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Telehealth: COVID Trend or the Healthcare of the Future?

Telehealth has been a growing trend over the past 5 years, and the coronavirus pandemic has rapidly accelerated its use, but will telemedicine and Telehealth continue to grow, or will it die out with the pandemic?

First, let’s define Telehealth and Telemedicine, what do the terms really mean?

  • Telehealth is the use of digital information and communication technologies to access healthcare services remotely and manage health care. Telehealth can refer to many different things including health education services, remote monitoring of vital signs, and other remote clinical and non-clinical services.
  • Telemedicine is a much more focused term which refers specifically to remote clinical care between a patient and a doctor.

The idea of telemedicine has been around for a long time, but its potential is only just beginning to be realized. Physician use of telemedicine has been growing over the past few years, in fact its use rose 340% between 2015 and 2018, with about 22% of doctors using telemedicine in 2018 compared to just 5% in 2015. The big jump in telemedicine services is due to patient demand, as a 2017 survey found that 77% of patients would see a physician virtually.

Patients can use Telehealth services in different ways and for different issues. In 2016, the top diagnostic category for Telehealth was mental health which accounted for 31% of all claims, but the category fell in 2017 to only account for 7% of claims. Other categories rose to fill in this gap in 2017 with injuries or digestive system issues making up 13% of all Telehealth diagnoses.

How is Telehealth changing and helping doctors treat their patients? Here are a few trends that we are seeing.

Telemedicine is starting to be covered by more insurers

As telemedicine has exploded in recent months, more insurance companies as well as government programs are covering it, making it easier for patients to get the care they need. In fact, when the COVID-19 pandemic first struck America, the Trump Administration “Took bold and rapid action to dramatically expand services that can be provided via telehealth and make it far more convenient for patients and providers”, according to Alex M. Azar, the HHS secretary. As the entire healthcare landscape changed with the pandemic, the government and insurance companies are working to make it easier for everyone to receive the care that they need without having to risk their own or others health. In February of 2020, less than 1% of Medicare primary care visits were done via telemedicine, and as that number rocketed up to 43.5% in April, the government took the necessary action to facilitate this change.

There are till obstacles to fully utilize telemedicine

Although telemedicine has been a great solution to provide care during a highly contagious pandemic, it is not yet perfect and some doctors are still hesitant to fully embrace it. In 2018, a survey found that 90% of physicians viewed virtual care positively, but only 14% had the video capabilities at that time. Additionally, many patients that would greatly benefit from telemedicine do not have the technology to utilize it. Another obstacle that doctors must overcome is simply how new telemedicine is. Many older doctors who are great at their jobs and providing in-person care, do not get the training or knowledge they need about telemedicine to be able to accept it in practice.

It's all about mHealth

The use of mobile devices as a way to administer Telehealth services is called mHealth, and it is a growing trend. Using mobile devices is convenient and easy for many patients as a way to get the care they need and communicate with physicians. Many apps have been developed to help with mHealth, and many more are being developed to help find the right way for patients to be treated virtually. As most people own a smart phone device, mHealth is expected to continue gaining momentum and become one of the most common forms of Telehealth in the future.

Medical students are getting better telemedicine training than in the past

Technology is constantly evolving and improving, especially in the healthcare industry, so future doctors are learning about new technologies and how they will be able to use them to help treat their patients. Some older doctors that have used their tried and true strategies to care for patients are less inclined to adopt new technologies when they have already been able to treat certain conditions. However, many younger doctors are much more open to utilize new technologies in their practices because they have grown up in a more digital world. With the next generation of doctors getting better training and education about Telehealth, it is likely that over the next few years, the use of Telehealth will continue to rise and will be used in more ways.

Artificial intelligence is gaining traction in the healthcare industry

Artificial intelligence something that has the potential to completely change the world, but for now, it is starting to be accepted by physicians as a tool to help treat patients more effectively. Specifically for telemedicine, there are many different ways that A.I. would be able to enhance the patient experience, and make it easier for a doctor to make a correct diagnosis. Some people in the industry are worried that A.I. could take over the need for a physician and take their job, but in reality it should be looked at as a tool to make their jobs easier. There will always be a need for doctors as the human interaction plays a big role in helping patients feel comfortable and safe during their visit.

Is Telehealth here to stay?

Telehealth has been extremely useful for helping patients receive care during the COVID-19 pandemic, and had been trending upwards even before coronavirus hit. We are only just starting to see all of the possibilities that Telehealth presents, and with the government and other insurers adding extra coverage for it, we should expect to continue to see its growth. Telehealth will not die out when the pandemic ends, and maybe the next time you need to visit a doctor, you’ll simply have to open an app on your phone.

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How has COVID-19 Impacted Healthcare Facility Design?

The COVID-19 pandemic exposed some major flaws in our healthcare system as hospitals and other facilities struggled to provide space for the large influx of patients needing care. Due to the highly contagious nature of the virus, hospitals weren’t able to take in all coronavirus patients because of fear of transmission to healthcare professionals and patients with other symptoms. Modern healthcare facilities need an ability to adapt and be flexible to care for an increased number of patients in the face of a pandemic or other disastrous event, and this is the expected trend with healthcare facility design moving forward even into the post-covid era.

It’s an ever-changing climate of healthcare that we are living in, and nobody is certain what the future of healthcare design will look like, but there are some trends which are expected to be seen in hospital design soon.  

One of the biggest issues with hospitals today is the crowding of certain areas such as waiting rooms and entryways. Coronavirus has heightened everybody’s awareness of the importance of social distancing practices, so how can hospitals adapt to decrease the risk of virus transmission inside of their facilities?  

#1 Virtual Check-ins

Virtual check-ins will create less crowding in the waiting rooms, and simplify the process of going to a healthcare facility. By allowing patients to check in and provide all the necessary information about themselves from their phone or computer, it eliminates the need for them to come into the facility and wait for a doctor to be ready to see them.

