AAL, telemonitoring and digital consultation hours – how digitalisation is gathering pace in the industry
Prohibited contact, infection risks, and inadequate protective equipment are a major obstacle to attending to patients’ needs in the current COVID-19 pandemic. Both the legislator and the professional associations are temporarily relaxing the conditions for digital consultation hours and care administered by service providers for the duration of the bans on contact.
What are the options?
The use of technical AAL (ambient assisted living) systems in the home environment and in care offers considerable potential for relieving some of the load on care staff and relatives and enabling those in need of assistance to retain as much independence as possible. The “Pflege-Cockpit” (“Care-Cockpit”) app of the Thomashilfen company, for example, provides the means for calling up information about bedridden patients. A decubitus guide-app for caregiving relatives can help with bedsore prevention whereas a patient’s own medication can be checked and controlled with the help of the PApp of RWTH Aachen.
Clinics, SPCs (sociopaediatric centres) and other medical facilities are currently upgrading their operations: general consultation, anamnesis, weekly progress meetings and interdisciplinary consultation hours are possible via telephone or video conference. Mobile monitoring devices and the digital patient file ensure the exchange of treatment documents, prescriptions, X-ray images and the like.
App-based exercise programmes with professional guidance make continuous training possible in the fields of ergotherapy, speech therapy, and rehab-sport: Thieme Tele Care, for example, offers sensor and app-controlled back-strengthening exercises for people with back problems. The Bauerfeind company uses a therapy app for customised exercises with the use of knee bandages. Many other apps in the health and therapy sector can also be found in the Rehadat database. Telephone contact with patients provides further support for therapy already underway.
Medical supply stores use digital platforms for documenting healthcare processes (e.g. BEB or ICF-CY Web app). Subsequent supply runs for consuming specific aids are currently possible without a signature after prescription by telephone as well. Telephone contact to customers or video conferences help to check supplies or to enable instructions to be given online. Apps also offer guidance and information on how to use various aids: they help diabetics, for example, to manage the data of their blood glucose meter or – like Ottobock’s Cockpit app – enable independent prosthetics adjustment. YouTube videos and livechats on how to use daily-living aids such as those by the company Saljol are also useful digital helpers.
Digital technologies are optimising the work processes in crafting too. In the form of 3D printing, digitalisation has arrived in assistive-device fabrication. Digital micromotion studies and scans serve as a basis for treatment.
The problems with data protection and the means for invoicing digitally rendered services have not been satisfactorily clarified yet.
Many service providers are walking the path nonetheless and are investing in the future. User-friendly communication systems, secure means of transmitting patient data, and reliable interfaces between the people involved are necessary parameters for acceptance and successful implementation.