That was a major takeaway from a Healthcare Technology Leadership Panel at the 6th Annual World Patient Safety, Science & Technology Summit, held in February in London and hosted by The Patient Safety Movement. The Patient Safety Movement posted video of the panel late last month.
Panelists included a who’s who of medical device industry leadership: Matt Darling, co-founder of SmartWard; Frans van Houten, CEO, Royal Philips; Anders Wold, president and CEO, GE Healthcare Clinical Care Solutions; and Dr. Charles Murphy, chief patient safety officer, Inova Heart and Vascular Institute (Falls Church, Va.). Medtronic CEO Omar Ishrak moderated the panel.
The panelists generally agreed that the stakes are critical when it comes to healthcare data analysis, that successful implementation will lead to health event predictability, improved diagnostics, better quality of care at all stages and less variance in the system. All of these will lead to better outcomes and improved patient safety at lower costs.
All the panelists voiced commitment to The Patient Safety Movement’s goal of “zero preventable deaths by 2020.”
Darling, though, warned that his team has performed time and motion studies in hospitals for nine years — and discovered a troubling truth about patient records along the way.
“The fragmentation of information in a hospital has led to people to need to work around rather than with the system,” he said, noting that the records are often inaccurate and don’t reflect the care given. Hospital workers regard filling out paperwork — sometimes duplicate paperwork —as a necessary evil to get things done, and that takes a toll on both patients and caregivers.
Accurate data is the key to the puzzle of interoperability and achieving zero preventable deaths, “but only if we have accurate data,” according to Darling.
He further explained that nearly 50 percent of hospital costs go toward administration, because of the fragmentation. “The system is burdened with busy work” that could be alleviated with better, more fluid IT systems.
As moderator, Omar Ishrak opened with a powerful message to medical device developers as well. As a whole, he said, the healthcare industry doesn’t look at data in a specific way. “We don’t measure outcomes, we don’t apply the right therapy to the right patient in a systematic and disciplined way. And because we don’t do that, there is variation which causes costs to escalate. So instead of healthcare being thought of as an economic driver for the world, as it should be, it is viewed as a cost burden.”
How to solve the data variation problem
Panelists all agreed that fixing the system would probably be a slow process, one that relied on many tools and agreements among industry players to make even minor progress.
Van Houten, who noted that Philips Healthcare has evolved significantly to occupy a health informatics space, said it is critical to “tear down silos,” and focus on data flow to measure patients as they move from health to illness and back again to health. He also noted that medtech companies, “like to dominate, but that is not a solution,” to remove the variability in healthcare. He said it is absolutely mandatory to have an open environment with systems integrations and different equipment from different vendors can be interoperable.
Van Houten also suggested that help from regulatory groups and development of standards would make a difference.
Wold said focusing on singular problems can help move the needle. For example, he pointed to GE’s partnership with Roche to combat sepsis. He suggested that tools such as artificial intelligence and machine learning can help make the system more predictive.
However, Darling once again chimed in to say that although such tools help, again there needs to be a focus on the burden of record keeping. He said there is a data quality issue that needs to be addressed.
Ishrak agreed, noting that there are a lot of data generated, but whether they are accurate and actionable data points is the issue.
Murray brought up a need for more human factors design to remove both silos and the onerous burden of documentation.
“We need authenticated data: where, when, who with and how long,” Darling said. He also said the goal should be to free up more time for caregivers to focus on patients rather than administration. Van Houten agreed, saying that addressing challenges to the human side of the system is more fundamental than the next wave of AI.