During the push to defeat COVID-19, medical professionals focused on looming threats and immediate needs. Implement security measures—now! Vaccinate the public—now! Run tests—now!
Planning for the long or even the medium term seems like a luxury when a new variant forces us to limit our field of action to the next few days or weeks. However, a major exception has emerged: digital.
As we have seen during the pandemic, the flexibility and adaptability of digital allow it to play a central role in solving the problems of today and tomorrow. Of course, digital innovation has long been at the heart of healthcare at the Jewish General Hospital (JGH), a testing ground and springboard for many projects, supported by the contribution of generous donors, the positive impact of which are being felt throughout the CIUSSS du Centre-Ouest de Montréal. What the pandemic has done is motivate us to accelerate the pace of transforming our wish list into daily digital practice.
Among our notable advancements is [email protected], being developed at the JGH. Based on our experience with telehealth during the pandemic, we have created a virtual hospital ward by establishing a digital connection to homes where some COVID-19 patients are completing their recovery. Vital signs and other data are monitored regularly and remotely by a virtual care team, with a doctor and nurse also contacting patients daily by phone or visual platform.
This puts [email protected] in alignment with two fundamental principles of the JGH and, by extension, of the entire CIUSSS: providing care centered on the needs of the patient and offering “care everywhere”, i.e. mean making care available anywhere. the setting is the safest, most convenient and most comfortable for the patient.
[email protected] also highlights another crucial aspect of digital technology: although it is a sophisticated health tool, it is just a tool. It exists so that professionals can establish and maintain the human contact that is crucial in medical care.
Taken together, these principles are at the heart of our digital initiatives. A little over a year ago at the JGH, we launched a digital command center, a clearinghouse for up-to-the-minute data displayed on multiple screens. By reviewing patient flow, transfers, potential bottlenecks and more, decision makers can act before minor issues turn into major headaches for patients.
Last summer, we also inaugurated OROT, a connected health innovation hub that brings together private sector entrepreneurs and health experts. Its goal is to determine where improvements need to be made, and then devise practical solutions. If a new digital tool is needed, OROT will help bring it to life, keeping the patient’s needs in mind.
Staff involvement in defining the need for particular tools and evaluating prototypes is of paramount importance. This fosters a corporate culture where digital technology is embraced, as staff have the opportunity to come together and play an active role in building something remarkable. Therefore, it is the caregivers, as well as the recipients, who are empowered.
While the pandemic has given impetus to many digital advancements, the quality of care can only continue to improve if a concerted effort is made by healthcare professionals, government and the private sector to maintain the momentum. when COVID-19 is no longer a threat.
We have shown what we can accomplish when prompted to act quickly. We must nurture this creative momentum as we return to conditions in health care that realize the promise of digital technology. As we look to the future with greater ambition, we will find ourselves better equipped to re-emphasize the core values of patient care – compassion, care, comfort, safety – that are timeless.
Dr. Lawrence Rosenberg is President and CEO of the Integrated University Health and Social Services Network of Centre-Ouest de Montréal.