This means that patients would be able to wait in the comfort of their own car and not have to worry about being in close proximity to other sick patients who could potentially infect them. Virtual check-ins will greatly improve the ability for healthcare facilities to effectively social distance in their waiting rooms.  

#2 Manage Patient, Staff, and Supply Flow

Hospitals can be confusing and difficult to navigate for first time or non-frequent visitors, so improving patient flow is important to reduce risk of transmission. Better patient and staff flow can be achieved by a few different methods, but the most important factor is communicating to patients and staff what certain areas are designed for.  

  • Widening hallways and walking areas to allow for a two-way flow with a sufficient amount of prevent spread.  
  • Designating certain hallways and one-way walking areas to prevent the crowding of these spaces. 
  • Designating one area as the entrance and another as the exit to minimize the exposure of patients to one another.  
  • Designing certain areas of the facility to be safe zones or hot zones in order to keep contagious patients away from non-contagious ones.

#3 Designing Flexible Facilities with the Ability to Adapt

Hospitals are built in order to be cost-efficient and effective at providing care to patients, but hospital administrators may need to spend some more money in order to be able to adapt in the future. For example, most hospital entryways are not designed to provide screening and separate out potentially contagious patients. A trend that we are seeing with new hospital designs is to create dynamic entrances that create a space for screening and providing appropriate equipment for patients. This includes providing PPE to patients right when they come into the building, as well as placing hand sanitizer dispensers or hand washing stations such as the Lakeside Portable Handwashing Station near the entries. This would help reduce patients anxiety about going to a hospital for the care that they need, which has been reported to be increasing over the past several months.  

Another way in which hospitals will likely be able to treat an influx in patients is with a flexible design of patient rooms. Basic patient rooms are a stable in all hospitals, but the facilities that were best able to treat a large increase in patients were the ones that adapted these patient rooms to be able to serve as an ICU or emergency care area. One of the best ways that hospitals were able to do this is with portable storage mainly in the form of carts. Utility carts are a great solution for hospitals to store their PPE or other important equipment, while other specialty carts and treatment carts are great ways for a healthcare facilities to adapt their spaces and treat patients in rooms that they do not normally have special equipment. Lakeside manufactures a large variety of carts to allow hospitals to be flexible in the face of adversity, and adapt to keep giving patients the best care that they can. 

#4 Telemedicine and Virtual Health

One of the bright spots that has come from the coronavirus pandemic is the emergence of telemedicine and virtual healthcare, which completely mitigates the risk of transmission of exposure to other HAIs. We are just at the start of the virtual health age, and are only beginning to see the possibilities that this advancement provides. Although telehealth is a great way to eliminate the chance of transmission and reduce the use of essential equipment, it is not perfect and certainly has its flaws, which means that healthcare facilities should begin to implement it when possible, but should still plan for flexibility in the face of a crisis.  

#5 Improved Cleaning Techniques and Space Management

Keeping equipment and surfaces clean has always been a very important part of healthcare facilities, but coronavirus has proved that some of these cleaning protocols need to be improved. One way to do this is by designating certain rooms to be used and others to be cleaned. For example, a hospital may designate a certain wing for all infectious patients, providing them with extra time to disinfect another wing while still treating patients, and then switch the halls when all patients have been treated. This would allow hospitals the time they need to properly clean an infected room, while not falling behind on treating their patients.  

Another way to improve the cleaning process would be to implement anti-microbial surfaces such as stainless steel or copper, although this could cause the hospitals to see an increase in costs. However, mitigating patients anxiety about going to a hospital is very important in order to ensure that everyone can get the care and treatment that they need without having to worry about leaving worse off than when they arrived.  

Flexible Design Is More Valuable Than Ever

Healthcare facilities need to constantly adapt with new challenges that they are presented with, and don’t expect this to stop anytime soon. The ongoing pandemic has only accelerated the trend of flexible hospital design, and in the future you should certainly expect a different experience when you go to the hospital. 

Lakeside Manufacturing understands the difficulties that healthcare facilities face, and as a supplier to the industry, we continue to manufacture state-of-the-art equipment to allow hospitals and clinics to quickly adapt to the environment and give their patients the best possible experience in receiving the care that they need.  

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How Robots Made Their Way Into Healthcare

Not long ago, the thought of robots in healthcare may have seemed to be a work of science fiction. However, the past 20 years has shown us that it is not only viable, but the path forward in the healthcare industry. Robotics offer the ability to treat patients with improved accuracy, disinfect rooms with a reduced risk of infection, provide companionship and perform other tasks that augment the abilities of healthcare professionals. Although some worry about the chaos that could ensue with ill-programmed robots in a healthcare setting, a methodical implementation of these devices is improving patient care as humans learn how to best work with technology for a better path forward.

Background

The history of fusing together technological advances with healthcare starts in the 1960s with the IBM 650 supercomputer that researched medical records to report on data abnormalities which could then be researched in closer detail by a physician. As technology continued to develop, healthcare application remained top-of-mind and by 1974, the first CT scanners were released allowing detailed imaging of specific cross-sectional images of bones, blood vessels and soft tissues inside a patient. Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, researchers worked with developers to apply robotics to the healthcare industry, and in 1999 the da Vinci Surgical system was developed to perform minimally invasive surgeries. This signaled a major step forward for the healthcare robotics industry and ushered in a wave of innovations to occur throughout the 2000s up until today. Now, the robotics and healthcare fields are merging as developments are made each day with the end goal of providing the best patient care possible.

Surgery Robots

It may be hard to fathom a task as important as surgery being trusted to a robot, but the development in healthcare robotics has brought us to a point where robotic assisted surgeries are safer than similar operations performed without robotic assistance. As more hospitals are noting the benefits of these devices the more they are being utilized in operating rooms. This technology has seen a recent boom that is expected to continue as sales for surgical robots are expected to reach about $6 billion this year.

