Wednesday, 7 June 2017

Looking to 2020 – IT trends in the Healthcare Sector

By Loren Stow

The International Data Corporation (IDC) forecasts global IT spend will exceed £2tn by 2020, and while PC, tablet and smartphone sales show signs of plateauing, the market’s 3.3 percent upward trajectory over the next four years will be sustained by the digital transformation found on third-party cloud and mobility platforms.

Healthcare will remain the fastest growing sector in the run-up to 2020 with a projected 5.7 percent rise in IT spending, followed by the banking, media and professional services sectors at 4.9 percent each. So where are the opportunities in each of these sectors? Where do their technological challenges lie? And, what technology-specific solutions will each sector look for as 2020 looms large on the horizon?

In this blog series we take a look at each sector in more detail over the next several weeks, however if you’d like to request a copy of the complete white paper, please click here.

Sector Trends - Healthcare:

Healthcare is a macrocosm representative of how technology is helping to save time, save money and save lives. However, due to its monolithic nature the NHS as a whole is seldom able to respond with agility to the changing face of technology. Nevertheless, the healthcare sector faces several major challenges in the near future, each with a technology-based solution.

Before these challenges can be resolved, however, it’s important to understand that healthcare organisations are not giant machines; rather they are multifaceted ecosystems made up of many structures with multiple interdependent parts. They are in a word, complex, and all solutions should keep this at the forefront of their design in order to avoid inadvertently wasting the very time and money that they are intended to save.

Public Health England’s (PHE) Strategic Plan for 2016-2020 mentions Information Technology as an area of priority in their spending with the objective of supporting better outcomes. The report states, “Public expectations are changing dramatically due to developments in digital and data technologies and rapid changes in the way that people access information. There is also the potential to analyse digital data flows to better understand the health, health needs and behaviours of populations and individuals, and the ultra rapid, accurate detection of micro-organisms is transforming infectious disease management.”

In terms of their IT priorities PHE underscore:
  • Furthering their knowledge and development of intelligence infrastructure with the aim to manage and analyse the vast amount of data.
  • Accessing data analysis quickly and effectively.
  • Data security.
Independent health charity Nuffield Trust believes that healthcare technology can create “a model of care that generates new value for patients, professionals and organisations by meeting previously unmet needs.” 

As such they identify seven areas of opportunity for digital health technologies:

1. Systematic and high-quality care via decision support tools, standardised workflows and one-click flows where information is filtered through a ‘workflow engine’ from the start of a process/procedure (e.g. admission to hospital) which then prompts the responsibilities and processes for every staff member involved in the care pathway.

2. More proactive and targeted care via predictive analysis (e.g. highlighting individuals who are most likely to be readmitted to hospital), electronic vital sign data (combining early warning signs with laboratory tests to immediately alert staff of possible deterioration, sepsis, acute illness etc.), and remote community monitoring techniques which can track and anticipate patient deterioration at home, intervene and avoid hospital admittance.

3. Better coordinated care over the primary, secondary and social care systems by ensuring all health professionals have all their patients’ medical information in real time instead of storing various kinds of information in different inaccessible silos across the various primary, community and hospital care locations. Having up-to-date information in real time can significantly speed up care and reduce wastage in the system.

4. Improved access to specialist expertise via phone, video, email or online platforms; not just for patients but for clinicians to access expert input at the point of care.

5. Greater patient engagement by giving patients access to their electronic medical records, requesting repeat scripts online and scheduling non-emergency appointments. Wearables and apps allow patients to track their own health and also provide important data to clinicians that can lead to quicker and more accurate diagnoses.

6. Improved resource management using tools that are already established in other sectors such as:
  •  Intelligent rostering which can save time, reduce reliance on agency staff, and create more flexible and less stressful work routines.
  • Managing patient flow from tracking room status to patient status, waiting times and at-risk patients; all of these allow staff to act more quickly.
  • Mobile working transforms the way in which community-based healthcare teams deliver care to their patients, giving them instant and real-time access to the information they need in order to give the highest possible care.
7. System improvement and learning is the natural result of constantly feeding data back into the system, allowing for powerful analysis which can improve healthcare organisations, their processes and their ability to meet their patients’ needs.

Healthcare Technology Success Stories

  •  By using predictive analytics Northern Arizona Healthcare in the US reduced emergency readmissions by 45 percent. 
  •  The NHS trialled electronic vital sign technology at two hospitals; this was associated with 769 fewer deaths, and the introduction of its infection prevention software was associated with a 90 percent reduction in norovirus outbreaks. 
  •  It is estimated that a sepsis prediction tool could reduce in-hospital patient mortality by 24 percent and reduce the length of stay by 21 percent, saving US$5,882 per patient treated. 
  •  Introducing telemedicine to care homes at Airedale NHS Foundation Trust resulted in 14 percent reduction in A&E attendances. 
  • Mobile working systems enabled one community midwife team in London to save five hours per midwife per week. 
  •  At Royal Wolverhampton NHS Trust using a real time location system to flag when beds become available means that new patients wait less than 40 minutes for a bed, and it takes staff just 25 seconds to locate a tagged asset. 
  •  Intermountain Healthcare employed full time analysts to run bespoke reports on all its data and they have already reduced costs by 10 percent in the last three years, which they believe will grow to 50 percent going forward. 

Request a copy of the full white paper here

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