Should remote work for healthcare workers be a permanent measure in the ‘new normal’?

With more countries begin transitioning to a COVID-19 endemic state, does it still make sense for medical institutions to implement a remote working strategy for healthcare workers moving forward?

The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic forced many hospitals and medical institutions to explore the possibility of shifting towards a remote working model, in order to minimise the risk of their staff and patients getting infected by the virus.

But, with vaccinations being rolled out around the world, and with COVID-19 unlikely to go away anytime soon, the virus could soon become endemic.

David Heymann, professor of infectious disease epidemiology at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, previously said: “This is the natural progression of many infections we have in humans, whether it is tuberculosis or H.I.V.

Dr Herbert Staehr

“They have become endemic and we have learned to live with them and we learn how to do risk assessments and how to protect those we want to protect.”

The question then is, should hospitals and medical institutions view remote work for healthcare workers as part of the ‘new normal’?

This is one of the many topical subjects that will be discussed at the 2021 Hospital Management Asia (HMA) conference, which is set to take place on 14-15 of September.

The session, titled ‘Remote work for healthcare professionals: from a stop gap measure to a lasting transformation’, will be moderated by Dr Herbert Staehr, Vice President, Global Head of Transforming Care Delivery at Siemens Healthineers, who recently helped compiled a book on the Next Normal, the Insights Series Compendium.

Said Dr Staehr: “We cover how we might emerge stronger subsequent to the COVID crisis. It is…the first of its kind with a single objective: Equipping global healthcare leaders with insights that matter.”

Benefits of remote work

The 2021 HMA conference will cover in-depth the many reasons why medical institutions should look towards implementing a remote working system in the long-term. At a glance, however, one of its main benefits include being able to improve workplace safety for healthcare workers, as the risk of getting infected by the virus is minimised when they do not need to meet multiple patients face-to-face. This has the additional advantage of reducing the usage of personal protective equipment (PPE) – with it being reserved only for critical frontline caregivers, it can mitigate the potential risk of a PPE shortage.

Remote working can also help mitigate the issues of capacity and manpower constraints that many hospitals face due to the pandemic-driven exponential demand for health services. With remote solutions now allowing medical assistance – or even consultations – to be provided by specialists and skilled staff without the need for their physical presence, hospitals are able to deliver the right expertise to wherever is required, at any time.

Other benefits of remote working include the reduction of time-consuming commutes, which allows employees greater flexibility in their day. This, in turn, can lead to an improvement in employee morale and improved staff retention, while also opening up to a more diversified pool of talent without any geographical constraints.

Experience at HMA 2020

The upcoming HMA conference will be the second year in which it is held virtually. Last year’s HMA conference saw Dr Staehr attend the event as both moderator – he presided over a session on how telehealth, remote monitoring devices, AI and other technology reshape the workforce –  and participant.

Reflecting on his experience at HMA’s digital conference last year, Dr Staehr said: “COVID put all of us in difficult places. This meant exchanging of ideas, knowledge and sharing of best practices needed to be done in new, digital ways.

“HMA was quite successful in doing so – as a long-standing attendee of the on-site conferences I appreciated the exchange, and felt that they did manage to bring it into the digital world in a very professional fashion, while also making it easy to navigate.”

Dr Staehr also praised the topics that were covered at last year’s conference – the theme of which was ‘The New Normal’.

“To me, the mixture of strategic and more operational topics is very interesting,” said Dr Staehr. “From using digitalisation to augment the workforce and automize processes, to redesigning healthcare entirely, to reimaging the experience to patients – these were all relevant and important selections of topics.”

 

To find out more about remote working for medical professionals in the new normal, join Dr Staehr and other esteemed speakers from the healthcare industry at HMA 2021 this September. Click here to register for the conference today!

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