One of the most renowned surgery robots is the DaVinci Surgical System. This robot allows surgeons to perform complex, minimally invasive procedures with extreme accuracy and precision. The robot has been tested thousands of times and has performed thousands of procedures, proving its efficacy and safety. Today there are more than 1700 DaVinci systems installed in hospitals around the world and almost 1 million patients have been operated on by this robot. The DaVinci System is also considered the leading method for various operations with 86% of urology residency programs in the US owning a DaVinci system.

Some of the noted benefits of using a robot for a surgical procedure include the ability to precisely measure incisions to a depth no longer than needed, the ability to eliminate surgeon errors by leveraging surgical software, and the ability to complete a surgery in a less invasive manner due to intricacy of its instruments. The DaVinci Surgical robot is a great example of the teamwork required between technology and healthcare workers to provide optimal patient care.

Delivery Robots

Anyone who has visited a college campus in the past two years, may be familiar with the recent boom of delivery robots, however, hospitals are also jumping on the trend by utilizing robots for deliveries within the hospital. Some hospitals are already using robots for meal delivery in wards where patients have limited mobility, while others are utilizing complex cabinet robots that house and deliver medications with high accuracy.

One of the most prominent delivery robots is the Aethon TUG Robot. This autonomous mobile robot is built on an omni-directional platform allowing the robot agile movement throughout a hospital. It is built to support a wide variety of carts and racks to work seamlessly with any already existing infrastructure at the hospital. Robots like TUG offer a benefit to hospitals by taking the burden of complex deliveries off hospital staff so they can focus on patient care tasks that require a human interaction. Delivery robots are already utilized in many large hospitals across the US, which is a testament to their ability to accurately provide the service they are designed to perform.

Disinfecting/Cleaning Robots

Many of us know about the carpet cleaning Roomba robot, that vacuums a space autonomously without any user guidance whatsoever. The healthcare industry has its own version of these robots, but instead of picking up dirt and hair, it focuses on killing bacteria that cause hospital acquired infections (HAIs). HAIs pose a serious risk in hospital environments, infecting an average of 1 in 25 hospitalized patients across all settings. HAIs are a result of lingering bacteria and viruses in a hospital environment that infect a patient while they are in the hospital. Some of these infections can be very serious, with an estimated 99,000 deaths per year in the United States attributed to HAIs.

Autonomous robots such as the UVD Robot, provide a helpful, hands-off solution to disinfecting hospital rooms after a patient stay. UVD Robots, a Danish robotics company, created an autonomous UV light robot that emits UVC rays at an output level that destroys any microorganisms in its path. Some of these robots are already being used in the wake of COVID-19, offering a no-touch solution to disinfecting potentially hazardous hospital rooms where infected patients were staying.

Social Companion Robots

Another way robots are being used in healthcare is as a reliable companion for social interaction. Many companies have developed therapeutic robots that utilize advances made by artificial intelligence for human conversation. These robots have various features such as cameras, sensors and microphones that allow users to interact with them, keep them company when healthcare workers are busy tending to other patients, and some of these companions even have the ability to remind patients to take their medicine.

Many see social companion robots as a great tool to help busy nursing homes care for their patients, many of whom suffer from dementia and Alzheimer’s. The consistent and ever-present social interaction provided by these robots helps to keep patients engaged which helps these patients cope with some of the day-to-day difficulties of these illnesses. As the healthcare industry learns more about the mental implications that support a patient’s rehabilitation, the more these social companion robots will be seen in long-term care facilities, inpatient clinics and other applicable healthcare environments.

Wearables

Wearables are a direct interaction between an individual and a unit of technology. Some common examples of this are heart rate monitors, pedometers, health watches, etc. These easily accessible items are great ways to track athletic performance during exercise and can show health trends over a period of time. The latest version of the Apple Watch is a great example of the future of this industry, by achieving a built-in electrocardiogram that monitors heart performance and can notify users of any irregularities. The ability to gain instant feedback on health performance is a huge step forward for wearable technology, and companies like Apple continue to push the boundaries of what small consumer wearables are capable of.

Another example of wearables for the healthcare industry are exoskeletons. Once a concept of science fiction exoskeletons are here and already being used on a daily basis in the healthcare industry. The first working prototypes were developed in the 1960s and 70s and have now developed to provide modern assistance to a wide variety of patients.

One example of a futuristic exoskeleton that is providing support for patients today is the HAL 5 Hybrid Assisted Limb. This impressive exoskeleton works by detecting the electrical impulses from the brain that indicate movement and provides instant support to the limb that is to be moved. This device has already been used to rehabilitate patients recovering from stroke, or those who had their movement impaired due to vertebrae damage or paralysis. Scientists also note that this technology can be used as a preventative device as well, providing leg and back augmentation for laborious tasks. Given the developmental trajectory of exoskeletons, consumers can expect to see various types of strength augmentation wearables such as these, used more frequently in the healthcare setting.

Electronic Healthcare Records (EHRs)

Although EHRs aren’t technically robots, they offer some of the earliest examples of technology merging with healthcare. EHR software allows hospitals to utilize a singular medical platform to accomplish the various workflows necessary during a patient interaction, all while working off a singular, consistent patient chart. For example, if a patient is admitted to the ER, transferred to a surgical unit, and then later brought back for multiple physical therapy sessions at an outpatient clinic, the single patient chart will house all of the information from each of those encounters.

Additionally, all of the billing workflows performed by a hospital are completed with this software as well, allowing hospitals to capture more specific information from patient interactions and provide more accurate billing information. As a result of an EHR implementation, hospitals experience improved patient interactions, code more accurate data per account for billing purposes and capture long-term efficiencies from standardized workflows and best practices built into these EHR systems.

Today, most large hospitals in the US have chosen 1 or multiple EHRs to best serve their inpatient and outpatient care needs. The modern hospital is now supported by large IT teams made up of analysts who are certified in a specific application of their hospital’s EHR software. Their job is to work with the professionals for their application to make updates, fix issues and generally support that area of the hospital from an EHR perspective.

