eTech Insight – Google Nest as a Healthcare Tool

Monitoring COVID-19 Patients without Putting Caregivers in Harm

COVID-19 has created several challenges for healthcare providers. Challenges range from protecting the health of caregivers, to rationing the use of personal protective equipment (PPE), to optimizing the use of care staffs, which may be spread thin during surges of patients ill with the virus.[1] Caregivers use PPE each time they check on infected patients. Reducing the number of times caregivers enter patients’ rooms for interventions results in less use of PPE that is in short supply in many hospitals.[2]

But reducing the number of direct interventions between caregivers and patients could result in lower treatment outcomes for the patients. The ability to effectively manage the patient-caregiver interactions becomes a significant factor in controlling viral infections while also helping patients recover sooner and with minimal complications to their health.[3]

The ability for providers to provide a high-touch, low-cost service for patients recovering at home from COVID-19 or for ailments related to acute or chronic conditions is key for improving population health results that may be tied to capitated contracts. Smart home consumer solutions such as Google Nest provide an opportunity for providers to extend their telehealth capabilities using smart home solutions. Using consumer smart home solutions is likely to help providers control their costs for extending healthcare services to the home. The use of consumer smart home solutions may also drive higher levels of patient adoption and compliance with these services.

Google Nest – Just Not for Home Use

Mount Sinai Hospital has deployed Google Nest to provide an enhanced ability for caregivers to closely monitor their patients without the need for direct exposure of the caregivers.[4] PPE usage is reduced, which saves a currently scarce resource while also improving the protection of caregivers. Mount Sinai Hospital is using this solution not only to visually monitor the patients but also to collect vital signs. Therefore, this environment can be set up with less expense than ICUs and provide a higher level of patient care. Different hospital units could quickly be converted to provide a higher level of care during patient surges.

The ability to extend Google Nest for home care to monitor discharged patients or patients with more moderate COVID-19 symptoms would appear to be a logical next step for this technology. Google Nest with Nest Wi-Fi could be used to connect Wi-Fi-enabled or Bluetooth-enabled healthcare monitoring devices to provide a view of the patient with real-time vital signs. This environment would likely be more suitable for use with high-risk, chronically ill patients that require frequent monitoring. And it would likely easier for patients to use as well versus having to sign in to telehealth systems.

The ability to add Google voice recognition and ambient intelligence modes to this environment to better support patients with key healthcare information and alert notifications would take this solution to another level of healthcare capabilities.

Establish a Higher Level of Patient Care and Caregiver Protection

The ability to quickly establish a high-level patient care environment that is less expensive than using current intensive or critical care equipment will become necessary for addressing COVID-19 and future viral pandemics. The use of digital technologies such as Google Nest also improves the protection of the caregivers who are interfacing with the infected patients.

COVID-19 has proven how necessary it is for healthcare providers to be able to react quickly to disease outbreaks with expanded care capabilities. The example technology implemented at Mount Sinai Hospital provides insights into how this solution could be used in mobile hospitals once hospital bed capacity has been exceeded.

Digital Surveillance and Smart Home Assistant Companies

While this blog is focused on the use of Google Nest for creating a new level of patient surveillance and monitoring, solutions from other well-known digital companies could also be implemented to provide similar capabilities. Representative companies and products include the following:

At this time, healthcare organizations will need to build this environment component by component.

Success Factors

  1. Select a surveillance environment that has proven integration with digital healthcare monitoring devices or smart home assistant products.
  2. Pursue this solution at this time only if your organization has highly skilled IT personnel that implement and support digital technologies.
  3. To test the technology, select a hospital floor or service that provides a controlled environment that allows for fine-tuning of the solution.

Summary

Digital solutions designed for home use for video surveillance and smart assistance are well positioned to create a new level of healthcare-delivery support. These digital solutions will likely be less expensive and easier to implement than many of the video and patient monitoring devices in use in hospitals today. Healthcare-delivery opportunities will continue to expand as leading digital technology companies continue to expand their “smart” environments. Unlike past legacy healthcare IT solutions, these digital solutions will support interoperability and provide a variety of component choices that best fit healthcare IT architecture and standards.  

While COVID-19 has created significant challenges for healthcare providers, it has also exposed the key challenges and gaps we have for collecting and sharing information to improve treatment outcomes. Digital technologies and solutions are moving to the forefront for delivering less expensive and more effective solutions for collecting, analyzing, and sharing patient data. As Rosa Luxemburg stated, “Those who do not move, do not notice their chains.”