There is a growing concern among senior citizens about the fearful and lonely fate they may have to encounter in a hospital ICU in their last days.
Hospitals can provide alternative arrangements or levels of care instead of admitting a patient to the intensive care unit (ICU) depending on the severity of their condition and the available resources.
Here are a few alternative arrangements that hospitals may offer.
A step-down unit, also known as a progressive care unit (PCU) or intermediate care unit (IMC), is a specialized area within the hospital that provides a higher level of care than a regular ward but less intense monitoring than the ICU.
It is suitable for patients who require close monitoring, frequent interventions, or specialized treatments, but do not need the full resources of the ICU.
High Dependency Unit (HDU)
An HDU is an intermediate level of care that falls between the ICU and a general ward. It is designed to provide enhanced monitoring and support for patients who are stable but still require close observation or specialized treatments.
A telemetry unit is equipped with specialized monitoring equipment that continuously tracks a patient's vital signs, such as heart rate, blood pressure, and oxygen levels. It allows healthcare providers to remotely monitor patients' conditions and respond promptly to any changes. Telemetry units are suitable for patients who require continuous monitoring but may not need the level of care provided in the ICU.
Some hospitals have specialized wards dedicated to specific medical conditions or procedures. These wards may offer more advanced monitoring and specialized care for patients with conditions such as cardiac issues, respiratory problems, or post-surgical recovery.
These wards can provide an intermediate level of care while avoiding the intensive resources of the ICU.
Home Health Care or Remote Monitoring
In certain cases, hospitals may provide home health care services or remote monitoring options for patients who can be safely managed outside of the hospital setting. This typically involves regular visits from healthcare professionals, who can provide necessary medical interventions or monitor the patient's condition remotely through telemedicine technologies.
How to improve Patient Diagnosis
We are still far behind developed countries in patient diagnosis. Here are some commonly used web sites and software tools for patient diagnosis.
Electronic Health Records (EHR) Systems: EHR systems like Epic, Cerner, and Allscripts are widely used in healthcare settings. These platforms allow doctors to access patient records, review medical history, order tests, and document diagnoses.
Clinical Decision Support Systems (CDSS): CDSS platforms provide doctors with evidence-based recommendations and guidelines for diagnosis and treatment. Examples include UpToDate, DynaMed, and Isabel.
Medical Imaging Software: Radiologists and other specialists use software tools for viewing and analysing medical images, such as X-rays, CT scans, MRI scans, and ultrasounds. Commonly used software includes PACS (Picture Archiving and Communication System) and DICOM (Digital Imaging and Communications in Medicine) viewers.
Telemedicine Platforms: With the increasing popularity of telemedicine, doctors use platforms like Doxy.me, Zoom for Healthcare, and Amwell to conduct virtual consultations and diagnose patients remotely.
Clinical Reference Websites: Websites like PubMed, WebMD, and Medscape provide doctors with access to medical literature, research articles, clinical guidelines, and drug information for diagnostic reference.
Diagnostic Decision Support Tools: Specific tools like DXplain, VisualDx, and Ada offer doctors assistance in diagnosing complex cases by providing differential diagnoses based on symptoms, medical history, and other patient data.
Laboratory Information Systems (LIS): LIS software is used to manage and track laboratory tests, results, and patient data. Popular examples include Sunquest, Cerner Millennium, and LabWare.
Genetics and Genomics Tools: For genetic-based diagnoses, doctors use specialized software and databases such as OMIM (Online Mendelian Inheritance in Man), ClinVar, and GenBank.
Once we equip our hospitals with modern alternatives to ICU and also familiarise our medical community with modern tools for diagnosis, we can attract patients from other states and countries. Also, give better service to our citizens. Another area which has tremendous potential is Telemedicine.
With advanced Telemedicine system, we can serve patients in any part of the world. Telemedicine has gained significant importance and popularity, especially with the advancements in technology and the need for remote healthcare services.
Here are some Telemedicine-related jobs:
Telemedicine Physician/Telehealth Doctor: Telemedicine physicians are licensed medical professionals who provide remote healthcare consultations and diagnoses to patients using telecommunication technologies. They use video calls, phone calls, or secure messaging platforms to assess patient symptoms, provide medical advice, prescribe medication, and make treatment recommendations.
Telehealth Nurse: Telehealth nurses work closely with telemedicine physicians to provide virtual nursing care and support. They assist in triaging patient calls, answering medical queries, providing patient education, and monitoring patients remotely. Telehealth nurses often have experience in various medical specialties and are skilled in using telemedicine platforms.
Telepharmacist: Telepharmacists provide pharmaceutical consultations and medication management remotely. They review patient medical histories, answer medication-related queries, ensure proper dosing and administration, and collaborate with healthcare providers to optimize medication therapy. Tele pharmacists play a crucial role in medication adherence and patient safety in telemedicine.
Telehealth Coordinator/Administrator: Telehealth coordinators or administrators manage the day-to-day operations and logistics of telemedicine programs. They ensure the smooth functioning of telemedicine platforms, schedule appointments, coordinate virtual visits, handle patient registration, manage patient records, and ensure compliance with telemedicine regulations and privacy laws.
Telemedicine Software Developer/Engineer: Telemedicine software developers or engineers design, develop, and maintain the software and technology infrastructure that supports telemedicine platforms. They create user-friendly interfaces, integrate with electronic health record (EHR) systems, enhance data security, and optimize the performance of telemedicine applications and platforms.
Telehealth Technical Support Specialist: Technical support specialists provide assistance and troubleshooting for telemedicine platforms and technology. They help healthcare professionals and patients with technical issues, such as connectivity problems, audio/video difficulties, and software glitches. Their role is crucial in ensuring a seamless telemedicine experience for users.
Telemedicine Compliance Officer: Telemedicine compliance officers ensure that telemedicine practices adhere to legal and regulatory requirements. They assess compliance with privacy laws (such as HIPAA in the United States), cybersecurity measures, and telemedicine guidelines. They develop policies and procedures, conduct audits, and provide training to ensure compliance within telemedicine operations.
Telemedicine Business Development Manager: Telemedicine business development managers identify new opportunities, partnerships, and market trends in the telemedicine industry. They work on expanding telemedicine services, developing strategic relationships with healthcare organizations, negotiating contracts, and implementing business growth strategies.
Telehealth Data Analyst: Telehealth data analysts collect and analyse data related to telemedicine operations, patient outcomes, and healthcare utilization. They use statistical methods and data visualization tools to identify patterns, assess the effectiveness of telemedicine programs, and provide insights for process improvement and decision-making.
(The writer is a teacher, author and career guidance expert)