Enter any modern hospital and you’ll find that most specialist departments still operate a mixture of paper records and proprietary data storage systems. Data may be shared, but it’s the clinician that’s doing the sharing, not a system, and this inevitably means that practitioners only have a partial view of a patient’s records.
At the very least, having part of a patient’s data trapped in ‘information silos’ where it is unavailable in the EMR is inefficient, hampering clinical decision-making and introducing variations in the standard of care across the organisation. In the worst-case scenario, crucial patient information could be unavailable to clinical staff in an emergency, despite the hospital being in possession of those facts somewhere in an outmoded filing system.
With the advent of the Internet of Things (IoT), these problems are being compounded by automated systems that only function effectively if they have access to the most up-to-date details. Indeed, there is a risk that without an appropriate unifying platform, the core data derived from connected devices will simply create further data silos, unavailable to the wider healthcare ecosystem.
One solution to such fragmentation is a standards-based clinical visualisation system built around the clinician, to unite disparate data sources in one place. It is more efficient, more productive and, most importantly, improves decision making and reduces unnecessary variations in care.
Unfortunately, there is frequently resistance to further technology by staff who are wary of disruptive IT projects that often don’t serve their needs. That shouldn’t be the case. With these five steps, every healthcare organisation can ensure the smooth delivery of an effective patient-centric data sharing platform.
1. Change the Culture
Professionals are naturally wary of the introduction of complex new processes, and sceptical of the promised benefits of new technology. But they do want a system that works and facilitates the care they provide. This means a system designed around their needs, working patterns and devices —rather than built to a management concept to which they are then forced to adapt.
That’s why introducing a new system within a clinical setting should be viewed as more than a technical challenge: the whole programme should be about developing new ways of working that are designed around the clinician, and all stakeholders should be closely involved in the development process. This doesn’t just ensure a better end product, but also encourages a cultural change throughout the organisation so that technology is viewed as an enabler of excellence, rather than a nuisance.
2. Focus on outcomes
A clear understanding of how and why clinicians use information sharing systems is essential in order to pinpoint the desired effect on the clinical outcome of a project. That outcome should then be the key force driving implementation.
For example, when Hyland Healthcare developed a zero-footprint viewer and streaming technology to improve the diagnosis of stroke patients, it worked with clinicians to understand their working practices and needs. What emerged was a remotely accessible system to view CT scans, whereby clinicians could use their mobile phones to securely access data, and make an immediate decision to thrombolyse or not — potentially saving lives. By focusing on the clinical outcomes, and understanding the way clinicians work, a system was devised that ultimately benefited patients.
3. Invest in standards-based systems
Radiology departments across the world have embraced PACS as the primary means for storing and viewing DICOM medical images. While based on the DICOM standard, many of these systems wrap the DICOM asset in a proprietary code set that makes the image and study difficult to share with a PACS from a competing vendor. Therefore, costly image migrations and CD/DVD image exchanges have become the norm.
Furthermore, the world of medical imaging consists of much more than DICOM images in today’s healthcare environment. Images captured in specialty departments ranging from dermatology to gastroenterology to pathology come in many formats, including JPEG, TIFF and MP4. Hospitals need to invest in truly vendor neutral platforms that can centrally manage a wide variety of images in their native formats to simplify image exchange and collaboration.
4. Think big, but start small
While it is tempting to embark on a huge project where potential savings or improvements can be expected, it’s wiser to exercise caution and start small. There are untold numbers of failed projects that promise much, but fail to deliver the outcomes.
New systems should be thoroughly trialled, starting with teams where there is the highest chance of success, rather than the highest potential rate of return. As lessons are learned, improved versions can be rolled out to the wider enterprise.
5. Appoint a clinical champion
Every project needs a clinical champion who can bring the medical perspective to the table, providing representation for stakeholders and advising on patient interests too. You will need to choose someone who can remain enthusiastic and committed to the project, is data driven, and can help define what constitutes high-quality care, as well as what is required to deliver it.
Credit: Hyland Health