Digital healthcare technology

The importance of digital maturity within healthcare

Digital maturity is a measure of an organisation’s ability to extract value from technology and it is fundamental for effective digital transformation, a sea change in approach which has shown remarkable improvements in healthcare during the COVID-19 pandemic. Following this success, initiatives to digitise healthcare are receiving a record amount of funding, however, there are still challenges that must be addressed before the true power of data can be harnessed.

In this Q&A, David Labajo, Vice President of Digital at GE Healthcare Europe, talks about the need for digitisation in healthcare and sets out ways to successfully implement this change.

Why is change necessary?

The healthcare system is under a tremendous amount of stress, with more than half of staff showing signs of burnout and depression,[1] and this is starting to show in the quality of care provided. The situation will probably get even worse, as studies have predicted that the world will face a shortage of 10 million[2] healthcare professionals by 2030. A possible solution to this problem is to move away from the traditional ‘reactive’ approach to patient care towards a more proactive strategy, enabling many diseases to be identified at an earlier stage, or prevented altogether. This transformation is only possible with the help of digitisation, which allows quicker and easier access to the vital patient information necessary for effective diagnosis and treatment. Coupling data with artificial intelligence (AI) could also help clinicians gain valuable insights and ultimately lead to better patient outcomes.

Why is data important in healthcare?

Properly managed and consolidated data can have a significant effect on clinical outcomes; having access to the right information at the right time helps healthcare professionals to make faster and better-informed decisions, reducing the number of errors. Well organised data has also been shown to increase an organisation’s efficiency, by avoiding duplication of diagnostic tests as patients move between hospitals. In addition, data driven tools boost capacity, reducing the negative impacts of workforce shortages and rising demand.

The figure below shows the results from studies performed by the East Midlands Imaging Network (known as EMRAD) and the Antwerp Hospital in Belgium (UZA)[3,4,5], depicting how consolidated data has had a strong positive effect on key performance indicators.

Results from a case study

Figure 2: Case studies performed by EMRAD and UZA show how properly managed data can greatly improve a healthcare organisation’s performance.

Are we currently making the most out of the data available?

Multiple reports have stated that a third of all data will originate in the healthcare sector by 2025,[6] with hospitals currently generating approximately 50 petabytes[7] per year worldwide. Unfortunately, this data is currently not well managed, and most of it – up to 97 per cent – goes into siloed systems and is never used again. For example, when performing a CT scan with contrast, it is important to know if the patient has received chemo- or radiotherapy. Despite this information being available somewhere within healthcare IT system, it is often stored in different places, and not compiled into central patient record. This can increase the risk to patients and create extra work for already overburdened radiologists. 

How can this issue be solved?

The ‘Connected Care’ approach promoted by GE Healthcare is about avoiding data silos, collecting all resources into one system that can be accessed by all stakeholders in the healthcare system. Consolidating this data will enable a full view of patients, populations and operations, supporting well informed decision-making and providing actionable insights. On top of this, it will enable a more collaborative way of working, connecting professionals across different hospitals and regions, and alleviating the burden of staff shortages.

Additional benefits can be unlocked by using AI algorithms to further streamline the workflow and analyse the data, provide medical professionals with enhanced diagnostic confidence and enabling them to identify the correct patient pathway faster. We have recently announced our collaboration with Tribun Health – a leader in AI-powered computational diagnostics – to include digital pathology data in patients' repositories to support oncology pathways.

What do you want to see in the future?

The holy grail of digitisation must be the ultimate ability of being able to access healthcare data about an individual wherever they are in the world. However, the first step is to achieve consolidated, high quality data handling and sharing at a country level. Getting the most out of the gathered data requires collaboration, not only within an organisation but also between all industry stakeholders. I am sure that, in the near future, we are going to see a big growth in digital solutions, accelerating ‘Connected Care’, followed by data driven healthcare models leveraging the power of this wealth of information. I believe that, in the end, this will greatly improve patient care, saving individuals from unnecessary hospital visits and making consultations more efficient, as clinicians will instantly have all the necessary information at their fingertips.

References

  1. Physician burnout (AHRQ)
  2. Health workforce (WHO)
  3. UZA Case Study (UZA, 10/2014)
  4. EMRAD Customer Testimonial (EMRAD, 01/2019)
  5. Clinical Productivity increase after deploying an XDS-compliant solution as reported by Antwerp Hospital in Belgium (UZA, 09/2014)
  6. The healthcare explosion (CP)
  7. The digital universe driving data growth in healthcare (VIB)

 

For more information, please visit: www.gehealthcare.co.uk/campaigns/cdc

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NHE May/June 2024

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