Navigating the Future with Robots

Given the rapid developments occurring in this industry; doctors, developers and patients are encouraged by the positive results from merging technology and healthcare. Experts warn that as technology advances and we begin to rely more on its capabilities, humans must continue to sharpen their skills in both healthcare and robotics to properly navigate these colliding worlds and keep patient care at the center of all advancements. This collaboration between technology and humans is the future of healthcare, bringing a new sense of optimism as the healthcare industry continues to see patient care improve through the development of new technology.  A prime example of modern robotics use is the innovation seen during the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Robotics in Healthcare Accelerated by Covid-19

Robots have been advancing over the years as the technology has gotten better, and could be more common that you think in the near future. One industry where robotics are already being utilized in many different ways is the healthcare industry, and COVID-19 has only accelerated their use.

Keeping exposure at a minimum is one of the most important factors in reducing the spread of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. For healthcare professionals, it is very difficult to do so, especially with the lack of PPE and other essential equipment over the past few months. One of the innovative ways to reduce the exposure for our healthcare personnel is the use of robotics to execute many daily tasks otherwise performed by people.

Here are just a few ways that robotics are changing the healthcare industry: 

1. Disinfection Robots

One of the most common uses of robots in healthcare throughout 2020 has been disinfecting rooms and other areas in healthcare facilities. Due to the highly contagious nature of COVID-19, it has been a struggle to effectively disinfect areas where contagious people have been without risking infection for the personnel who have to clean that space.  

One of the solutions for this problem is the use of disinfection robots to eliminate potential further spread to humans. This has been utilized in China and other countries around the world to help fight the pandemic. One model of the disinfection robot relies on ultraviolet light to get rid of the bacteria and germs that linger in hospitals. The self driving robots have a 360 degree UV light that allows it to hit every spot in a room with its light, which supposedly kills 99.99% of bacteria, making them much more effective than people. 

Another model of the disinfection robot drives around and sprays disinfectant throughout high traffic areas in healthcare facilitiesThis model has been used outside of the healthcare industry as well, and has been utilized to help disinfect public spaces throughout communities. These robots are helping out our essential workers that have needed a well-deserved break from putting themselves at risk night in and night out.  

2. Healthcare Assistance Robots

Robots have been used to help out healthcare personnel in performing essential but potentially risky tasks with the outbreak of coronavirus. In Wuhan, the epicenter of the outbreak, robots have been used in hospitals to help out with the duties of the overworked staff. These robots were used to flag patients coming into the facility that showed fever symptoms, to monitor heart rates and oxygen levels of patients, as well as delivering essential medication to patients’ rooms. Some AI-based robots are even capable of providing medical advisory services to patients in order to reduce the amount of time that healthcare workers need to expose themselves to the virus. In some cases, human interaction isn’t even necessary after the patient-robot interaction, furthering the potential for these innovative robots.  

Other robots have been developed to help healthcare professionals carry out daily tasks but have not yet come into wide use. One example of this was created by researchers in China who designed a robot arm on wheels. This robot has the ability to perform ultrasounds, take mouth swabs of patients, and take the place of a stethoscope to listen to patients’ organs. All of these tasks are usually done by people, but with a highly contagious pandemic going around, this technology minimizes the need for person to person contact and could drastically help reduce the spread of coronavirus as well as HAIs and other diseases.  

3. Delivery Robots

Another great use of robots in healthcare facilities has been delivering food and medication to patients. This task is usually performed by nurses or other workers, but using robots to carry out  these routine duties drastically reduces the amount of exposure for our healthcare professionals, and in turn for reduces it for everyone.  

The technology allows for these robots to be driven by engineers remotely through the cloud, using the robots as a medium to deliver essential goods such as medicine or food. This application of robotics can be utilized in other industries as well, and has been used in some cities to help deliver food to peoples’ homes who are in quarantine.  

Looking to the Future of Robotics in Healthcare

Robots have been trending upwards in the healthcare industry for quite some time, and the global pandemic that we are currently navigating has fast-tracked their use, but there are still some concernabout the increased use of robotics.  

One of those concerns is that robots will take the place of humans, and will eliminate many healthcare jobs. However, that is likely not the case, at least in the foreseeable future. It is much more probable that humans will continue to work alongside robots, increasing our own productivity, rather than being replaced by them. Throughout the COVID-19 outbreak, robots have not replaced human jobs, but rather made them more safe and efficient. The majority of healthcare robots that we have seen are teleoperated, meaning that our healthcare workers can still provide their expertise and passion for the work, but can do so from a safe distance, reducing the spread of the virus.  

One argument is that the autonomous disinfection robots have taken away workers jobs, but in reality they have actually made it possible for our workers to do their jobs better. The disinfection robots greatly reduce the amount of time that healthcare personnel have to spend on routine tasks like cleaning, allowing them to spend their time on more critical tasks that the robots are not capable of.  

COVID-19 has opened our eyes to the possibilities of robotics in healthcare, and they will only grow from here. The next time a global pandemic comes around, don’t be surprised to see robots performing tasks that humans otherwise would, because coronavirus has not only accelerated their use today, but has also accelerated research into finding out all of the great and innovative ways that robotics can help improve the healthcare industry in the future.  

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Your Guide to Mobile Handwashing Stations

Handwashing on the go has become pivotal, We've created a guide for the best use cases and set-up for your operations.

We’re living in an era of increased importance when it comes to sanitation. According to the Center for Disease Control, we know the coronavirus and the subsequent COVID-19 disease it causes is spread mainly through people-to-people contact. This means people who are within six feet of one another are at risk of transmitting the virus. Because it’s transferred through respiratory droplets that are produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes, it’s also critical that we wash our hands. Continue reading Your Guide to Mobile Handwashing Stations

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The Future of Healthcare Foodservice in the COVID Era

Hospital and healthcare dining have been greatly impacted by the coronavirus pandemic.

To summarize the situation, the most profitable types of foodservice delivery have been limited, and higher patient censuses cannot make up for the difference.

Let’s take a closer look at the details.

