Data potentially is a powerful force
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Helping patients help themselves
There are other ways in which the medical community is leveraging data to improve patient outcomes and to reduce costs. Singapore-based ConnectedHealth has developed a tablet device and application — dubbed Nursing Manager — that let providers harvest data generated by patient devices, such as glucose monitors, blood-pressure monitors and weight scales.
The idea is to keep tabs on patients daily to ensure that they are doing what is prescribed. If a patient deviates from the treatment protocol, Nursing Manager will alert his healthcare provider.
"Let's say that you're a diabetic, and you have to record your glucose readings four times a day," said Mike Holt, ConnectedHealth's CEO. "That gets difficult, and most people don't do it. But the solution also will provide an alert when measurements are out of range, so that the healthcare provider can do something about it."
The solution was devised to make the data transfer almost fool-proof by taking the patient out of the process — his only role is to use the monitoring device. Patients are provided with a Bluetooth-enabled monitor and an Android "black box" that are pre-paired. Readings are transmitted to the Android device, which contains a gateway that is based on a protocol developed by the Continua Health Alliance, an international consortium of healthcare providers and medical/fitness device manufacturers that sought to standardize interoperable telehealth devices. The gateway transfers the data to the cloud, from where healthcare professionals can retrieve it. All information is viewable via patient dashboards.
The solution is far less costly and much more efficient than the previous approach, according to Holt.
"[One of the ways that] hospitals are managing their costs is by reducing the readmittance rate … so they want to make sure that everyone is getting the care that they need," he said. "So, they would establish call centers staffed by nurses who would call at-risk patients and take measurements — what's your weight, what's your blood pressure? That's a pretty difficult and inefficient process, because they're calling everybody."
Heritage Health hospital in Southern California conducted a long trial of the solution across its nine hospitals that serve about 200,000 patients annually. That trial demonstrated that the solution reduces costs while improving patient outcomes, Holt said.
"They saved $2,000 per [high-risk] patient after deploying the system and reduced readmittance rates," he said.
To meet HIPAA requirements, ConnectedHealth designed two-factor authentication — a fingerprint scanner and a secure access card — into its secure medical tablet, which healthcare providers use to access data captured by its solution. Once accessed, the data resides in the healthcare facility's records-management system.
Authentication also can be important when gathering patient data.
"In a nursing home, for example, a nurse or care provider needs to take measurements — like weight, glucose or blood pressure — for all of the patients," Holt said. "How do you know that it is the nurse who is taking the measurements? How do you know that the measurements match up to the right patient? Human error will cause problems. With this tablet, every time they take a measurement, they scan the patient's fingerprint, and that pulls up a record that the nurse can check so that there's no mix-up."