How will we solve healthcare’s most pressing challenges? Innovative technologies provide solutions

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Digital transformation is rapidly gaining traction throughout the healthcare industry. While historically, the industry has lagged behind in embracing new technologies — and has continued to perform many administrative tasks manually — it faces an urgent imperative to change how care is delivered. Digital tools hold great potential to help address challenges like workforce shortages, clinician burnout, rising patient acuity and monitoring patients at home.

 

 Becker’s Healthcare recently spoke with Frank Chan, President of the Patient Monitoring business at Medtronic, to learn more about how innovative technologies such as remote patient monitoring solutions can redefine how care is delivered.


Technology helps reduce administrative burden and enhance the patient experience
Despite the buzz around the use of artificial intelligence and machine learning in healthcare, many providers still find themselves burdened with manual administrative tasks. This reduces efficiency and contributes to provider’s burnout.

At the same time, hospitals and health systems nationwide continue to deal with staffing shortages and increasing labor costs1,2. In many cases, organizations have lost more staff than they’ve been able to recruit and hire.

As a result, health systems are being forced to meet higher levels of demand for important healthcare services with fewer people and less capital. With high levels of clinician burnout and an increased number of clinicians leaving the workforce3, the criticality of managing clinician workloads has never been greater.

One important solution is connectivity tools that automate tasks. When technology solutions are integrated seamlessly into hospital workflows, clinicians can focus on what matters most, which is taking care of the patient.

“Connecting medical devices to the EMR eliminates the need for clinicians to manually chart data, saving time,” Chan said. “These types of workforce enablement solutions can dramatically improve efficiency. Clinicians spend less time on administrative work and more time with patients. That improves caregiver satisfaction and patient experience.”

Remote patient monitoring improves patient safety4 and reduce costly events5-8
Rising patient acuity is also a challenge for many healthcare organizations9. Patients are sicker in general9, and lower-acuity areas of the hospital like the general care floor are often serving sicker patients10. At organizations with capacity constraints, patients are more likely to be discharged home for their recovery.

When patients transfer from high-acuity areas, like the ICU, to lower-acuity areas or are discharged, they typically go from receiving intense, frequent monitoring to lower levels of less frequent monitoring — or no monitoring at all.

“We call this situation the ‘monitoring cliff,’” Chan said. “In his scenario, patient deterioration can go undetected. Remote monitoring technologies that continuously monitor patients’ data inside the hospital and at home can help by detecting patient decline sooner, especially among individuals with multiple comorbidities who are at higher risk of deterioration and readmission.”

In response to such capacity and patient safety issues, digital innovations in patient monitoring are being leveraged to help free up healthcare providers to focus on what they do best: providing personalized care.

Also, by applying AI to patients’ vital signs and physiological data, technology-based remote monitoring solutions can predict when individuals might start to decline. Based on this information, clinicians can initiate early interventions, which improve patient safety and outcomes4,8. These interventions may also reduce patients’ unplanned returns to the ICU8,11,12, as well as readmissions after discharge8,13. The result is lower healthcare costs and the benefit can be significant, since the average hospital readmission in the U.S. costs $15,00014.

Wearables offer insight into patient vital signs from hospital to home
Nashville, Tenn.-based Ardent Health Services operates 30 hospitals and more than 200 sites of care nationwide. In Oklahoma and Texas, the organization has adopted a multi-parameter wearable technology called the BioButton®. The BioButton® device, a technology from BioIntelliSenseTM and a key part of MedtronicTM’s HealthCast™ portfolio, is a patch that patients wear on their chest, measuring about 1.5 by 1.5 inches. This wearable has connectivity, enabling continuous measurement of key vital signs.

Ardent’s Hillcrest Medical Center in Tulsa, Okla. uses the BioButton® technology for patients on 10 units with 250 beds. While BSA Hospital in Amarillo, TX currently has the BioButton® device deployed on 3 units with 119 beds.

“This technology has become an essential decision-making tool for doctors and nurses,” Chan said. “In the first five months of use at Hillcrest Medical Center, there were 70 instances where clinicians on medical surgical units used the BioButton® for early patient deterioration. They were able to intervene before the patient’s condition became more serious. 198 similar instances occurred at BSA Hospital in Amarillo since Sep 2022, where nurses could intervene quickly to provide more acute care for patients who were deteriorating”

Ardent Health Services plans to expand the BioButton® program to more facilities across four states.

