Tag: Real-Time Innovations

Will Connected Medical Platforms Cure Healthcare?

By David Niewolny, director of healthcare market, Real-Time Innovations, Inc. (RTI).

Network, Earth, Block Chain, GlobeWe live in a world where medical errors are the third leading cause of death behind cancer and cardiac disease, leading to more than 200,000 preventable deaths every year. We have an aging population growing at an unprecedented rate: 8.5 percent of people worldwide (617 million) are aged 65 and over, and this percentage is projected to jump to nearly 17 percent (1.6 billion) by 2050, leading to an anticipated physician shortage of more than 50,000 by 2025.

On top of all of this, healthcare costs are projected to increase to over 25 percent of GDP in the United States by 2025. The convergence of these events is pushing the entire industry to begin leveraging technology more than it has in the past.

Many of these challenges can be remedied by leveraging industrial IoT (IIoT) technology that’s been proven to solve similar challenges in other industries. Could an interoperable, connected healthcare platform that applies the principles of an IIoT connectivity architecture to share data throughout the healthcare system be the cure for our ailing healthcare system?

West Health, now the Center for Medical Interoperability, seems to think so. In 2013 they published a report showing how an interoperable, connected healthcare system could provide nearly $30 billion in industry savings while improving patient outcomes in the process. These connected healthcare platforms provide the foundation for innovation that is needed to make a meaningful data-driven change in healthcare. It’s these platforms that open the door to application developers everywhere to create modality-specific applications using artificial intelligence and machine learning.

So what exactly is a connected health platform and how does it provide a foundation for transformational change in healthcare? First, a connected health platform consists of hardware (gateways and servers) and embedded software components that are designed to take all of the data from any medical device (clinical or remote) and convert the data in a single usable format that gives providers access to a complete data set.

This connected platform will provide a variety of user interfaces, analytics and clinical applications to help users throughout the healthcare ecosystem distill value from this newly-gathered data. The applications range from the early detection of sepsis, to predicting cardiac arrest, to providing business analytics like bed and device utilization.

The connected health platform will become the center of an ecosystem for further application development, similar to that of an online app store — but with built-in medical-grade safety and security. The connected health platform must ensure data security and patient privacy by aligning to guidance provided by the FDA on cybersecurity, and meeting the standards defined by HIPAA.

However, these connected health platforms are only as effective as the data they capture, which is determined by the connectivity frameworks they are built upon. Many of the currently deployed platforms are not platforms at all, but a collection of disparate systems that provide silos of individual device data. These legacy systems have been built using internally-developed, proprietary, message-based communication technology.

As the first step towards the development of a connected health platform, modern web services-based communication has been deployed on top of the legacy technology to begin integrating all of the disparate data streams via onsite data centers or the cloud. Although this is a step in the right direction, these platforms are far from complete. Because of legacy communications infrastructure they are built upon, they are only able to aggregate a portion of the data making these systems a poor fit for true near-patient, real-time clinical decision support – the key to efficiently providing improved patient outcomes.

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What the Hell Is Going On with Healthcare Interoperability?

Road Closed, Construction, Detour, RoadThe Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) filed its annual year-end report to Congress at the start of 2019. The 22-page report summarized nationwide trends in health information exchange in 2018, including the adoption of EHRs and other technologies that support electronic access to patient information. The most interesting takeaway has to do with the ever-elusive healthcare interoperability.

According to the report, HHS said it heard from stakeholders about several barriers to interoperable access to health information remain, including technical, financial, trust and business practice barriers. “These barriers impede the movement of health information to where it is needed across the care continuum,” the report said. “In addition, burden arising from quality reporting, documentation, administrative, and billing requirements that prescribe how health IT systems are designed also hamper the innovative usability of health IT.”

To better understand these barriers, HHS said it conducted multiple outreach efforts to engage the clinical community and health IT stakeholders to better understand these barriers. Based on these takeaways, HHS said it plans to support, through its policies, and that the health IT community as a whole can take to accelerate progress: Focus on improving interoperability and upgrading technical capabilities of health IT, so patients can securely access, aggregate, and move their health information using their smartphones (or other devices) and healthcare providers can easily send, receive, and analyze patient data; increase transparency in data sharing practices and strengthen technical capabilities of health IT so payers can access population-level clinical data to promote economic transparency and operational efficiency to lower the cost of care and administrative costs; and prioritize improving health IT and reducing documentation burden, time inefficiencies, and hassle for health care providers, so they can focus on their patients rather than their computers.

Additionally, HHS said it plans to leverage the 21st Century Cures Act to enhance innovation and promote access and use of electronic health information. The Cures Act includes provisions that can: promote the development and use of upgraded health IT capabilities; establish transparent expectations for data sharing, including through open application programming interfaces (APIs); and improve the health IT end user experience, including by reducing administrative burden.

“Patients, healthcare providers, and payers with appropriate access to health information can use modern computing solutions (e.g., machine learning and artificial intelligence) to benefit from the data,” HHS said in its report. “Improved interoperability can strengthen market competition, result in greater quality, safety and value for patients, payers, and the healthcare system generally, and enable patients, healthcare providers, and payers to experience the promised benefits of health IT.”

Interoperability barriers include:

Elsewhere, the Center for Medical Interoperability, located in Nashville, Tenn., is an organization that is working to promote plug-and-play interoperability. The center’s members include LifePoint Hospitals, Northwestern Memorial Healthcare, Hospital Corporation of America, Cedars-Sinai Health System, Hennepin Healthcare System, Ascension Health, Community Health Systems, Scripps Health, and UNC Health Care System.

Its mission is “to achieve plug-and-play interoperability by unifying healthcare organizations to compel change, building a lab to solve shared technical challenges, and pioneering innovative research and development.” The center stressed that the “lack of plug-and-play interoperability can compromise patient safety, impact care quality and outcomes, contribute to clinician fatigue and waste billions of dollars a year.”

More interoperability barriers identified

In a separate study, “Variation in Interoperability Among U.S. Non-federal Acute Care Hospitals in 2017,” showed additional difficulty integrating information into the EHR was the most common reason reported by hospitals for not using health information received electronically from sources outside their health system. Lack of timely information, unusable formats and difficulty finding specific, relevant information also made the list, according to the 2017 American Hospital Association (AHA) Annual Survey, Information Technology Supplement.

Among the explanations health systems provided for rarely or never using patient health information received electronically from providers or sources outside their health system:

Hospitals, when asked to explain their primary inability to send information though an electronic exchange, pointed to: Difficulty locating providers’ addresses. The combined reasons, ranked in order regardless of hospital classification (small, rural, CAH or national) include:

Additional Barriers

The report also details other barriers related to exchanging patient health information, citing the 2017 AHA survey:

“Policies aimed at addressing these barriers will be particularly important for improving interoperable exchange in health care,” the report concluded. “The 2015 Edition of the health IT certification criteria includes updated technical requirements that allow for innovation to occur around application programming interfaces (APIs) and interoperability-focused standards such that data are accessible and can be more easily exchanged. The 21st Century Cures Act of 2016 further builds upon this work to improve data sharing by calling for the development of open APIs and a Trusted Exchange Framework and Common Agreement. These efforts, along with many others, should further improvements in interoperability.”

What healthcare leaders are saying about interoperability

While HHS said it conducted outreach efforts to engage health IT stakeholders to better understand these barriers, we did too. To further understand what’s currently going on with healthcare interoperability, read the following perspectives from some of the industry’s leaders. If there’s something more that you think must be done to improve healthcare interoperability, let us know:

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