Healthcare IT Takeaways as COVID-19 State of Emergency Ends

By Devin Partida, Editor-in-Chief,
Twitter: @rehackmagazine

The Biden Administration announced it would end the COVID-19 public health and national emergency declarations on May 11, 2023. This marks the official end of the health emergency that began in January 2020. While this is good news, it also means some things are going to change regarding vaccine and testing availability.

The Different Applications of IT in Healthcare

When COVID-19 first swept across the world, it affected every aspect of life — from economics and politics to everyday activities. Of course, the sector that was impacted the most was health care. In the beginning, the medical field struggled to keep up with demand. Hospitals and care institutions had to make fundamental changes to address the growing need for speed and efficiency.

AI in the Healthcare Workforce

Some of the most significant challenges for the healthcare industry was the number of patients needing care coupled with a workforce shortage. At the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, health care locations were forced to limit the number of people who could work in close proximity to others.

This meant many workers were forced to limit their work hours, sometimes with no pay to compensate. In the worst-case scenario, entire clinics had to close because staff shortages were so severe they were left unmanned.

These shortages led to the development of IT solutions such as artificial intelligence programs to help streamline administrative tasks such as paperwork and insurance processing — leading to less work for the human staff. In addition, AI programs specialize in processing large sets of data, allowing doctors and caregivers to quickly identify each patient’s needs.

Improving Laboratory Technology

One sector that has benefited the most from IT solutions is healthcare laboratories. With staff shortages also affecting this critical area, laboratories must rely more than ever on automated processes to keep up with testing demand. This was especially true during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Being able to automate routine tasks such as sample distribution and processing reduces lab technicians’ workload so they can focus on tasks that require more finesse. Automating blood analysis systems can also reduce the number of samples needed from patients — which is a relief for the young and elderly in need of bloodwork.

Another IT solution that is helping laboratories is digital pathology. Digital pathology is the use of computer technology in order to perform pathology tasks. Pathologists use it mainly to analyze specimens without being in the office. New tech allows pathologists to be flexible in their working hours and environment.

While digital pathology was born out of a need to limit the number of doctors working in one place during the COVID-19 pandemic, its versatility means many doctors have kept it even after restrictions have been lifted.

Telemedicine and Virtual Collaborations

The restrictions on space during the COVID-19 pandemic didn’t just separate doctors and health care workers from each other — they also separated them from their patients. This distance means medical attention and response times were significantly delayed. In response, doctors and other medical professionals turned to telemedicine solutions to deliver more prompt care.

Telemedicine, also known as telehealth, allows doctors and caregivers to meet with patients through computers and the internet. Doctors can consult with patients about their medical needs without having to leave their homes or office.

Meeting with patients from anywhere a computer and an internet connection are available is a boon for doctors and patients. Doctors can schedule telehealth visits without having to go into or switch offices. Patients with disabilities or an illness don’t have to leave their homes to get the care they need.

IT in Healthcare Will Continue to Grow

The COVID-19 pandemic was a wake-up call for the healthcare industry. The surge in demand, the difficulties of staff shortage and government restrictions have forced a technological revolution. While the state of medical emergency is being lifted, IT solutions are here to stay.