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Technology Contributes to Clinician Burnout. Here’s How It Can Make It Better.

The next wave of Medtech innovation must deliver truly smart connected care—not only building on our progress in collecting and integrating information about a patient, such as vital signs, diagnostic results and health history—but also using software to prioritize this information, streamline care delivery and provide actionable insights.

Hospitals today are full of digital noise—countless beeps, alarms and alerts coming from numerous devices that operate on separate digital platforms. These alerts serve a purpose, but the constant distractions can also contribute to clinicians feeling overwhelmed and burned out, a major crisis causing clinicians to leave the profession.

Medtech companies are focused now on making devices that communicate with each other as one way of better supporting healthcare providers. Advances in areas like virtual reality, robotics, cloud computing, data analysis and AI are enabling new pathways for simpler, smarter, more connected care. At the same time, technologies like generative AI present many opportunities—from advancing the provider-patient experience, to reimagining how clinicians work and redefining our understanding of diseases and cures.

Here are some ways that healthcare is already changing today and where we’re headed in the not-so-distant future.

  • Making the tools for care simpler and more intuitive

Medtech companies must consider every part of the care journey from the points of view of both clinicians and patients. Innovators use these insights to create technology solutions that help simplify and connect steps in the care journey for the greatest benefit. By using data and feedback to identify clinical challenges facing the clinicians and patients we serve, we can design our products to be more intuitive and better meet their needs. We can help put information at clinicians’ fingertips via educational portals, in-device or on-demand training modules that teach and reinforce best practices, and even leverage virtual reality to help build fundamental skills so that in-person instruction can deliver even greater value and help optimize their valuable time.

  • Turning “to do” into “done for you” through automation

Technology is well-suited to help minimize rote or repetitive tasks, like regularly monitoring patient vital signs, infusions, fluid output and time-intensive care needs like precisely managing a patient’s temperature or medications. Smart devices can automatically record patient data into the electronic medical record in real-time and flag potential concerns, allowing more time for clinicians to engage with patients while driving consistent practices and promoting patient safety across the healthcare system.  As medtech companies design for even greater integration and automation, smart connected devices can help drive safer, better, more efficient and seamless care. Clinicians can reallocate time to the bedside, rather than be overwhelmed by mundane tasks, helping to reduce issues like burnout.

In the pharmacy environment, medication management platforms can enlist robots to fill digital prescriptions, use computer vision to confirm the right medication and dose, and even ship medicines directly to the patient’s home. Connected care analytic platforms can inform stewardship pharmacists on appropriate antibiotic therapy by combining laboratory results with pharmacy orders to identify inadequate or redundant therapy, potentially decreasing antimicrobial overuse and resistance over time. Pharmacists are able to shift away from repetitive tasks like counting pills and focus more on providing clinical care with patients.

  • Enabling efficient prioritization of acute resources and more seamless, convenient patient care 

The Covid-19 pandemic accelerated a trend of moving care outside traditional acute settings, like hospitals, and into more convenient locations like retail pharmacies and even our homes. With the movement toward smart connected software and simplification, medical devices are already beginning to support this shift, so that hospitals can efficiently prioritize staff and resources to patients who need them most.

As medtech companies continue to drive improvements, this trend will continue, helping to relieve some of the strain on both health systems and clinicians, who will be able to provide a more seamless, coordinated and comprehensive experience for each patient. Integrating the different inputs across their care journey will help ensure that all information is readily available for doctors, nurses, pharmacists and other stakeholders making care decisions for that patient. For example, AI-based remote monitoring solutions will enable health systems to provide high-quality care for patients outside their facilities, and support patients in understanding and following treatment plans from the comfort and convenience of their homes.

As we look to the future, the next wave of medtech innovation must deliver truly smart connected care—not only building on our progress in collecting and integrating information about a patient, such as vital signs, diagnostic results and health history—but also using software to prioritize this information, streamline care delivery and provide actionable insights to support healthcare providers in making patient care decisions. Medtech companies can make device performance more robust for a wide range of clinical scenarios, develop adaptive technology that allows the device to self-correct, and/or utilize clinical decision support software to prioritize alerts and even offer personalized patient health insights to support safe, high-quality care.

Much like the shift to digital medicine, we can once again transform how care settings look, sound, and function. The new era of care has the potential to be quieter and calmer, with fewer alerts and hectic demands, generating personalized insights instead of endless administrative tasks. Greater efficiencies and support for both patients and clinicians can enable more convenient and seamless care across each unique health journey. And, while it may sound counterintuitive, the patient experience can become more human—putting the provider-patient relationship back at the center—and enable higher precision medicine with the right intervention for the right patient at the right time.

Source: metamorworks, Getty Images

Beth McCombs serves as executive vice president and chief technology officer of BD (Becton, Dickinson and Company), a leading global medical technology company headquartered in Franklin Lakes, New Jersey. In this role, she is responsible for leading all R&D activities for BD, advancing new product innovation and development from early-stage concepts through launch and sustaining the current product portfolio. She is also a member of the BD Executive Leadership Team.

McCombs joined BD in 2019 as the SVP, R&D for the BD Medical Segment, where she co-led the segment portfolio strategy and growth acceleration initiatives. Prior to joining BD, she spent more than 20 years at Johnson & Johnson (J&J), most recently as Vice President, R&D for Ethicon, J&J’s surgical device franchise.

McCombs holds both a B.S. and M.S. degree in Mechanical Engineering from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (M.I.T.), and an MBA from the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business.

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