Smarter collaboration platforms poised to be the century’s next blockbuster ‘drug’

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Our healthcare systems have been inundated by an incredible volume of data.

Whether it is as information streaming in from patients’ wearable devices, as secure text exchanges between physicians about treatment plans or in the ready availability of digitized pathology and radiology reports, there is an abundance of healthcare data being churned out for healthcare practitioners to mine.

So, why isn’t this data—both minutiae in nature and voluminous in kind—delivering what healthcare needs most—namely improved patient outcomes at lowered costs? Why isn’t it quite available to the physician, the nurse, the home-health worker, the ambulance staff in the form they need it in, at the point in care when it is most urgently required?

The most obvious reason is because this vast cache of data is not available in a structured, comprehensive, easy-to-use form. In fact, almost 95% the information that the physician needs to get to the right diagnosis, is hosted on separate EMR, laboratory, radiology systems, siloed and out of bounds for the physician at the point in care.

The healthcare system is certainly trying hard. It is currently focused on relaying data at a steady clip to physicians. However much of it fails to be what I call context-aware patient information. As a result, physicians end up using far more time than they can afford to sift through the information, correlating it clinically and moving to a relevant prescription or treatment plan.

Take for instance a typical ambulatory setting. The physician has 18 minutes—if that—to decipher a patient’s most pressing requirement. Often this window is reduced to just about five minutes. Within this small window, the nurse must quickly collate the information she can get, put it into the EMR, and have the physician take a quick look so that he can proceed to conduct a final examination and deliver a diagnosis or prescription.

As access to care becomes increasingly difficult and expensive, the pressure physicians face to see more patients and close out cases quickly and effectively is growing. Advances in healthcare IT are finding innovative ways to address this challenge by putting the patient and physician in contact through solutions, such as video visits. But again, the physician is at a loss in terms of knowing beforehand who the patient is, what his medical history contains, and what immediate episode of illness has brought him to his virtual door.

This situation repeats itself endlessly in all healthcare settings. Imagine a cardiologist in an Emergency Room. He has no use for data about his patient having undergone knee replacement surgery four years ago. But he does need his patient’s vital stats, information about what triggered the episode that brought him in, the prescription that the patient typically follows, and the exact symptoms that occurred right before his admission – whether they lie in an unstructured or structured form. Without it, he is scrambling, trying to decipher what led to his patient’s current condition while all the data about him—right until a few minutes before his admission — is out there including from his wearable device, except not in a ready form at the physician’s fingertips.

As healthcare costs continue to escalate and the need to deliver improved outcomes at affordable rates increases, the impetus to deliver context-aware patient information to physicians and all other healthcare practitioners at the point of care looks set to grow. I believe that solutions that can seamlessly offer expert point in care, time-suggestive action and added value at the point of care, have everything going for them to become the next big ‘drug’ of the century.

Driving these are three developments enabled in large part by technology: the growth of personalized medicine, the availability of blockchain and advances in the field of medicine itself. While personalized medicine based on a patient’s DNA is helping draw out insights into the possible reactions he may have to specific drugs and allergies, blockchain is promising to safely transmit this highly personal information safely and securely. Advancements in medicine based on high-level research taking place around medication and prescriptions are meanwhile continuously refining and updating what care can consist of. Together, these three trends are incentivizing the development of collaborative engagement platforms which can pull together in one place all the voluminous and precious data lying in disparate locations to come to the aid of the physician at the point in care.

Such a system, when made available to every healthcare practitioner irrespective of their location or the specific healthcare setting they are serving in, will truly enable physicians and every other practitioner in the healthcare ecosystem to deliver improved care at lower costs.

With a collaborative engagement platform in hand, healthcare professionals no longer need to scurry around pulling data from a plethora of locations to piece together a comprehensive picture of a patient. They will have it at their fingertips, when they need it, at the point in care where they are summoned, to effectively improve a patient’s health outcomes. I think the time has come for hospitals and other healthcare organizations to rise up to embrace such platforms, for in it lies the advancement of science as we know it and the improvement of health for all.

About Sri Bharadwaj, Director, Information Services and CISO, UC Irvine Health

Sriram Bharadwaj is Director, Information Systems, University of California, Irvine, Healthcare (UCI Health) and has over 25 years of Information Management Systems experience in multiple industries including healthcare. Sri has held many leadership positions in health plans and prior to his current work at UCI Sri consulted with Integrated Delivery Network (IDNs) around ACO, HIE and Clinical integration. Sri has expertise in Applications Development, Enterprise-wide IT Infrastructure and Operations. Sri is well known for his process knowledge delivering performance improvements in multiple industries during his long tenure with Deloitte in various parts of the Americas, Asia Pacific and EMEA region. Sri also has expertise building products for customers through his earlier involvement with SAP AG (an ERP vendor).

Sri is a CPHIMS, PMP, CISSP, Chartered Global Management Accountant (FCGMA)(U.K), Professional, Academy of Healthcare Management (PAHM), and a Six Sigma Black Belt (ASQ). Sri is past committee member for the CIO Healthcare Summits and has delivered many presentations on Healthcare regulations and compliance at various conferences. Sri currently serves as Chair, Privacy and Security Committee, National HIMSS. Sri has been on the Southern California HIMSS Board for many years and also is involved with the HIMSS Interoperability and Standards Workgroup, Patient Engagement Workgroup providing thought leadership and opinion on various matters around patient engagement, interoperability, healthcare legislation, privacy and security.

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