A lot have been said about healthcare and even smart healthcare. How about hospital or better still, smart hospital? No doubt, it has to align to healthcare since a hospital is part of healthcare.
From my perspective, a hospital is a platform for healthcare delivery. Most folks have the notion of a hospital is to treat the sick or to rehabilitate. This means an unwanted disease has already happened and needed to be treated. How about preventing it from happening (if possible) at the first place? This is preventive healthcare. Similarly, focus is required on, after care, that is the care administered after the patient has been discharged. Hence, the hospital plays a major role in such delivery.
To facilitate this platform (the hospital), various enablers are required. Why is it so? The development of medicine and drugs have come a long way. We could now prolong lives of people with chronic diseases or maintain the health of old people (geriatrics medicine). Some diseases or illnesses that could not be cured, can either now be cured or 'addressed' somehow. That said, there is so much medicine can do. The process, the policies and technology play major roles to support the application of medicine and treatment. Technology, uniquely from IT is one such enabler.
My short article here is geared towards the high potential of using IT solutions to augment a smart hospital, that would encompass, both directly and indirectly, the preventive care and after care delivery, on top of the core functions of a hospital.
IT as an Enabler
IT has been pervasive for the last few decades remarkably with the advent of personal computers, followed by the internet and currently Internet of Things (IoT), strikingly the now ubiquitous presence of smartphones and tablets. Here, let me share with you some of the IT technologies I feel are important for the next stage of transformation to a smart hospital.
Much has been said about cloud. Use of cloud technologies has taken off in many industries, including healthcare & life sciences. In healthcare, usage of IT has typically centred around EMR (electronic medical record) and EHR (electronic health record) - by the way, they sound similar but are actually different - and the 'building blocks' around it.
These diverse building blocks span from medical devices or customized IoTs for medicine (like patient monitoring wearables) to integration with other systems (either IT systems, like PACS/DICOM systems, or non-IT, like compliance procedures) to data analytics (to turn the data stored in the EMRs/EHRs and what-not into 'healthcare intelligence').
A tall skyscraper will not stay erect and long-lasting without a solid foundation. In this case, fit-for-purpose cloud technologies used will form a strong underpinning for the health/medical records and building blocks mentioned above. There are numerous instances why on-premise infrastructure is crucial in the hospital environment. Be that as it may, there are even more exemplars why cloud infrastructure is pivotal for successful hospitals.
Cloud fosters faster time to market and cheaper to use. Instead of incurring more time, labor and costs to 'keep the lights on' with all the technical debt (legacy systems, obsolete codes), these resources (wholly or partially) could be channelled to innovate new treatment or care to patients and in patient care operations. Cloud permits subscription (which means turning CAPEX into OPEX) which means lower costs of commitment (and TCO) and shorter time to implement or embark new initiatives in a smart hospital. A good initiative is rolling out, in increments, of an internal drug database. Another possible strategy is implementing a server that taps on social platform of the patients to provide patient after care education.
Without question, there is no dearth of data in healthcare, substantially in an established hospital. Both EHRs and EMRs, and other medical data utilized to deliver and facilitate patient healthcare, constitute the nucleus of the data goldmine. The feat is how to transform such data into something more useful than just records for doctors, nurses and hospital personnel to refer to, to something of value, called insights, to the hospital and most importantly, to the patients themselves.
One recommended approach is to leverage on analytics, in particular data analytics. In a hospital, it is imperative to embark on such technologies that will perform systematic computational analysis of the healthcare data.
A data technology, particularly data analytics make a significant difference to the hospital. Some folks called it healthcare analytics. A well-implemented and executed data analytics solution not only reveals gaps in patient care and improve care delivery efficiency, but opportunities for cost savings to boot.
A definitive example is using it to provide predictive analysis that will support real-time prescriptive decisions by a doctor. For a smart hospital that uses outcome-based approach, such analytics will model the patient care, to better suit the patient's medical history (including his behaviour towards dosage frequency and self-care). This will bring about a more desirable outcome in treatment delivered by the hospital, and administered personally by the patient.
As an epilogue, the brief discourse above is just the tip of the iceberg for IT solutions that a hospital could use to develop itself to a smarter hospital. The applicable technologies are aplenty. A proper roadmap, that is fit for purpose, requires not just the change of mindset in both patients and hospital providers, both also acceptance of the need to execute digital transformation within the hospital, and the ecosystem in healthcare. This is coherent with the overall population health management objectives.
"The goal of population health management (PHM) is to keep a patient population as healthy as possible, minimizing the need for expensive interventions such as ER visits, hospitalizations, imaging tests, etc. PHM not only lowers costs, but also redefines healthcare as an activity that encompasses far more than sick care". These are excepts from a paper developed by CSC. For more information, please check out this paper entitled "Digital Revolution Enables Population Health Management".
Faster billing, automated scheduling, dosage reminders, patient education and prediction of possible relapses, are some desirable and achievable goals in a patient-centric care delivery in a smart hospital. Whether it is an outcome-based healthcare or even value-based healthcare, smart use of technologies is paramount and possibly a life-and-death sine qua non. Nevertheless, it is not a panacea, since we dealing with human lives.
As such, using IT as an enabler for patient care delivery platform in a hospital is strategic, to develop itself into a smart hospital, and an agile one. This approach itself is a journey, not a destination.