In hospitals and in-patient healthcare facilities, the majority of the foodservice profits are made from staff dining and from visitors. When you factor in more and more staff members working from home and you eliminate the ability for many to visit patients because of the potential risks of the coronavirus, those central profit points are also eliminated.

These are certainly tough statistics, but the reality is healthcare operators are experiencing far less volatility than other types of foodservice operators. According to Datassential, only six percent of healthcare operators are completely closed during the pandemic.

What can we expect in the coming year for healthcare foodservice?

There are several changes that are here and will likely not change in the near future. With a focus on minimal contact, technology will play a key role in not just food ordering and delivery, but also in food production. Robotics will become more popular in a contact-less environment, as will sustainably packing for individually wrapped foods.

Along those same lines, buffets and self-serve options will become all but obsolete as we navigate COVID-19 conditions. As we’ve already seen this year, a complete rethinking of foodservice delivery methods will continue into 2021. With so much uncertainty, it will also be critical for foodservice directors to shore up their supply chains.

Here are some additional points to consider in late 2020 and early 2021 as it pertains to hospital foodservice operations.

HIGHER SPENDING ON DISPOSABLES

Current conditions have caused the cost of disposables to increase to a range of between $4,000 and $12,000 per month depending on the size of the community. This is caused across the entire spectrum of foodservice operation types. In restaurants, as full service dining starts to pick back up in many locations, some are considering a surcharge to cover the costs of disposables.

STAFFING COSTS ON THE RISE

In many cases, healthcare dining often translates to a self-serve environment. Today, operators are considering staffing options to eliminate the self-serve nature of these service types. More staff costs more money, of course. And so does all the time it takes to implement additional precautions to limit the spread of the virus.

THE GAMUT OF CHALLENGES

Foodservice directors in hospitals, in-patient healthcare facilities, and in long-term senior care communities are all facing some of the same challenges – maintaining safe distances in kitchens and dining facilities, increasing staff morale and safety, ensuring food safety along with quality, revenue, and more. The last thing these operations need are issues created by the equipment and supplies used to help solve these very challenges.

WHERE TO START

Interested in how to re-purpose some of your current equipment? Looking for efficient ways to handle meal delivery, sanitation, social distancing, and more? Than check out this inspiration guide for COVID-19 Solutions.

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4 Ways Improved Hand Hygiene Can Change the World as We Know It

Months into the COVID-19 pandemic, many of us have become hyper-aware of the importance of proper hand hygiene. Yet, there still exist various misconceptions regarding the proper way to wash hands, while others still downplay the value of regular handwashing. In fact, the benefits of washing your hands with soap and water go beyond reducing the transmission of coronaviruses. As societies across the globe continue to promote the importance of regular handwashing in a way that leads to a sustained improvement in hand hygiene, there are many positive outcomes that this can lead to outside of the coronavirus pandemic.

Proper Handwashing: A Review

Before we delve into the possible outcomes for regular handwashing, let’s discuss what we (think) we already know: Proper handwashing. Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been a flood of information educating people around the globe on proper hand hygiene in an effort to slow the virus’ spread. Government health agencies, including the WHO and the US-based CDC, provided excellent, detailed information to assist this movement. According to the CDC, the handwashing checklist is as follows:

  1. Wet your hands with clean, running water (warm or cold), turn off the tap, and apply soap.
  2. Lather your hands by rubbing them together with the soap. Lather the backs of your hands, between your fingers, and under your nails.
  3. Scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds. Need a timer? Hum the "Happy Birthday" song from beginning to end twice.
  4. Rinse your hands well under clean, running water.
  5. Dry your hands using a clean towel or air dry them.

Along with the various governmental promotions for hand hygiene, governments began encouraging celebrities and social media influencers to promote proper hand hygiene through the #handwashingchallenge. Before long, most of our social media feeds were overwhelmed with videos of athletes from Allison Becker of Brazil’s National soccer team, to movie stars to the likes of Hugh Jackman, encouraging hand hygiene to their millions of followers.

Before long, most of the world was stuck in a dizzying frenzy of hectic handwashing after touching any public surface, where many people began reporting severe dry hands due to excessive handwashing. Additionally, more specific questions began to arise, such as; How hard should I scrub my hands? – or – Is there such a thing as too much handwashing?

Mistakes and Misconceptions of Handwashing

As our handwashing becomes more frequent, many of us have inadvertently picked up bad habits in our hand hygiene. The most common being washing our hands too forcefully or too frequently. According to the Minnesota Department of Health, you should wash your hands at the following times:

  • After arriving at home
  • After coughing or blowing your nose
  • Before making or eating food
  • After playing with animals
  • After using the toilet
  • After being outdoors
  • Before and after changing contact lenses

Notice that it did not mention anything about vigorously washing your hands every 5 minutes from COVID-induced paranoia? All joking aside, the age-old truth regarding moderation in everything applies to handwashing as well. According to an article from Medscape Medical News, many of us are scrubbing our hands too hard, impacting an important top layer of our skin that helps keep germs away. It goes on to detail the fine line between rubbing versus scrubbing with Carrie Kovarik, MD from the Perelman School of Medicine remarking, “You don’t want to scrub because scrubbing will damage the skin barrier and possibly let in germs.” Instead of forcefully scrubbing our hands, doctors recommend gently washing hands in “a hand-over-hand motion, from palm to palm, back of the hands, around nails and up to the wrists.”

Possible Outcomes of Regular Handwashing

Now that we have established a clear picture of what proper hand hygiene looks like, we can imagine what outcomes might arise from regular handwashing. With the world’s attention focused on proper hand hygiene, many are wondering how this might impact population health outside of the COVID-19 pandemic. We can make many assumptions based on small scale benefits to populations and extrapolating those results across larger populations. Although these benefits are only potential outcomes, it is exciting to imagine the possibilities that can come about from this increased focus in hand hygiene.

