COVID-19 transmission by reducing traffic in and out of intensive care units (ICUs) and other facilities. This includes the adoption of remote vital signs monitoring solutions that leverage artificial intelligence (AI) to read vital signs such as heart rate, blood oxygen or respiration rate, identified by epidemiologists as being associated with a higher likelihood of COVID-19 infection, in real time. In combination with other symptoms, such as fever or cough, the measurements can help health professionals triage suspects remotely and decide whether a patient should seek further medical attention or reduce the risk of exposure by remaining at home.
In a study by Local and Regional Anesthesia on burnout among health care providers, researchers identified two major contributors: 1) the weight of the workload and 2) the level of control over the work situation. By addressing these factors, both of which have been intensified by the pandemic, remote vital signs monitoring can help curb the extraordinary rate of pandemic-related burnout among health care providers.
Reducing the Workload
We have all seen images of lines of patients who are suspected to be infected with COVID-19 waiting to be diagnosed and/or treated at overwhelmed hospitals. With remote vital signs monitoring, including of the oxygen saturation levels that are all-important to the diagnosis of severe disease, physicians can determine from a patient’s phone or laptop if the patient is sick enough to be admitted.
The reduction in workload enabled by remote vital signs monitoring is arguably even more important at rural hospitals. Staff burnout caused by decades of revenue-related downward pressure on staff levels, in combination with strains brought about by the prevalence of COVID-19 in rural communities, was ranked as the top concern in a recent report on how rural hospitals have been affected by the pandemic. According to the report, 35% of adult hospitalizations at rural hospitals were related to COVID-19 and 83% of staffed adult beds in rural hospitals were occupied, compared to equivalent metrics of 27% and 84%, respectively, in urban hospitals during the same period.
The combined crises of an increasingly fragile rural health safety net and the high incidence of COVID-19 infection in rural areas makes the adoption of innovative solutions such as remote vital sign monitoring more critical than ever. Not only does such technology lighten workload, it also reduces the risk of contagion in hard-hit communities and helps alleviate financial burdens created by the pandemic.
The availability of remote vital signs monitoring can also help streamline follow-up among patients in the immediate aftermath of infection and among COVID-19 “long-haulers,” who continue to display symptoms long after an acute infection has passed or suffer permanent damage to lungs and other organs. Instead of returning to the hospital, such patients’ vital signs can be monitored from home.
Creating a Sense of Control
Burnout is especially common among physicians. Estimates put the incidence at close to 50%, with mid-career physicians being at highest risk, according to one study – a situation compounded by the demands of the pandemic. While workload is a major contributor to physician burnout, another is reduced control, over schedules and “unwieldy” administrative burdens.
By reducing time demands and simplifying the collection of basic health information, remote vital signs monitoring creates a sense of control that can help allay physician exhaustion. The same is true for patients and caregivers. For example, ASD.ai, whose digital notebook helps caregivers track the well-being of those with autism, recently integrated remote vital sign monitoring technology into its program.
In addition to reducing risk of physician burnout, remote vital signs monitoring also helps reduce the risk of adverse patient health events associated with physician fatigue and sleep loss, thus improving quality of care and increasing patient satisfaction.
Empowering Health Care Providers
The demands created by the pandemic have highlighted the need for innovative solutions. Remote vital signs monitoring can help prevent burnout by empowering health care providers to make better, faster decisions and to provide more timely treatment, while helping patients stay on top of their symptoms and allowing medical facilities to cut costs, improve care and optimize the safety of their environments.
Not least among the benefits of implementing remote vital signs monitoring is preparedness for future health care crises, including pandemics ss the COVID-19 pandemic has so clearly reminded us, the time to start preparing for the next health care crisis is now.
About David Maman
David Maman is the Co-founder and CEO of Binah.ai, a leading provider of general health and wellness video-based monitoring tools powered by artificial intelligence (AI) that allows users to extract heart rate, HRV, oxygen saturation, respiration rate, mental stress and soon, blood pressure, using only a smartphone, tablet or laptop camera. His exceptional technical creativity has led to the application of more than 30 patents. Under his leadership, Binah.ai has been recognized as a top start-up and for its innovation in the fields of health and wellness monitoring.