Navigating Patient Safety

Privacy in healthcare with advanced video technology

At the core of any hospital's successful operation are its diligent staff members. These individuals, ranging from receptionists to nurses and doctors, work tirelessly to deliver the best possible care experience for their patients. They emphasize the significance of the human touch in what can often be seen as a stark clinical environment. Through personal interaction, they foster trust, reduce stress and cultivate a culture of open communication with patients.

However, a projected global shortage of 10 million health workers by 2030, as estimated by the World Health Organization (WHO), raises a pressing need for action. Now, more than ever, there is a crucial need to develop innovative solutions to support healthcare professionals in their daily interactions with patients, maintaining the warmth and humanity of the human touch while increasing efficiency and effectiveness. Technology can certainly play a role in this effort.

Striking a balance between the growing deployment of technology and maintaining the element of personal care is paramount to delivering the best patient outcomes. Video technology, already a prevalent feature in hospitals for security purposes, can be adapted to supplement routine tasks such as patient monitoring, thus enriching the in-room patient care experience.

In-room Patient Care Through the Lens of Technology
In day-to-day hospital operations, patient monitoring holds a significant role. When I was a medical student, I spent countless hours stationed by patient bedsides, vigilantly ensuring their safety. Despite the importance of this task, it presented considerable challenges, and it often infringed upon patients' privacy. Further complicating matters, patient monitoring carries a substantial financial burden. U.S. hospitals allocate up to $2 million annually on patient monitoring—a significant budget that could be repurposed toward other critical healthcare resources.

Video technology, however, provides potential solutions to these challenges. Video technology can help hospital staff monitor multiple patients at once and reduce the risk of disturbing them with routine check-ins. Alarms, sensor systems and call bells have been commonplace in healthcare for decades, and now when integrated with today’s network cameras, smart sensors and video analytics, new innovations can be deployed to significantly improve the patient experience.

Another crucial aspect where video technology can demonstrate a significant impact is in injury prevention and expedited response times. According to the Clinics in Geriatric Medicine journal, up to a million falls happen in hospitals in the United States alone each year, resulting in approximately 250,000 injuries and up to 11,000 fatalities. A swift response is vital when such incidents occur.

Unless a medical staff member happens to be in the right place at the right time, it is difficult for them to react immediately when a patient ends up on the floor. Modern video technology can serve as an essential tool in these circumstances, promptly alerting hospital staff when a patient falls and providing precise location details to ensure a quick and effective response. Video technology supports medical practitioners in their daily responsibilities, providing a more nuanced perspective on patient needs, thus enabling effective prioritization of care.

Eventually, video analytics can also spot patterns and behaviors, which helps stop situations from escalating into emergencies. Video technology can detect when someone is out of breath and needs attention, and it can raise the alarm when someone becomes aggressive toward staff. Video does not just document incidents but triggers a response before things get out of control. With an estimated two nurses attacked every hour in the United States alone, video can have a positive impact on workplace safety, effectiveness and staff morale.

Furthermore, since hospitals are already using video technology for physical security, extending the video system’s capabilities to help with other applications is a relevant choice. From a financial perspective it makes good business sense; the video system is already installed, so it becomes a matter of how to use and leverage the greater opportunities that video technology offers.

Safeguarding Privacy, Ensuring Regulation
Concerns surrounding the integration of video technology are entirely valid, given societal apprehensions about potential misuse and surveillance. The questions about who has access to our data, how it is stored, and its purpose are crucial for building trust. Privacy-enhancing technologies with features such as automatic blurring can help maintain patient privacy while ensuring necessary observation. Additionally, a robust regulatory framework increases trust and prevents unethical use of video technology.

The European Union's General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and the upcoming law on artificial intelligence serve as a good starting point for safeguarding the appropriate use of emerging technologies. With the proper privacy controls and regulations, video technology can significantly enhance hospital operations.

With strong regulatory footing and proper privacy controls in place, there are many possibilities for video technology in hospitals. The implementation of such technology allows hospital staff to make informed decisions and focus on what truly matters: delivering exceptional care. Meanwhile, patients can rest assured, knowing they are under vigilant attention with minimal disruptions, ensuring their dignity and privacy are respected.

A hospital's willingness to incorporate technology while never losing sight of the healing power of human interaction creates a perfect ecosystem for the future of healthcare. The thoughtful integration of video technology and empathetic human care could be just the prescription needed for the hospitals of tomorrow.

This article originally appeared in the September / October 2023 issue of Security Today.

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