Lower Incidences of Respiratory Diseases

In 2016, a study published in the Baltimore Medicine Journal observed a correlation between increased hand-washing and a reduction in influenza at a statistically significant level. Participants in the study were given a handwashing score based on the availability of washing stations and the availability of soap, among other factors. They were then evaluated for their protective effect towards confirmed influenza, and the researchers observed and analyzed which behaviors correlated with the groups with the highest protective effect. The highest behaviors associated with a high protective effect were frequent handwashing, the availability of soap for handwashing, and reduced levels of hand-to-face touching.

This study is one of many that organizations like the CDC and WHO refer to when making recommendations to national/international populations during a time of a pandemic. As we are all aware of the importance of handwashing in the reduction of COVID-19, this behavior is proven to reduce the spread of influenza and other respiratory diseases as well. With this being said, it is possible that given the rapid, worldwide development in hand hygiene, we could be seeing lower levels of seasonal respiratory sicknesses in the future.

Decline in Healthcare-associated Infections

According to data from the CDC regarding healthcare-associated infections (HAIs), on a given day, about 3% of hospital patients has at minimum one HAI. Hospitals across the world are always looking for ways to reduce this statistic, as hospitalized individuals are often the most vulnerable to experience complications from infections. There are many common practices that hospitals enact to tackle this issue, with one of them being.. you guessed it, handwashing.

Healthcare workers follow strict protocols to ensure they are maintaining a clean environment for their patients and not tracking problematic pathogens throughout a facility. Handwashing is an important common practice that has been proven to reduce the risk of transmission of HAIs according to a 2002 CDC study. This is why most hospitals have sinks in patient rooms and also why we, at Lakeside, offer portable handwashing stations for areas that don’t have built-in sinks available.

If population health increases due to improved hand hygiene, hospitals could see a decrease in the number of potential illnesses entering a hospital environment. On a large scale, this could lead to an overall reduction in HAIs and improvements in patient health.

Improvement of Child Development in Developing Countries

In 2003 the CDC performed a study to monitor the effects of hygiene on child development and observed interesting results. When comparing groups who received an extensive 9 month hygiene promotion and soap against groups who did not receive the same hygiene education nor supplies, the children experienced nearly half as much diarrhea-related sicknesses than the control group in their first 2 ½ years of their lives, which is a critical time for child development. 6 years later, the children from the study were reevaluated for cognitive development. The children who received hygiene education and hygiene supplies scored higher than the control group. According to the study, the findings suggest that “handwashing promotion could be an important strategy for improving child welfare.”

Given the increased awareness around the world regarding proper hand hygiene and the increased availability of hygiene resources, it may be possible that the effects of the CDC study transfer to the real world. If this were to happen, we may see improvements in child development on a grand scale, as children in developed countries avoid illness and chronic inflammation related to diarrhea-linked diseases.

Reduction in Antibiotic Resistance

Antibiotic resistance is an issue of growing importance in the world. This takes place when bacteria evolves to overcome the intended effects of a given antibiotic. Various infections rely on antibiotics for treatment. If a bacteria develops antibiotic resistance, this has the potential to transform a curable sickness into a deadly illness.

The CDC states that the leading factor in antibiotic resistance is overuse of antibiotics. Many times, antibiotics are prescribed to individuals when they are not needed, leading to an increased risk of a bacteria developing antibiotic resistance. Research by the CDC indicates that handwashing leads to a reduction in diarrhea-related sicknesses and respiratory infections, diseases that are often unnecessarily prescribed antibiotics for treatment. Therefore, some speculate that a reduction in these diseases, due to handwashing or other factors, could impact global rates of antibiotic resistance.

The New Normal

Our world has quickly transformed into a hyper-aware, germaphobic one due to the brisk rise of the coronavirus pandemic, however, perhaps this acute awareness was long overdue. If international populations continue to emphasize hand hygiene in their COVID-19 responses and this leads to a sustained improvement in hand hygiene; we could see many beneficial outcomes that improve world populations beyond the pandemic. We have long been aware of the importance of hand hygiene in hospitals, schools and densely populated areas. Due to the sudden change in human behavior regarding hand hygiene, it is exciting to consider what possible outcomes might arise. As healthcare professionals, we will keep promoting proper hand hygiene and at Lakeside, we will continue to offer products that promote access to handwashing.

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Soap and Water or Hand Sanitizer? Which creates better Hand Hygiene?

Washing your hands has always been super important in healthcare facilities in order to prevent Hospital Acquired Illnesses (HAIs) or healthcare-associated infections which affect about 1 in every 31 patients. With the outbreak of COVID-19, it’s even more important for healthcare professionals, and all of us to practice good hand hygiene.

What is good hand hygiene?

Having good hand hygiene means keeping your hands clean as much as possible. The best way to practice proper hand hygiene is to wash your hands with soap and water, or to use hand sanitizer whenever your hands may have come into contact with a dirty surface. Dirty surface doesn’t just mean visibly dirty, as many surfaces that appear to be clean could actually be covered in germs and bacteria. If you’re not sure whether you need to clean your hands, it’s always best to err on the side of caution and wash up!

Soap and water or hand sanitizer?

The best ways to clean your hands is by washing with soap and water or using hand sanitizer. While hand sanitizer removes most germs, it does not remove all germs from your hands, and studies show that soap and water are more effective at removing certain types of germs. This is why the CDC recommends washing your hands with soap and water whenever possible, and using hand sanitizer if soap and water are not available.

When to Wash your Hands

Here are some of the times when the CDC recommends that you wash your hands with soap and water.

  • Before, after, or during any food preparation
  • Before eating food
  • Before and after caring for someone who is sick with vomiting or diarrhea
  • Before and after treating a cut or wound
  • After using the bathroom
  • After changing diapers or cleaning up for a child who has used the bathroom
  • After touching an animal or animal waste
  • After handling pet treats or food
  • After touching a garbage
  • Anytime that your hands are visibly dirty or greasy

When to Use Hand Sanitizer

Here are a couple of instances in which the CDC believes hand sanitizer will work to remove germs and bacteria.

