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Software for services


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"Off-the-shelf technology can be put to better use with bespoke integrated software as hospitals rethink efficient patient care"
--Published in The Times and on Raconteur

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Software for services

  1. 1. Software for service Off-the-shelf technology can be put to better use with bespoke integrated software as hospitals rethink efficient patient care I n healthcare, as in most indus- tries, software-based innovations are gradually replacing traditional hardware technology – unsurpris- ingly. Without a centralised integration system that allows for the effective gathering, storage, analysis and retriev- al of information, devices like desktops, laptops, tablets and mobile phones have very limited potential in terms of improving patient care. Spending on hardware products that will be used as stand-alone devices is therefore also unlikely to generate significant returns on investment. Health tech companies are now focus- ing on providing fully-integrated soft- ware platforms that deliver electronic observations, handover and task man- agement solutions. Patient information is transmitted to a centralised storage system and is accessible by the entire care team, allowing for better medical decisions and increased work efficiency, thereby supporting staff in achieving high standards of quality and safety. The electronic collection of vital signs at the bedside is revolutionary in itself. Dr Mark Simpson, consultant in emer- gency medicine and chief clinical infor- mation officer at Hull Royal Infirmary, explains: “It allows rapid identification by staff of changes in patient conditions and timely escalation of care through automatic calculation of early warning scores. For example, if there is a risk of infection based on the information being recorded, the infection control team is alerted, even before the indi- vidual staff member has considered the need to escalate. “However, these functions become much more powerful when combined with the two other key components of integrated systems, namely electronic task management and handover, allow- ing for effective ward-round and work- force planning, team structuring and feedback loops, all of which can thus become an actual part of the expected working practice.” sity Hospitals of Leicester NHS Trust, notes that the new technology has the potential to prevent medical errors, improve transparency and increase the amount of direct care delivered. It is faster, more reliable and probably cheaper to maintain once in place and supported by a robust infrastructure, he adds. Ultimately, more accurate data record- ing and analysis will allow for better decision-making by clinicians and im- proved quality of care, says Peter Green- gross, medical director at The Learn- ing Clinic, London. “Introducing the new system can also be an opportunity to re-examine working routines and, where appropriate, bring in best prac- tice,” he says. “The only real physical re- quirement is a secure wireless network in the hospital, but these are increasing- ly common.” Although there are up-front costs in- volved, the return on investment for using mobile solutions, such as elec- tronic observations, for example, or task management for out-of-hours care, can Dr Simpson adds: “Such an integrated system also reduces time-consuming events, such as chasing up medical staff on antiquated phone or bleep systems, and allows for centralised patient infor- mation to be available to multiple staff when needed, compared to one observa- tion chart at the end of the bed. Or worse – not at the end of the bed.” There are other benefits, too. Consult- ant anaesthetist, Dr Tim Bourne, chief medical information officer for Univer- be several times the initial investment and can be achieved within as little as a few months. There is financial help available for hos- pitals that want to invest in technology. Several trusts have already been awarded shares of the £100-million Nursing Tech- nology Fund and the £260-million Safer Hospitals, Safer Wards Fund, launched by NHS England to facilitate progress towards a paperless healthcare system. And, over the next two years, the Depart- ment of Health expects to distribute a further £35 million. Trusts should also consider consulting previous hardware providers about the possibility of adapting and using part of their existing equipment, such as Dell desktops and laptops, for instance. When- ever possible, this can help make the most of investments already made, thereby re- ducing costs and waste. Crucially, just as hospitals need to pro- vide personalised care to their patients, health tech companies need to tailor products and services around the indi- vidual needs of their customers. An off- TECHNOLOGY LORENA TONARELLI PROACTIVE CARE In the healthcare system of the future, proactive will be the new normal. Forward-looking care organisations could proactively screen patient data, identify conditions early and call patients in for preventive treatment. Arguably one of the most exciting innovations in healthcare is the electronic recording of observations. The technology enables nurses to capture routine patient information on portable devices, such as computer tablets rather than a chart, reducing the risk of medical errors and missed care due to illegible, damaged or lost data. Plus, the information is instantly available to all staff involved in the care of a patient, which allows nurses and doctors to identify quickly when there is the need for extra attention. Even more important, electronic observations allow for the automatic calculation of early warning scores, resulting in the prompt intervention of relevant medical staff, when a patient’s condition deteriorates. A study in BMJ Quality & Safety found that replacing traditional handwritten paper charts with electronic recording of observations reduced death rates by 15 per cent. The study, which was conducted in two large hospitals, also found a 95 per cent reduction in norovirus outbreaks and a 70 per cent drop in cardiac arrests. The average length of hospital stay was reduced by 17 per cent. Importantly, an electronic observation system, and indeed the whole mobile integrated system deployed in a hospital or trust, requires a secure wireless network to function. In addition, experts recommend cloud technology for software provision and efficient, ubiquitous data storage, sharing and management. According to a survey by HIMSS Analytics, in the United States, 83 per cent of healthcare providers have already embraced cloud technology and almost all plan to expand their cloud services. Why? Because, they say, cloud technology is relatively cheaper than buying and maintaining traditional on-site IT infrastructure, allows for faster speed of deployment and addresses the problem of having insufficient manpower or expertise for on-site alternatives. In the UK, cloud technology was first used in 2011 to store NHS FROM PAPER TO CLOUD 12 | FUTURE OF HEALTHCARE 23 / 03 / 2015 |