How Digital Field Service Technology can help to master Covid-19


Posted on: April 14, 2020 by Stefan Zimmermann

Our healthcare systems will face imminent additional challenges: “exploding” costs, difficult healthcare coverage in rural areas and the scarcity of skilled and experienced personnel. On the other hand, the population in the industrialized countries is ageing, requiring more care while the number of chronic diseases is on the rise. In countries such as the United States the elderly population is already consuming between 40% and 50% of the available healthcare resources.

Since the beginning of 2020 the situation is becoming more problematic, with the advent of the Covid-19 pandemic. The virus is putting an additional challenge to our healthcare systems often overstraining the already tight capacities and capabilities.

Increasing numbers of infected human beings worldwide will make politicians and the national healthcare systems seek short-term solutions. Since educating and recruiting additional or re-activated personnel requires substantial efforts and time, technology-based solutions come into scope, helping to leverage the existing resources and their expertise to a maximum.

The question is, what technology is ready to support the fight against Covid-19 at short notice. We have heard a lot of Telemedicine driven by technology innovations, the increasing internet coverage, and the spread of mobile monitoring devices. Still some of the concepts such as the use of immersive spatial collaboration, providing for the exchange of MRIs (Magnetic Resonance Images) and X-rays between physicians onsite and remote experts are still to be developed and to reach market maturity.

So, what concepts can then be applied immediately as regular hospital capacities need to be increasingly complemented by auxiliary and even field hospitals?

The answers are to adopt solutions that are already in use to provide remote expertise e.g. in the execution of field services. Currently, the situation or use cases are pretty similar in the way that field service providers are compensating diminishing expertise and qualification by leveraging experts to provide their knowledge remotely. Therefore, it makes sense to use the technologies developed for these purposes also in the support of e.g. re-activated physicians and nursing staff working in ramped up auxiliary hospitals. The solutions allow for audio and video communication and the exchange of documents between onsite personnel and the expert located in a regular hospital. Cameras onsite can help the expert to coach and advise medical personnel onsite in real time. Since the experts do not need to be onsite, valuable time is saved, which can be used for the support of other hospital locations. Even field hospitals, as currently observed in New York City, can be supported, because connectivity can be achieved by mobile devices creating meshed Wifi networks in the hospital and the use of satellite or 4G mobile networks for secure connectivity with the experts.

As we can read every day in the newspapers national healthcare systems are under stress and often overwhelmed by the increasing numbers of infected people. Expanding medicare capacities is therefore a prime target of the governments to provide care to all patients that need stationary treatment. Existing remote technology can help to support that ramp up of capacities but even more important to provide critical medical expertise wherever it is needed. Therefore, what works for field services may be well suited to support the fight against Coronavirus.

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About Stefan Zimmermann

Global B&PS CTO Industry 4.0
Stefan Zimmermann is responsible for the innovation and portfolio development in Industry 4.0 at Global Atos B&PS. He aims at helping industrial companies to identify business opportunities enabled by Industry 4.0 during their digital transformation process, embracing the Industry 4.0 framework.He’s got a very strong industrial background, having worked for companies like Siemens (>10 years) and Rheinmetall Group and also comprehensive consulting skills gained when working for Roland Berger & Partner.

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