In healthcare, we constantly seek new ways to deliver and improve care. Countless ideas have already been tried and tested, and people often think that coming up with the next great innovation requires thinking ‘outside of the box.’ This notion has been instilled in most of us from a young age, and those in all industries – not just healthcare – often strive to show their creativity through this approach. However, in my experience, thinking outside of the box doesn’t always lead to the best new ideas. Sometimes, we need to focus on thinking better inside the box.
In healthcare, we talk a lot about how we can use data to improve patient care. We discuss the importance of interoperability, the need for more data to be available to physicians, and how data can help physicians spot an issue with a patient they otherwise may not have caught.
What we don’t often discuss is the degree to which care settings can impact the need to effectively capture and make sense of data.
In a variety of recent private and panel discussions with health and policy leaders, I’ve heard encouraging talk around interoperability through open and available application programming interfaces (APIs). Public comments by Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell and Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Acting Administrator Andy Slavitt indicate there is sincere commitment to making this a reality.
While this momentum seems promising, when Meaningful Use Stage 3 is mentioned – particularly its requirements for making data available to patient facing applications – I see the potential for unintended and terrible consequences for clinician workflows.
Non-stress tests (NSTs) are the current standard of care for monitoring high-risk pregnancies. Intended to reduce the risk of stillbirths, these tests are for those who have one or more risk factors, whether they be maternal, fetal or obstetric complications.
Currently, these tests can be very time-consuming for patients. NSTs involve attaching the mother to fetal and contraction monitors to watch the fetal heart rate tracing and uterine activity. However, many rural and remote areas don’t have ready access to NSTs. Consequently, mothers sometimes travel up to several hours each way to get to our facility for their NST appointments once or twice a week. Once they arrive, there’s the usual wait time, the 30-60 minute testing process, plus an additional wait time for the test to be interpreted by a staff member and a clinician. These appointments, on top of any additional prenatal visits the mothers have scheduled, can therefore add up to a considerable amount of time, even for patients who live nearby.
In recent years, our ability to stream large amounts of data in real-time has improved dramatically. This enhancement can transform how clinicians offer care by sourcing unprecedented opportunities for clinical decision support. However, the capability to process, store, and display data in and of itself does not transform care. Rather, it is how the clinicians adopt and apply decision support that will make all the difference to patients. However, the current environment must be altered to create a clinical decision support-friendly climate.
We are currently experiencing the biggest transformation in healthcare ever. Technology plays a significant role as an enabler of this transformation, but will not drive it alone. Improving patient care and driving toward patient engagement are crucial goals in this next phase of the healthcare industry. To make adoption ubiquitous and implementation effective, there are several things we should focus on as we dive into 2015:
In today’s digital world, electronic patient data is growing exponentially and moving faster than healthcare organizations can imagine. At the same time, clinicians suffer from information overload, and high-volume and increasingly complex clinical patient loads, alongside dwindling time and resources.
Now more than ever, the pressure is building to harness the power of big data and digital technologies to help clinicians make faster, patient-centric decisions that increase quality of care and enhance health outcomes all while decreasing costs.