It is no secret that modern lifestyles have led to an increased incidence of chronic diseases, especially in major cities. Patients suffering from these diseases, such as diabetes and hypertension, or those who are at risk of developing them, require close monitoring of their health.
Internet of Medical Things (IoMT) – which refers to a collection of medical devices and applications that connect to healthcare IT systems through online networks – can help with just that. At Bangkok Hospital Phuket (member of BDMS), their new CareConnect platform ties together a set of personal health monitoring equipment with a medical information app, that enables patients’ health information to be captured and monitored 24/7, thus ensuring their conditions remain well-managed.
The pros of ensuring 24/7 monitoring
The set of monitoring devices (provided by the hospital) include a blood pressure monitor, blood glucose monitor, thermometer and oximeter. Data from these devices are monitored and analysed by a multidisciplinary team, who would consider the patient’s medical history and provide insights and guidance to the patient via the My Health First Application. If the data results are concerning or exceed a certain normal range, the medical team will send an alert to the patient to come in for further follow-up or treatment.
Mr Hans Peter Boysen, a 72-year old patient with underlying conditions such as diabetes and fatty liver, was one who found this function useful. “All your results are going directly to the hospital staff, and they contact you if there is something wrong (with your results), so you are always safe,” said Mr Boysen.
Such regular monitoring data has helped care teams to put in place timely treatment and prevention plans. Dr. Khemawan Vettayawaikoon, Chairperson of FMEA Telemedicine Committee said: “Since implementing CareConnect, we learned that 100% of patients require modification and discipline in their daily life activities, and in 57% of patients we made changes in their medical plan.” In addition, the real-time collection of data has allowed the medical team to identify symptoms that were previously unnoticed, enabling them to intervene at an early stage.
Such remote monitoring devices would come in useful during medical emergencies, especially for patients who live alone. As the CareConnect medical team is always on standby, patients can press a help button on their neckband device to send a distress call to the hospital, who would then dispatch doctors and nurses to the patients’ homes.
The implementation process
Since the introduction of the CareConnect platform in December 2020, a total of 71 patients at Bangkok Hospital Phuket (member of BDMS) have used this platform, with an average of 10 new patients a month coming on board.
“Tertiary care for complex and complicated cases requires sufficient gathering of information. Particularly for patients at home, monitoring should be done 24/7. With CareConnect, we can easily detect emergencies at an earlier stage, thus leading to prevention of severe medical consequences,” said Dr. Khemawan Vettayawaikoon. “So far, our patients expressed high satisfaction with the technology, as we can make early interventions, proactively acting to implement the best medical solutions for them.”
That being said, the task of putting in place such new systems for both staff and patients was no easy one, Dr. Khemawan Vettayawaikoon shared. For one, a comprehensive on-boarding training programme had to be conducted for the full care team, which comprises doctors, nurses, pharmacists, dieticians, rehabilitation staff, and the IT team. The training was customised for each group, to ensure they are familiar and skilled in their specific roles and functions on the platform. The equipment and software vendor partners were roped in to assist on the training process as well.
As the majority of patients are elderly and not so familiar with technology, they require more help in adapting to the new system. The team worked to present the operation methods and process in a simpler way for them.
Lastly, the speed of innovation and changes in the healthcare or technology landscape is rapid. The CareConnect team will need to remain highly agile and adapt the technologies accordingly.
A solution that also improves productivity
Technology has been seen as the solution to the perennial problem of manpower shortage in healthcare. Dr. Khemawan Vettayawaikoon concurred that the CareConnect platform has helped to address this issue, as patient monitoring and data analysis can be done remotely.
The COVID-19 pandemic has raised the urgency to innovate ways to raise hospital productivity. “With the extensive impact this pandemic has brought to all of us, employee strategies have become more focused on multi-tasking, high efficiency, and development of new ideas and innovations. Our team became more open to accept and develop this project, which will improve productivity and lift the quality of our service to our patients,” said Dr. Khemawan Vettayawaikoon.