The “new normal” of waiting lists: Waiting time could be tripled after COVID-19
Having left behind the state of alarm and the different phases of de-escalation, Spain is gradually entering the so-called ‘new normality’. A normality marked by masks, hand hygiene, social distance and, above all, the consequences left by the pandemic. Consequences that affect all social spheres, but which have been especially severe in the health sector with visible consequences such as the saturation of waiting lists.
To the sad loss of more than 25,000 people that the pandemic has taken with it, we must add the extra workload and the psychological consequences of all the professionals who have faced the pandemic in the front line, the economic consequences derived from the months of unemployment and the obstacles that the new normality represents for certain businesses and the challenges that it means to restart, at the same speed, a very affected health system.
Surgical waiting lists have been one of the elements that have suffered the most during this crisis, not only during the worst moments with cancellations and postponements of operations, but now with the “new normality” of resuming those processes that had been held up before.
According to the Institute for Coordinates of Governance and Applied Economics, waiting lists broke records with 671,494 patients in June last year. Of those patients, 15.8% had to wait more than six months, the highest data in the system since 2003.
Already worrying figures that now, after months of cessation of all non-urgent activity and the delay of outpatient consultations and diagnostic tests these lists could even triple. According to a study published in the British Journal of Surgery, it is estimated that the 12 weeks of forced shutdown have led to the suspension of 72% of non-urgent operations, around 28 million worldwide. Within these data, 81% have been benign surgeries, 37.7% cancer operations and 25% cesarean sections. According to the predictions of this publication, even increasing the normal surgical volume by 20%, it would take about 45 weeks to recover the waiting figures from before the pandemic.
These data predict a ‘new normality’ in waiting lists which, without a doubt, is alarming and is going to cause some health chaos with direct consequences for patients and professionals.
The problem of increasing waiting lists
On the one hand, the processes are currently being resumed with some caution, as there is still a high probability of outbreak in health centres and exposure to certain patients must be taken into consideration. However, these risks must be weighed against those involved in relegating certain types of surgical operations and treatments.
On the other hand, there is also a risk that delays in the treatment of benign diseases as a result of pandemic-related cancellations will cause patients’ conditions to deteriorate, increasing disability and reducing their ability to work.
Two problems that come together with the fact that health facilities are still limited by the pandemic and the coincidence of the “new normal” with the summer period, a period when more staff are on vacation, especially after the overload of effort in recent months.
Resources, process optimization and digitization: the solutions to avoid the collapse of medical waiting lists.
The BJS publication encourages governments to invest in resources that will help reduce waiting times, and experts and professionals point out that the solution should not be short-term. “We cannot approach it with a short-term vision because we have to recover the activity, the professionals have to rest and we don’t know if there will be a second outbreak that will have to be attended to”, assesses Rocío Cebrián, Deputy Director of Healthcare of the Vall d’Hebron in Barcelona, in El País.
While it is true that there is no instant solution, the injection of resources is vital. Resources that must be supported by technology and digitalization, tools that can be vital when it comes to optimizing processes and eliminating the workload of professionals. In addition, the solution must be able to face the two fronts that make the task difficult:
– Controlling outbreaks of COVID-19 to keep patients safe
– Make the most of hospital resources with good process control and planning, together with task automation to improve team coordination.
MYSPHERA in its effort to bring digitalization and IoT technology to such an important area with such a great need of resources, bets on a complete solution like ORVital, which can be complemented and extended to add safety with Atlas.
A bluetooth solution, based on real time location technology (RTLS) that allows both the visualization of surgical processes and their optimization.
ORVital would allow the optimization of the surgical processes having in total and real control of what happens (cancellations, delays, etc); automating coordination tasks among the staff (transfers, cleaning, material needs, etc); and the knowledge in real time of the status of each patient (location, process status, history, etc).
What does ORVital allow?
• Real time control of planning: Surgical schedule vs. execution display: Provides real time information on the compliance of the surgical schedule, so that a manager can take the necessary measures to reorganize the work in real time in order to make the most of the available resources.
• Daily patient control: Facilitates administrative tasks and access to patient information related to the process.
It facilitates administrative tasks and access to patient information related to the process. It enables greater control of patient flow, so that waiting times for the process can be reduced and coordination of patient flow is easier, so that personnel such as supervisors and nurses at URPA can have more time for patient care.
• Virtual Waiting Room: App for family members that allows them to know in real time the status of their relative, as well as communications and notifications from health professionals.
• Operational control in the operating room: Facilitates operational tasks and coordination with other areas within the operating room so that the personnel working there, mainly nurses and nursing assistants, reduce the time required to perform these tasks and increase their availability of care time.
• Patient search: It facilitates access to patient information so that the block managers can know details of the process through which the patient has passed.
• Centralised management of URPA beds: Allows optimum management of preparation and recovery beds to avoid being a bottleneck in the process, as well as guaranteeing the clinical safety of the patient.
• Patient transfers: Facilitates the coordination of patient transfers in the surgical process, making the coordination of the different actors (URPA nurses, operating room nurses, external nurses and warders) more efficient, while reducing the noise level of the surgical block.
• Support of guards to URPA and Operating Room: It facilitates the communication between URPA and Operating Room personnel and the guards, to be able to coordinate in an efficient way the support tasks carried out by the guards for the URPA and Operating Room areas.
• Operating room cleaning: It facilitates the communication between the operating room staff and the cleaning staff, to be able to coordinate in an efficient way the cleaning tasks of the operating room, and this way to reduce the preparation time between interventions.
• Operating room energy control: It offers the ability to automatically switch between low and high consumption modes depending on the activity detected in the operating room in real time, with the aim of saving energy costs (of magnitude of 100K€) with the consequent benefit to the environment.
To add security, this system would be completed together with: MYSPHERA ATLAS
The combination of both solutions would not only allow to know the location of patients and the status of the processes, but also to obtain the traceability of risk contacts by exposure time and contact.
A solution created to help control the pandemic and monitor possible outbreaks of a disease that will take some time to be fully controlled. MYSPHERA ATLAS is an APP solution dedicated to protecting healthcare personnel and patients within the hospital, keeping a record of contacts between professionals and patients. In case of an uncontrolled case of COVID-19, this register will allow to know all those people who have been exposed at different levels, which can be by time of exposure, type (professional-professional, patient-patient, professional-patient,…