  • Before and after visiting someone who is in a hospital or healthcare facility
  • If soap and water are not readily available

Proper Hand Washing

We’ve all been taught the importance of regular hand washing from a young age, but do you know how to correctly wash your hands? According to the CDC, there are a few steps for the proper hand washing technique.

  1. Wet your hands with warm water
  2. Apply the amount of soap that the manufacturer recommends
  3. Rub your hands together vigorously for at least 15 seconds, making sure cover all parts of your hands with soap
  4. Rinse your hands with more water
  5. Lastly, dry your hands with a paper towel or air dryer, and turn off the faucet with the towel to avoid any lingering germs.

Proper Hand Sanitizing

It seems like it’s obvious how to use hand sanitizer, but not everyone sanitizes their hands correctly.  Here are the steps for correctly sanitizing your hands.

  1. First, you should make sure that you are using a hand sanitizer that is at least 60% alcohol in order for it to be effective
  2. Put the amount of product that the manufacturer recommends on your hands and start to rub them together
  3. Continue rubbing your hands together for about 20 seconds until your hands are completely covered and dry
  4. Once your hands are dry, they will be sterile and you should be ready to move on to your next task

 

Hand Hygiene in Hospitals

Even among healthcare professionals, there is a need for better and more thorough hand hygiene training. In fact, a study was done which showed that even before COVID-19 took the world by storm, 40% of healthcare professionals wanted better hand hygiene training. According to the CDC, on average, healthcare providers clean their hands less than half of the times that they should which contributes to 1 of every 31 hospital patients contracting a HAI. So even though it may seem obvious that clean hands are super important for healthcare professionals, there is a need for more training and knowledge when it comes to hand hygiene.

When to Wash your Hands in the Hospital

Soap and water are very effective at cleaning your hands and removing pesky germs and bacteria that hand sanitizer will not. Here are a few circumstances when you should make sure to wash your hands when in a healthcare facility.

  • Anytime hands are visibly soiled.
    • Hand Sanitizer is not very effective at removing dirt and other germ-filled substances that may build up on your hands. Whenever you can physically see anything on your hands, wash them!
  • After caring for a person who may have infectious diarrhea
    • Diarrhea is caused by difficile, a common HAI that hand sanitizers are not able to get rid of.
  • After a potential exposure to spores
    • Spores are infections caused by bacteria that is resistant to hand sanitizers and require a thorough washing with soap and water to kill the bacteria.

When to use Hand Sanitizer in the Hospital

Although it is always best to wash your hands when possible, here are some instances in which hand sanitizer will do the trick.

  • Immediately before touching a patient
    • Using hand sanitizer before any contact with a patient is always the smart thing to do, even if you have recently washed!
  • Before performing any aseptic tasks
    • Hand hygiene is super important when it comes to any invasive medical devices, and you should make sure that everything, including yourself, is clean and sterile
  • Before moving to work on a clean part of a patient’s body from a soiled point of their body
    • You should frequently be sanitizing when working directly with patients, even if they are the only thing you’ve had contact with!
  • After touching a patient or their immediate environment
    • Always sanitize your hands when you’re done working with a patient, and before you move on to your next tasks
  • After contact with bodily fluids or contaminated surfaces
    • Sanitize after any contact with an un-sterile surface or object, and wash your hands if there is any remnants!
  • Immediately after glove removal
    • You may think that the inside of your gloves are sterile and clean, but sweat can build up inside and cause germs and bacteria to cover your hands.

 

Myths about Hand Hygiene

Myth 1: Frequent Hand Washing dries out your skin

While washing your hands too much can cause the skin on your hands to dry out, it is likely that the reason for this is the water you are using is too hot. Using warm water drastically effects the amount of dryness that can come from hand washing, and will ensure that you are able to keep your hands clean whenever they need to be.

Myth 2: Hand Sanitizer causes antibiotic resistance

Some people claim that hand sanitizers can lead to antibiotic resistance, but this simply isn’t the case. The main cause of antibiotic resistance is repeated improper use of antibiotics according to the CDC.

Myth 3: All germs are the same

This is not accurate, as there are many different types of germs and bacteria that can build on your hands, some of which require soap and water rather than hand sanitizer to be taken care of.

Myth 4: Antibacterial soap reduces the amount of times you need to wash

Antibacterial soap is great for cleaning your hands, but studies show that it isn’t significantly better than normal hand soap. It also does not mean that you have to wash your hands less than you would with normal soap.

Is Hand Sanitizer really more convenient in Hospitals?

The main reason why healthcare facilities use hand sanitizer much more than soap and water is simply because it is much easier to quickly sanitize your hands with a busy schedule, something most healthcare professionals have every day. Sanitizer is easy to carry around with you or to put out for people to use on something like Lakeside’s high-traffic sanitizer dispenser, but that doesn’t mean that washing with soap and water is difficult!

To effectively wash your hands with soap and water, all you need is 30 seconds and a sink. Lakeside has helped to create a solution to one of those parts with the portable handwashing station, which allows you to put a sink with soap and water anywhere in your facility. This product also gives you the ability to move it around to areas that require more intense hand hygiene, and makes it easy to wash your hands with soap and water without a trip to the bathroom.

If time is a big concern in your healthcare facility, make sure to check out Lakeside’s product solutions designed to ensure efficient and proper hand hygiene for all healthcare professionals!

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Lakeside Responds to Demand in the Healthcare Supply Chain by Jumping into IV Pole Production

In March, the world was in the beginning phases of facing a pandemic of unknown proportions and here in the U.S., preparations were underway. Fears of shortages in the healthcare supply chain drove companies to evaluate their manufacturing capacities to identify ways in which they could leverage their facilities to prepare our nation for the first wave of the virus. Some companies started using 3D printers to print face shields, some used their resources to manufacture high-demand ventilators and companies in the healthcare business increased their operating hours to maximum capacity.

As a company already in the healthcare industry, Lakeside responded immediately to COVID-19 by increasing production on high demand items such as utility carts, handwashing stations and shelving units. Additionally, engineers at Lakeside came together to brainstorm new ways to service the healthcare industry by leveraging manufacturing facilities and raw materials on site. After hours of bouncing ideas back and forth, Lakeside engineers created a blueprint to begin the production of IV poles.

