Hospitals say clinical surveillance is top 2019 priority, challenge

Nearly 90% of hospitals say clinical surveillance is a top priority, but most are struggling to implement it effectively

Most hospital executives say clinical surveillance solutions, which offer real-time, actionable insights that foster more rapid patient care interventions—including those related to pharmacy surveillance, antimicrobial stewardship, infection prevention, and safety—are very important to their organizations. However, most are also struggling to utilize these solutions effectively.

That’s according to a recent survey of 100 healthcare executives by Baltimore-based healthcare consultancy Sage Growth Partners. The survey respondents hailed from hospitals across the country of various sizes. Most were members of the C-suite (94 percent), such as CEOs, CFOs, CIOs, CMOs, and CNOs. Respondents also included pharmacy executives, quality executives, and technology officers.

Nearly all survey respondents (96 percent) said they use some form of clinical surveillance solution, either built into their EMR, through an in-house tool, from a third-party product, or from a combination of these methods.

The top three most helpful uses of clinical surveillance, according to the survey, are:
1. Preventing adverse drug events
2. Antimicrobial stewardship
3. Creating patient safety alerts
Other common uses cited by respondents include managing readmissions, communication alerts, diagnostic decision support, and managing patients with chronic diseases.

“Clinical surveillance is monitoring patients at various points of care and basically trying to anticipate or predict or prevent occurrences from happening,” says Paul Lewis, MD, medical director of quality and informatics, BayCare health system in Clearwater, Florida. “Clinical surveillance encompasses both clinical decision support (CDS) as well as data analytics. But you can certainly utilize traditional CDS tools within clinical surveillance as well as in support of data analytics.”

Overall, 80 percent of respondents said investment in clinical surveillance is a high or medium priority at their organization over the next two years, and 90 percent said it is extremely, very, or moderately important to their organization.

However, only 1 percent said their organization performs clinical surveillance extremely well, and only 17 percent said their organization performs it very well.

What Hospitals are Doing Wrong

Many hospitals rely primarily on EMRs to perform clinical surveillance. However, they may be disappointed by the results.

Only 2 percent of survey respondents said they are extremely satisfied with their EMR’s clinical surveillance capabilities, and less than half (43 percent) said they are moderately satisfied.

The problem could be that EMRs don’t provide the level of advanced analytics and real-time capabilities many third-party solutions provide. Since third-party solutions specialize in clinical surveillance, they provide a higher level of expertise and insight to providers.

Not all third-party solutions are equal, however. The best solutions provide:
• Seamless coordination with hospitals’ EMRs, causing no additional burden on provider and pharmacist work flow and ensuring they are always working with the most up-to-date and actionable information.
• Quick customization to the health systems’ specific needs (for example, protocols tailored to hospital initiatives, such as reducing the number of HAIs or advancing antimicrobial stewardship initiatives).
• Easy and quick implementation, ensuring no additional burden is placed on health IT staff members.
• Partnership and peer-to-peer support from experienced clinicians who can help ensure the solution fits within the hospital’s workflows, create rules that help meet the hospital’s unique needs, and extrapolate the most relevant data for providers based on their needs.

What Hospitals are Doing Right

Survey respondents who indicated they use a third-party solution (either alone or in combination with an EMR or in-house solution), said their organizations have more of their revenue tied to value-based contracts, suggesting that they view investment in a third-party solution as a key aspect of their success in improving quality and reducing costs.

In addition to helping improve care quality overall, third-party solutions can be very agile in working with hospitals and providers to meet their unique needs related to value-based care. For example, they can help determine the best workflows and rules to track and monitor data related to reducing readmissions or HAIs. While EMR solutions can help, clinical surveillance solutions have the advantage and expertise of specializing in these areas.

For that reason, it’s no surprise that survey respondents who said they use a third-party solution were more likely than other survey respondents to say clinical surveillance solutions lead to investment returns and improved care quality.

Future Outlook

More hospitals (regardless of whether they use an EMR for clinical surveillance) plan to use third-party clinical surveillance solutions in the near future, with 28 percent of survey respondents considering one.

Also, nearly three quarters of respondents who said they do not already use an EMR or a third-party solution for clinical surveillance plan to implement one in the next two years.

Clinical surveillance solutions can accelerate the time to improving patient care and outcomes. The sooner hospitals introduce a clinical surveillance solution, the sooner their patients will benefit. It’s time to get started.

Erik Johnson is vice president of marketing and business development at VigiLanz. He is a veteran healthcare technology executive with a broad background in marketing, business development, and digital transformation. For almost two decades, he has worked with hospitals to improve their clinical workflows through the use of technology, ultimately impacting patient care and outcomes. Connect with him on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/erikjohnson22/.

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