Connected healthcare in pandemic times

As we today celebrate the International Nurses Day and the 200th birth anniversary of Florence Nightingale, founder of modern nursing, the debate around the effectiveness of Covid-19 response is whipping up in many countries.

Most governments ramped up national healthcare capacity to bear the burden of pandemic as much as possible, and there is an increasing focus on the implementation of smart technologies, the Internet of Things and wearable devices to improve quality and efficiency of patient assistance, both in hospitals and at home.

As we know, isolation is one of the preventive actions being taken to stop Covid-19 spread, so exposure to infected people should be limited even for medical staff and caregivers. Connected healthcare systems and remote patient monitoring (RPM) technologies are being used to monitor patients without having to come into contact with them. This is very important to keep patients with less severe cases out of hospitals, so preserving bed space for severe cases, at the same to provide adequate surveillance and ensure a prompt reaction if their condition deteriorates.

Sensor-based technologies can also be leveraged to detect possible virus symptoms by tracking selected health stats, which can be sent to healthcare operators without patients having to visit their clinics.

A study by Scripps Research Translational Institute, recently published in The Lancet Digital Health, demonstrated that collecting personal data such as resting heart rate and sleep duration through wearable devices could provide timely and accurate information about population-level influenza trends. If applied on a large scale and integrated with Artificial Intelligence capabilities, this kind of data models might contribute to early discovery and warning of future epidemics.

Beyond Covid-19, connected healthcare opens new possibility to observe and report patients suffering from chronic illnesses, treating them from the comfort of their own homes. Lots of countries deal with an ageing population: in the US, for instance, about 60 million people are over 65, and about 28% of Japanese are over 65.

In the Smart City and Smart Home age, connected healthcare and remote monitoring technologies might be highly beneficial to improve patient treatment and, at the end of the day, quality of life.

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