Successful tech adoption requires the right solution and the right partner
When choosing a technology solution, healthcare organizations must find one with the right form, fit and function to meet their requirements.

“Technologies need to have the right performance characteristics,” Chan said. “They must be interoperable, so they can integrate into hospital systems and simplify workflows for clinicians. They also need to be comfortable and durable for patient compliance.”

In addition, hospitals and health systems should select a technology partner that can provide a full spectrum of services and support, ranging from installation to workflow implementation, training, troubleshooting and ongoing support like device updates.

With digital transformation, change management and stakeholder involvement are key
For many hospitals and health systems, change management can be daunting. Clinicians and other new-technology users must be brought in early, so they understand why change is necessary and what value it will provide.

“When users believe in the change and are part of the implementation, it leads to more successful technology adoption,” Chan said.

As organizations gather key stakeholders to embark on digital transformation, they must also remember that the IT function will play a prominent role in both selecting and implementing any technology solution. Including the IT team early in the transformation process will pay dividends later on.

Medtronic’s vision is to empower clinicians and patients with actionable insights to personalize care anytime, anywhere. Remote monitoring solutions like the Medtronic’s HealthCastTM portfolio, which includes the BioButton® wearable, HealthCastTM VitalSyncTM remote patient monitoring, and other innovative tools are designed to provide clinicians with the right information at the right time to help them make better decisions, faster.

“We want to become a health technology provider of choice and help our partners improve patient outcomes, reduce healthcare costs and expand patient access to care,” Chan said.

 

Patient monitoring products should not be used as the sole basis for diagnosis or therapy and are intended only as an adjunct in patient assessment.

References:

  1. Keck School of Medicine of USC. A Public Health Crisis: Staffing shortages in healthcare. https://mphdegree.usc.edu/blog/staffing-shortages-in-health-care/ Oct. 25, 2022. Accessed Oct. 2022.
  2. https://www.aha.org/costsofcaring
  3. https://kffhealthnews.org/morning-breakout/data-show-thousands-upon-thousands-of-pros-leaving-health-industry/
  4. Stellpflug C, Pierson L, Roloff D, et al. Continuous physiological monitoring improves patient outcomes. Am J Nurs. 2021;121(4):40–46.
  5. Khanna AK, Saager L, Bergese SD, et al. Opioid-induced respiratory depression increases hospital costs and length of stay in patients recovering on the general care floor. BMC Anesthesiol. Mar 20 2021;21(1):88. doi:10.1186/s12871-021-01307-8
  6. Lam T, Nagappa M, Wong J, Singh M, Wong D, Chung F. Continuous Pulse Oximetry and Capnography Monitoring for Postoperative Respiratory Depression and Adverse Events: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis. Anesth Analg. 2017;125(6):2019-2029.
  7. https://hcup-us.ahrq.gov/reports/statbriefs/sb278-Conditions-Frequent-Readmissions-By-Payer-2018.jsp
  8. Hamza M, Alsma J, Kellett J, Brabrand M, Christensen EF, Cooksley T, et al. Can vital signs recorded in patients’ homes aid decision making in emergency care? A Scoping Review. Resusc Plus. 2021;6:100116.
  9. https://www.aha.org/guidesreports/2022-08-15-pandemic-driven-deferred-care-has-led-increased-patient-acuity-americas
  10. Anesi GL, Chowdhury M, Small DS, et al. Association of a Novel Index of Hospital Capacity Strain with Admission to Intensive Care Units. Ann Am Thorac Soc. 2020;17(11):1440-1447.
  11. Verrillo SC, Cvach M, Hudson KW, Winters BD. Using Continuous Vital SignMonitoring to Detect Early Deterioration in Adult Postoperative Inpatients. J Nurs Care Qual. Apr/Jun 2019;34(2):107-113.
  12. Weller RS, Foard KL, Harwood TN. Evaluation of a wireless, portable, wearable multi-parameter vital signs monitor in hospitalized neurological and neurosurgical patients. J Clin Monit Comput. Oct 2018;32(5):945-951.
  13. Downey C, Randell R, Brown J, Jayne DG. Continuous Versus Intermittent Vital Signs Monitoring Using a Wearable, Wireless Patch in Patients Admitted to Surgical Wards: Pilot Cluster Randomized Controlled Trial. J Med Internet Res. 2018;20(12):e10802
  14. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK573265/

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