Travis Cope: The impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic had unprecedented implications for the health care sector, and it required the adoption of innovative new technology to cope with the challenges.
So let's just talk a little bit about specifically what hospitals were experiencing during the pandemic. Number one, there was a lack of available beds because of the sheer number of COVID patients that were coming into the hospital. Number two, hospitals were enacting mitigation procedures like masking, social distancing and testing, which were limiting patient flow into the hospital. There were unprecedented demands on clinicians and nurses, which resulted in burnout and a lot of early retirement, especially in the case of nurses.
And then finally, and perhaps most importantly the quality of patient care went down because there was a lot of care that was being deferring, think medical procedures and doctor's visits.
So this all required innovative new technology that could do a couple of things. First of all, technology that could shift care out of the hospital and into the home so that we could preserve patient bed capacity. Number two, some sort of a technology that could help us deal with the burnout that clinicians and nurses were experiencing. And number three, technologies that could actually improve the standard of care over the baseline, which was the pre-COVID baseline. So are we actually making patient care better.
So in my view, connected medical devices and remote patient monitoring represent the best example of a technological shift that occurred directly as a consequence of COVID.
So let's talk about a couple of examples of that. The first is ECG patches. So every year in the United States there are 5 million patients that go into the hospital to be tested for an abnormal heart rhythm or an arrhythmia, and that test is called an electrocardiogram or an ECG for short.
Now an ECG is typically conducted with a device called a Holter Monitor. And if you can picture a Holter Monitor, the Holter Monitor is sort of like a vest. It has a bunch of electrodes affixed to it, and those electrodes monitor the patient's heartbeat.
Now, the Holter Monitor is not the ideal diagnostic device by a long shot. It's heavy. It's cumbersome, it's not at all discrete and patients generally refuse to wear the thing for more than 24 to 48-hours at a time.
Compounding the problems with this device, and this is probably more important in the context of COVID is that the patient has to go into the hospital to be fitted with the device, and then they have to return to the hospital when their diagnostic course is concluded to return the device. So this is obviously not ideal during a pandemic scenario where we're trying to limit patient traffic in and out of the hospital.
Now ECG patches can deal with all of the challenges that I just mentioned. So they're very small, they're light weight, they're waterproof, they're very discrete, and patients generally just forget that they're wearing them most of the time.
But secondly, and this is particularly important in the context of the pandemic, the device is shipped directly to the patient's home. It's easily applied by the patient, and when the patient's done with their diagnostic course, they put the device in a box and they ship it to the patch manufacturer for analysis and evaluation.
Now consider for a moment the implications of that technological shift. Number one, we've reduced the burden for the patent because we talked about the device being so discrete that the patient oftentimes doesn't even know that they're wearing it relative to a Holter Monitor.
Number two, we've reduced the burden for the doctor and the health care system because we're shifting patients from the hospital into the home. And then finally and most importantly we're actually improving the quality of care for that patient because the patient is inclined to wear that patch for longer than they would a Holter Monitor, we're catching more heart rhythm disorders with that device.
So if you consider all of the benefits that I just mentioned taken altogether, everybody wins.
Another example of a -- an important connected medical device is remote Pulse Oximeter. So most people will have had the experience of going into a hospital or going into their doctor and having this clamp-like or clothespin-like device affixed to their finger. That device is called a Pulse Oximeter, and it measures the amount of oxygen that's present in your blood.
So during a COVID case, especially severe COVID cases, the patient's blood oxygen level declines precipitously, and if a doctor doesn't identify that and intervene early, that patient is at risk of a very long recovery, lifelong complications or worse.
So consider this hypothetical situation for just a minute. You're a clinician in a hospital and a patient comes into your hospital and they're diagnosed with COVID. They're an elderly patient and they have multiple comorbidity. So you know as a doctor that that predisposes the patient to a higher risk of severe disease. But their case isn't severe yet, and if you devote in-hospital resources to monitoring that patient right now you might be depriving a patient in the future of those resources that potentially needs them even more.
So the question is what do you do? With remote Pulse Oximetry, we send that patient home with a connected oxygen sensor that can be monitored by the hospital. At the first sign of blood oxygen levels decreasing, that patient is notified and they're brought back into the hospital for evaluation.
Now consider the implications of this technology shift, very similar to the implications of ECG patches. Number one, reduced burden for the patient. So the patient has the luxury of being observed from the privacy of their own home instead of in the hospital setting. Number two, reduced burden for the health care system. So again we are shifting patients out of the hospital and into the home, and we're freeing up bed capacity.
And then finally, improved quality of care. When a hospital is utilizing its resources most efficiently, the quality of care of patients of the aggregate goes up. So again, take the benefits altogether, everybody wins.
Now we talked about a couple of examples of connected medical devices, there's many more that we could have talked about. Imagine being diagnosed with sleep apnea from the privacy of your own home as opposed to having to go into a facility for a sleep study. Imagine having real time updates on your loved ones pushed to your smartphone like the moment their test results are in or the moment their procedure is complete. Imagine artificial intelligence algorithms that combine data from multiple connected devices and identify the risk of adverse events in patients before they even happen.
All of this is possible with the existing connected devices that we have today. So to conclude, the net impact of the pandemic was undoubtedly negative. But if there is a silver lining that silver lining is that we are now very rapidly adopting innovative new technology that is going to improve the standard of care in lives of everyone, doctors, nurses, patients and their families.