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Winter Season Brings Challenges – and Opportunities – for Healthcare Delivery

January 24, 2019
Meredith Wagner

With the holiday season gone and a host of celebrations with family and friends – from Thanksgiving to New Year’s – a distant memory, much of the country is now getting into the heart of the winter season and everything it brings with it.  That includes cold temperatures, often well below freezing, snowfall, challenging travel conditions, and certainly a number of potential health concerns that can be much more challenging to deal with during this time of year.  But, one of the hallmarks of modern technology is an ability to overcome many obstacles by providing more convenient and effective alternatives to traditional alternatives.

 

 

Healthcare is certainly no different and connected health technologies can make dealing with the challenges of the winter season much easier for both patients and physicians.

 

 

Respiratory and Cardiovascular Issues

Colder temperatures increase the strain on the heart, as blood vessels narrow and normal blood flow is restricted, causing the heart to have to work harder.  This can result in an increase in heart rate and blood pressure.  Studies have confirmed that risk of heart attack is greater in colder months, which means at-risk patients, in particular, including those with chronic conditions and prior strokes or heart attacks, have to carefully monitor their vital statistics.

 

Remote monitoring capabilities make it much easier for physicians to track patients’ conditions, including setting alerts for specific thresholds that indicate an increased probability of an incident, so physicians can intervene before situations occur.  They may then even deliver instructions and advice remotely via telephone, remote video conferencing, or even patient apps and portals, reducing response time and helping prevent trips to the clinic or emergency room.

 

 

Accidental Injury

Slippery conditions in winter increase the chances of slipping and falling.  Wearable devices with the capability to detect falls can alert family and physicians immediately, allowing emergency service to be dispatched quickly to reduce the impact of exposure to cold and address and potential injuries, reducing or even eliminating the needs for hospital stays.  Other patients who may find themselves with scrapes and bruises after a fall may be able to leverage remote video consultations to determine the extent of an injury and whether a visit to a physician is required for additional analysis or treatment.

 

 

Travel Conditions

Of course, travel conditions during the winter can often be hazardous, making it difficult for patients to get to scheduled appointments.  Missed appointments put a strain on both patients and doctors due to rescheduling needs and potentially idle time for doctors.  Virtual care models allow many appointments to be kept, connecting patients and doctors remotely using remote video conferencing technology integrated with connected health systems.  In fact, doctors aren’t immune to weather conditions and may also have challenges commuting to offices.  Connected health capabilities can allow them to continue to see patients remotely until they are able to get to their offices, ensuring their time isn’t lost and patients’ needs are being met.

 

 

Flu Season

Of course, winter also represents the height of flu season.  Last week, we discussed some of the innovation to come out of this year’s CES show in Las Vegas, where connected health was a major focus. One of the other launches at the event came from Ellume, which introduced a platform designed to allow consumers to access flu diagnosis in mere minutes and providing appropriate clinical advice and instruction, including the ability to schedule clinic appointments with associated providers directly through their platform.  This could help reduce time to treatment for verified cases, also reducing spread of the flu, while also allowing physicians to work more efficiently by reducing the number of visits from patients without the flu.

 

 

Connected health is evolving and is creating opportunities for better and more efficient care in many situations.  Because the winter season presents challenges unlike other seasonal trends, the capabilities of connected health systems can have a significant impact on patient well-being and effective use of physicians’ time.

 

 

To learn more about how connected health solutions can increase the value of your services during the winter months and all year round, visit us here.