Just days later, Lakeside’s Milwaukee manufacturing facility produced and delivered its first IV stand, followed by many variations of IV poles and IV bag stands. As of the date of this publication, Lakeside proudly manufactures 15 variations of IV poles and 6 IV pole accessories, all built right here in the USA.

Lakeside IV poles were designed specifically to be easy to use and easy to sanitize. Chrome plated or stainless steel tubing provides cleaning staff a round surface to disinfect, and no corners for dirt and grime to collect in. Further, Lakeside applied their easy-rolling casters to the IV stands to allow hospitals to effortlessly maneuver the stands throughout their facility, wherever needed. Some highlights for specific IV pole models include:

  • Rapid Response IV Stands (SKUs 158331, 158371, 158495, 158496). They are all-stainless steel IV poles with a sturdy 20” diameter solid base that provides upright stability. The stainless steel medical pole has a 1 ¾” diameter that adjusts effortlessly to accommodate heights from 50” up to 90”. The product rolls easily on 5 swivel casters making it reliable for fast-paced hospital environments.
  • Heavy Duty IV Stands (SKUs 4850, 4855). They are all-stainless steel IV poles with an easy twist knob that adjusts the pole height from 51 ¾” to 93 ½”. The heavy duty IV stands feature 4 easy-roll casters on an epoxy coated steel base, with rubber bumpers to protect walls and furnishings.
  • The Space Saving IV Stands (SKUs 4865, 4866). They are all-stainless steel IV stands with an easy twist know that adjusts the pole to cover a height range from 54” to 90 ½”. The space saving IV pole is built with a 16” base made from epoxy coated steel. This allows this medical pole to maneuver through tight spaces and fit into tight nooks for more compact hospital environments.

With many uncertainties still remaining regarding COVID-19, Lakeside continues its commitment to the healthcare industry by maintaining its promises to produce invaluable carts and now, IV stands to hospitals and healthcare organizations. Our Milwaukee manufacturing plant continues to operate, just as our engineers continue to brainstorm to do our part to combat COVID-19, together.

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Push for Domestic Sourcing in the US Healthcare Supply Chain

The world was shocked by the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic.  We have all been affected in one way or another by the virus.  The global economy has been shook to it's core with increased travel restrictions, strict lock down measures, falling oil prices, and much more.  Within the United States, the pandemic has also exposed some underlying issues with our healthcare supply chain. Specifically, the healthcare system’s dependence on China and other foreign countries for the supply of essential equipment.

The media has extensively covered the shortage of PPE in the United States, but this was only the tip of the iceberg. America has experienced shortages of many medical devices and equipment due to decreased imports and increased demand for these essential products.   Supply was not able to keep up with the increased demand, largely in part, due to the amount of medical supplies manufactured in China. China was the first region struck with the pandemic and the country’s own need for these products also skyrocketed.  Suddenly, the US’s primary source of essential medical equipment was reducing supply in the moments where we needed it most.  It quickly became clear that our nation was not fully prepared for such an event.  Domestic manufacturers scrambled to pitch in and adapt to support the demands of hospitals.  Certainly COVID-19 has highlighted the shortcomings of the current healthcare supply chain in the United States.

There is no easy solution for the US’ dependence on foreign countries for medical devices, but from this adversity a movement to source domestically is growing.  Manufacturers across the nation are pushing for increased domestic sourcing in hopes of preventing future shortages of healthcare equipment in the event of a another global shock. An increase in domestic manufacturing of these essential products would significantly decrease our nation's vulnerability.  Just as our manufacturers are learning from COVID-19, our government has also taken note and introduced a bipartisan bill that would analyze the dependence of the US on critical drugs and medical devices manufactured outside of the country.

A specific example of a vital medical equipment in low supply due to the pandemic includes IV poles and IV stands. These small, yet critical devices are used to administer medicines and treatments to patients via intravenous therapy.  Countless hospitals rely on IV poles to care for patients and shortages result in stress on both healthcare facilities and patients in need of care. In response to the shortage of IV poles in the US, Lakeside Manufacturing ramped up production of the essential product in order to help meet the increased demand. Lakeside, like many other manufacturers, make all products in the US.  Domestic sourcing and manufacturing has countless advantages even when we’re not in the midst of a global health crisis.

Many large American companies move their manufacturing plants overseas in order to cut costs and produce things in places where they do not have the same standards and practices. By buying American made products, you are helping to boost the US economy now, and for future generations to come.

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, we have seen how dependent the country is on internationally manufactured products that are essential for our health and safety. By investing in products that are made in the USA, you are helping to reduce the dependence on foreign countries for essential products and goods, specifically in the healthcare industry.

Although some companies can save money by moving their production facilities overseas, this can cause shipping costs to skyrocket, which can fall on the customer at times. Additionally, domestic goods can be delivered much quicker, and are not subject to as many potential disruptions on the way to their destination. As we’ve seen with the pandemic, a global crisis can cause these lead times to increase even more, and potentially cause some of the products to not make it to your facility at all.

Buying domestically manufactured equipment is much better for the environment as global shipping by way of ocean or air is one of the largest contributing factors to greenhouse gas emissions. By purchasing goods that are made in the USA, you are supporting a safer and sustainable future for the environment.

American manufacturers are held to a much higher standard when it comes to workers’ safety than many of our foreign counterparts. Additionally, companies are able to manage their quality control much easier when it is produced domestically, meaning that when you purchase a product that’s made in the USA, you can be sure that it was manufactured in a safe environment and that it’s good quality.

Our History of Quality

Lakeside Manufacturing has over 70 years of experience engineering innovative and quality products that meet all of your requirements. All of our products are manufactured here in the USA, at our state-of-the-art facility where utilize safe processes to ensure the safety of our workers and the top of the line quality of our products. Learn more about our company values, and together we can help solidify the future of our healthcare system.