Hospitals have been at the frontline of the pandemic for almost 18 months, and finding technology solutions to improve patient outcomes is a priority. Take Wirral University Teaching Hospital NHS Foundation Trust as an example. It is one of the world’s “most wired” hospitals, and part of its work is to explore the frontiers of digital medicine, which puts it at the cutting edge of the COVID-19 response.
The hospital identified a problem early during the pandemic when its ventilators were used to help very sick patients. The problem at the time was the manual data gathering process: nurses captured patient data and manually entered it into the hospital’s electronic medical records system (EMR). As the crisis intensified, errors emerged as staff struggled to balance administrative tasks against the unprecedented emergency demand.
Automation through Enovacom
That’s when the Enovacom Patient Connect (EPC) system was called in (Enovacom is an Orange subsidiary). The system, which gathers patient data in real time from any make of ventilator and automatically adds it to the EMR, automated the task, increasing available healthcare staff time and improving data accuracy. The system is also in use elsewhere, including at Chalon-sur-Saône hospital in France.
Paul Charnley, Director of IT and Information at Wirral, called the project: “An important part of our journey towards digitizing patient records through care pathways and paperless working. We have deployed a strategic integration tool that supports our ICU nurses first and foremost, but which can also be scaled to other areas of the Trust to release more interoperability benefits in the future.”
The crisis has exposed multiple means through which tech has assisted healthcare. Wirral is a perfect illustration of how machine-gathered health data can empower improvements in healthcare. It also helps expose how digitized patient records and device interoperability can enable efficient paperless workflows and enable healthcare professionals to focus on their primary responsibilities.
During the pandemic, two NHS Trusts made use of Isansys Lifecare’s Patient Status Engine, which automates patient data collection drawing information from connected wearable devices. This has already been shown to be significantly better at detecting deterioration of pediatric patients than current methods.
Dr. Heather Duncan, intensive care consultant at Birmingham Children’s Hospital, says: “The advantage of continuous monitoring for patients on a hospital ward is that trends and Big Data analytics can be used to improve detection of deterioration… Technology like this means vital signs recorded manually every one to four hours on paper charts will undoubtedly become a thing of the past, with continuous, individual monitoring that gives more accurate information, helping lead to faster treatment and reducing hospital stays.”
Benefits for outpatient care
Digital also has a role to play outside conventional care. Just as heart monitors on smartwatches regularly save lives in consumer markets, connected technologies enable new frontiers in data-driven predictive healthcare and remote patient monitoring. In particular, they empower patients suffering from chronic conditions such as glaucoma, diabetes or heart disease to manage their own conditions and live more independent lives. For example, a diabetic can wear a device that grabs key health data and shares it with remotely based medical staff (supplemented by always-on AI) who monitor their condition remotely.
“Once data is collected by a wearable device, for example, AI tools can quickly combine it with other relevant data streams, and analyze it rapidly and accurately,” wrote Jim O’Donoghue, President of healthtech company S3 Connected Health.
Dr. James Somauroo of healthtech agency SomX says there is “clear evidence to show that health outcomes are often better when a person’s care can be managed outside the four walls of the hospital.”
Clinicians benefit from data-driven insights on which to base both proactive interventions to prevent more serious health consequences and better remote management of existing conditions.
Data-driven efficiencies such as these should enable the world’s finite supply of medical staff to optimize how they provide care to a rapidly-aging global population, supplemented by AI and machine learning. PwC predicts the number of chronically ill patients will continue to increase as the population ages.
Health insurance and research
What are the implications elsewhere across the healthcare value chain? Medical researchers may benefit from access to anonymized patient data gathered from connected devices and electronic patient records, mining these for insights to deepen understanding and guide future research.
“We are convinced that digital transformation is an important source of progress and that the potential for e-health is immense,” said Stéphane Richard, Chairman and CEO of Orange, at the recent launch of a European digital ecosystem dedicated to e-health. This initiative was launched by Orange, Sanofi, Capgemini and Generali to accelerate the development of digital health solutions.
Insurance companies see opportunities in connected health. For example, Vitality Health in the UK offers heavily subsidized wearable devices to health insurance clients so long as they meet activity targets. It knows that more active people present a better insurance risk than those who don’t keep fit. This is a perfect illustration of how data can help insurers manage risk and guide consumers toward better health outcomes.
The pandemic has driven acceptance of digital health solutions. S3 research suggests 71% of people will be willing to use digital health services in the future. The connected health and wellness devices market is predicted to reach $612 billion by 2024, according to Grand View Research. Digital health technologies have been deeply injected into the mainstream and will augment the work of health professionals for the times ahead.
Read about Enovacom’s work at Wirral University Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust and download the case study. You can also watch a replay of the webinar on medical device integration at Chalon-sur-Saône Hospital.
Jon Evans is a highly experienced technology journalist and editor. He has been writing for a living since 1994. These days you might read his daily regular Computerworld AppleHolic and opinion columns. Jon is also technology editor for men's interest magazine, Calibre Quarterly, and news editor for MacFormat magazine, which is the biggest UK Mac title. He's really interested in the impact of technology on the creative spark at the heart of the human experience. In 2010 he won an American Society of Business Publication Editors (Azbee) Award for his work at Computerworld.