What digital hospitals of the future look like

Author: Jeroen Tas

Over the past two decades many everyday experiences have turned digital. I remember when my team at Citibank launched Internet banking in the mid-nineties. People thought we were wasting our time, as “nobody would trust the Internet with their financial data”. But almost all of us now bank digitally and even cash is being replaced with the tap of the phone, while payments can be made seamlessly around the globe.

Healthcare is moving in the same direction, albeit slowly. As described in my blog two years ago, the future of a hospital is not brick and mortar. Instead, care will be provided in “meshed up” digital and physical networks that provide 24/7 access, improve patient outcomes and provide personalized patient and staff experiences, while simultaneously optimizing operations. Healthcare will find its way into the fabric of communities in different forms and shapes, bringing neighbours, friends and family into care teams. Those providers who are leaders in specialized care, for instance in specific cancer types, cardiovascular or neuro diseases, will increasingly make their expertise available globally.

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Like internet banking, which took time to really take off, we’re at an inflection point where digital models are getting close to scale. The merger of CVS and Aetna in the US is a sign of the times, providing a one-stop shop for primary care, diagnostics and pharmacy, combined with a virtual consumer experience. People are increasingly seeking care closer to home, without having to travel and wait hours to see a doctor, and in a more comfortable, consumer-friendly environment. They want to get personalized health content and tools on their phones, just like their other consumer experiences. Even complex, minimally invasive procedures, like inserting a stent in an artery, are now increasingly performed in “office-based labs” that are located in communities close to where people live and work.

Virtual care is no longer part of a distant future. It’s a reality and it’s making a huge difference to the hospitals and organizations where it’s been adopted.

Virtual care is no longer part of a distant future. It’s a reality and it’s making a huge difference to the hospitals and organizations where it’s been adopted. Early adopters of virtual care start to reap the benefits, such as the Mercy Virtual Care Center in St Louis. In 2017, it became the first care facility to focus on telehealth, becoming known as the “hospital with no beds.” Over 300 medical professionals monitor large screens with reams of information, taking care of patients at home and in beds in 38 hospitals across seven states. The hospital enables care providers to monitor up to eight biometric indicators in the context of their medical history, for every patient, even if they’ve been treated and discharged by a partner hospital.

It’s not just happening in the U.S. Showa University in Japan, has launched a remotely monitored intensive care unit (eICU) with Philips technology. Using telemetry to stream data from monitors, pumps and ventilators and advanced audio-visual technology to prioritize patients on acuity and assist with early intervention, the technology can improve the outcomes of high-risk patients. At Philips we are working on computer vision to support monitoring with AI-equipped cameras that measure vital signs like heart rate and rhythm and respiratory rate. At the same time, this tech can detect unattended bed exits and prevent falls or erratic patient behaviors that may be onset of delirium. This technology give better support to nurses and doctors, while allowing close monitoring at scale.

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The new virtual care model is having a profound effect on access to care, prevention and early intervention, so emergency care and hospital readmissions can be avoided. For patients in rural areas, virtual solutions increase access to care and alleviate problems such as long travel times or a lack of specialist healthcare professionals in their area. Philips recently expanded its longstanding relationship with the U.S. Department of Veterans of Affairs to expand remote care to ten new rural areas, and supporting the more than 700,000 veteranswho used telehealth services last year. This model has also been a triumph with our Community Life Centers in underserved areas in Africa. Moreover, in China, we introduced AI-supported tele-radiology and tele-pathology to improve access and quality of care to tackle the great shortage of specialized clinicians.

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These investments not only improve efficiency, they create a better patient experience. A recent American Well study found 69% of patients said that video consultations resulted in a more accurate diagnosis, while only 64% said that their concerns were fully resolved in a brick-and-mortar setting. Similarly, physicians’ satisfaction has improved too. With access to a network of specialists, healthcare professionals can provide better care for more patients both physically and virtually, at home or in the hospital, which boosts morale. Value-based reimbursement combined with AI-supported virtual care will address some of the major inefficiencies in healthcare systems and drive better outcomes with more precise and preventative diagnosis.

Healthcare is conservative, and rightly so, as we are literally dealing with people’s lives. Solutions require evidence and regulatory approvals. There are still many challenges to overcome before we see our long-term vision realized. We need to transition fee-for-service reimbursement towards value-based models, so that we encourage care based on clinical and economic outcomes. There also needs to be an organizational transformation towards working in a multi-disciplinary, collaborative way that augments humans with technology. It’s all well and good implementing technologies that will ultimately help patients, but we also need to focus on upskilling and supporting the people that use the technology, so that they can trust it and feel empowered by it.

At Philips we work on technologies that that explicitly address the quadruple aim: better patient outcomes and lower cost, but also substantially better patient and professional experiences. Not only are we creating the right tools to support health management, to diagnose and treat the sick, but we’re also doubling-down on solutions to help people self-manage their health, with seamless support in the background from professionals (and machines).

Article Source: Jeroen Tas 

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