Patient Safety Market Heating Up with Mergers and New Product Announcements

Posted on July 26, 2018 I Written By

Colin Hung is the co-founder of the #hcldr (healthcare leadership) tweetchat one of the most popular and active healthcare social media communities on Twitter. Colin speaks, tweets and blogs regularly about healthcare, technology, marketing and leadership. He is currently an independent marketing consultant working with leading healthIT companies. Colin is a member of #TheWalkingGallery. His Twitter handle is: @Colin_Hung.

For the past few years the patient safety software market has been stable with little in the way of new products and company activity. That has changed with a flurry of recent announcements:

  1. The merger of two market leaders: Datix and RL Solutions
  2. Health Catalyst entering with their new Patient Safety Monitor™ Suite: Surveillance Module
  3. VigiLanz expanding their platform to include Dynamic Safety Surveillance

When something goes wrong in a healthcare facility it is referred to as an adverse event or a medical error. According to a recent study by Johns Hopkins, 250,000 Americans die each year from medical errors making it the third leading cause of death in the United States. The Journal of Patient Safety estimates that non-lethal adverse events happen 10-20 times more frequently than lethal events. This puts the total number of adverse events somewhere between 2.5 – 5 million per year. The financial cost of these events is enormous. Frost & Sullivan estimates that the financial cost of adverse events in the US and Europe will reach $383.7 Billion by 2022.

Traditionally, adverse events have been recorded and logged in incident reporting systems (sometimes called risk management software) – like those offered by Datix and RL Solutions. These systems rely on voluntary reporting of events by staff members and patients. Once entered, these events are reviewed and analyzed by specially trained risk managers to determine root causes. When patterns emerge, changes are made to policies, procedures and physical environments to prevent similar events from happening in the future.

The most recent Research and Markets report estimates the global patient safety and risk management software market is poised to grow at a CAGR of 10.9% over the next decade to reach $2.22 Billion by the year 2025. I believe there are three key drivers for this this growth:

  1. Hospitals transitioning away from traditional after-the-fact adverse event reporting systems to real-time surveillance platforms that take advantage of the data being collected in EHRs and other electronic repositories
  2. The movement towards value-based care where a focus on patient safety has meaningful impact on reimbursements
  3. Realignment of patient safety as part of overall patient experience vs a function of compliance and legal.

According to a report by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), it is estimated that less than 6% of adverse events are reported voluntarily. This means that healthcare organizations are potentially missing out on 94% of events that are happening within their four walls. In addition, very few organizations have effective ways to capture near misses – adverse events that did not occur because they were stopped BEFORE someone was harmed. There is a better way.

With the exponential growth in the quantity of healthcare data and the rapid increase in computing power, it is now possible to mine medical data to detect adverse events and near misses in real-time. For example, it is possible to look at EHR data to determine if the wrong medication was given to a patient based on their diagnosis. It is also possible to track the number of times the drug-drug interaction warning message is displayed to clinicians (each being a near miss). Justin Campbell of Galen Healthcare Solutions recently wrote an article about mining EHR audit log data to uncover workflow bottlenecks that touches on this same approach – commonly referred to as “real-time surveillance”.

Stanley Pestotnik, MS, RPh, Vice President of Patient Safety Products at Health Catalyst had this to say about this detection methodology: “The current approach to patient safety is like doing archaeology – digging through ancient safety events to identify the causes of harm, which does nothing to help with the patient in the bed right now. Our patient safety suite, along with our quality-improvement services and the Health Catalyst PSO, turns the current paradigm on its head. Unlike other approaches to using analytics within a PSO to identify and address episodes of patient harm, we monitor triggers in near real-time to reveal whether a patient is currently at risk for a safety event, so clinicians can intervene to prevent it. And we provide constant vigilance; no patient encounter goes unnoticed.”

Real-time surveillance of adverse events is the approach that Health Catalyst and VigiLanz have incorporated in their product offerings.

“The RL+Datix merger comes at a time when patient safety events are surging,” states Erik Johnson, Vice President of Marketing at VigiLanz. “It is not surprising that consolidation is happening as companies try to address the needs of the market.”

Johnson points to a recent Frost & Sullivan report that predicts further market consolidation. The report states that by 2022, adverse patient events will lead to 92 million hospital admissions and 1.95 million deaths in the US and western Europe. These avoidable hospital admissions will be a drag on financial performance – especially as we move to a value-based system.

Under the value-based models, healthcare organizations are reimbursed based on patient outcomes and satisfaction scores, not on treatment volume. This means organizations are no longer compensated for patients that are re-admitted or stay longer due to an adverse event experienced at the facility. This has put a spotlight on patient safety initiatives and is a key reason why healthcare organizations are once again investing in this aspect of their operations.

“We are seeing organizations take the opportunity, as they transition from volume to value, to renew their patient safety protocols and technologies to ensure they are capitalizing on the lessons learned from incident data,” continues Johnson. “It’s not just patient incident data either. Adverse events can happen to guests and employees as well. Hospitals are looking to get a better handle on all their events – not only to capture them, but to derive deeper insights on root cause and even further to automate the detection of events through surveillance technology.”

A request for comment from Datix and RL Solutions on their recent merger was politely declined. A company spokesperson pointed back to the press release announcing the merger which states: “the combined company will contain the largest repository of patient safety data in the world, enabling the creation of data-driven insights for healthcare stakeholders across the continuum of care.”

The final driver for growth is the recognition that patient safety is closely linked to patient experience. In the past, adverse event tracking fell to the Risk Management team inside a hospital which typically reported up through the CFO or legal counsel. It was seen as a compliance and back-office function. In recent years, however, there has been a realization that the patient safety function is a better fit under the umbrella of patient experience since the two are closely linked.

“From our perspective at The Beryl Institute, if we approach healthcare from the lenses of those that use the system not only safety, but also quality, service, cost and more are all part of the experience someone has within healthcare,” says Jason A. Wolf PhD CPXP, President of The Beryl Institute – the world’s leading community of practice for patient experience. “To differentiate safety from experience diminishes both, relegating safety to processes and checklists and experience to satisfaction or amenities. Rather, experience is the integration of all the above.”

Wolf cites the recent State of Patient Experience from The Beryl Institute where healthcare leaders acknowledged quality and safety as essential to overall experience. A parallel study, the Consumer Perspectives on Patient Experience mirrored the provider result with 68% of global healthcare consumers agreeing that safety is part of the healthcare experience.

“I see the movement towards aligning patient safety and patient experience as acknowledgement of all that impacts the overall experience,” adds Wolf. “That first and foremost to consumers, their health matters to them and how they are treated both clinically and as a person is essential to their healthcare experience. This too reinforces the expectations patients and families have always had, that their care will be delivered in a safe and reliable manner.”

lt will be exciting to watch the patient safety space as the three drivers of (1) changing technology, (2) value-based care and (3) realignment under patient experience, continue to push investments in this market. I’m curious to see if the Datix + RL merger is a one-off or if other players like QuantrosRiskonnect, Origami Risk, Ventiv, Policy Medical and The Patient Safety Company will merge or be acquired. This market is definitely heating up!