The healthcare industry is facing major challenges worldwide. The global COVID-19 pandemic has led to today’s hospitals having to cater for rising numbers of patients – and with fewer staff members on hand to care for them. Tom Marshall, Sales Director at Tork manufacturer, Essity, looks at ways in which high-tech systems are being used in hospitals – and how they can enhance cleaning efficiency and help prevent the spread of infections.

In Africa, the position is particularly challenging since a significant percentage of the population lives more than two hours away from essential health services. Long queues and excessive waiting times for public health clinics also continue to be an issue as the number of patients with chronic illnesses continues to rise.

However, recent advances in smartphone connectivity and technological innovation are beginning to change the way in which health systems work in Africa. For example, teleconsultations – remote interactions between healthcare professionals and patients for minor issues and follow-ups – are increasingly being used across the continent. These avoid the need for lengthy journeys to seek medical care and also help to improve the efficiency of the healthcare system.
Mobile health apps and smartphone applications are also growing in a bid to improve health outcomes. These can be used to provide health-related information, track metrics and connect patients with healthcare providers. For example, an intelligent locker system is now available in the Gauteng province of South Africa. This allows patients to access their repeat prescriptions via a text code that enables them to open their “package”. Technology is also being used for medical procedures and diagnostics. Robotic-assisted surgery is advancing rapidly and is said to be helping to improve patient outcomes. According to medical experts, the use of robots in some procedures can increase surgeon visualisation, accuracy and performance while also reducing incision size and blood loss. As a result, it can reduce the length of the patient’s hospital stay.

During the global pandemic, hospitals in Egypt pioneered a remote-controlled robot capable of testing patients for COVID-19 as well as being able to draw blood and perform EKGs and X-rays, with the results being displayed on the robot’s chest screen. Furthermore, research has revealed that skin cancers can now be diagnosed more accurately with a computer than with the naked eye. A computer primed with images of skin cancers has managed to achieve a 95 percent diagnoses detection rate in trials compared with a human detection rate of just 87 percent.

Meanwhile, hospital cleaning is also going increasingly high-tech with robotic cleaning machines being deployed to clean and sanitise patient areas. Sensor technology is also playing an important part in today’s healthcare cleaning regimes. For example, it can be used to monitor footfall and inform cleaning teams when an extra service check might be required in a particular area. Sensors can also be employed to keep hospital washrooms well stocked with essential products such as soap and paper since hand hygiene is crucial for all staff members, patients and visitors. Tork Vision Cleaning, for example, uses people counters and connected dispensers to provide real-time data on cleaning requirements. This allows healthcare teams to stay ahead of the game and use a smartphone, tablet or computer to remotely check on which dispensers are running low and which washroom cubicles are receiving high levels of traffic. They can then anticipate situations in which enhanced cleaning or extra checks might be required.

Good training is vital in any hospital to ensure that all healthcare workers and cleaners understand the importance of proper cleaning and hygiene. And here again, technology plays an important role. Essity offers several training modules for healthcare workers. Tork Clean Hands Training invites users into a digital world where they are confronted with a series of scenarios in which hand hygiene needs to be carried out. Trainees take on the role of a nurse, caretaker or doctor in a hospital or care home where they are tasked with caring for several patients. The trainee’s results are assessed on how far they comply with the World Health Organization’s 5 Moments for Hand Hygiene. Tork Clean Hands Trainings are also available as virtual reality apps.

Surface cleaning is vitally important in any healthcare setting, but cleaners need to be taught how to sanitise all patient areas in the most logical and hygienic way possible. Essity’s Tork Interactive Clean Hospital Training takes staff through various real-world cleaning scenarios in a virtual hospital. It incorporates modules on daily cleaning in occupied patient rooms as well as discharge cleaning protocols, and a module is also available for care homes. Technology is proving to be a massive aid in the healthcare sector – and this is only the beginning. Over the next decade and beyond it is likely to go from strength to strength as it continues to enhance efficiency, reduce infection risks, and free up staff members for other tasks.

The Tork VR Clean Hands Training and Education tool is free to download via App Store and Google Play and free to access via: