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The Distributed Hospital On The Horizon

Posted on February 24, 2017 I Written By

Anne Zieger is veteran healthcare branding and communications expert with more than 25 years of industry experience. and her commentaries have appeared in dozens of international business publications, including Forbes, Business Week and Information Week. She has also worked extensively healthcare and health IT organizations, including several Fortune 500 companies. She can be reached at @ziegerhealth or www.ziegerhealthcare.com.

If you’re reading this blog, you already know that distributed, connected devices and networks are the future of healthcare.  Connected monitoring devices are growing more mature by the day, network architectures are becoming amazingly fluid, and with the growth of the IoT, we’re adding huge numbers of smart devices to an already-diverse array of endpoints.  While we may not know what all of this will look when it’s fully mature, we’ve already made amazing progress in connecting care.

But how will these trends play out? One nice look at where all this is headed comes from Jeroen Tas, chief innovation and strategy officer at Philips. In a recent article, Tas describes a world in which even major brick-and-mortar players like hospitals go almost completely virtual.  Certainly, there are other takes out there on this subject, but I really like how Tas explains things.

He starts with the assertion that the hospital of the future “is not a physical location with waiting rooms, beds and labs.” Instead, a hospital will become an abstract network overlay connecting nodes. It’s worth noting that this isn’t just a concept. For an example, Tas points to the Mercy Virtual Care Center, a $54 million “hospital without beds” dedicated to telehealth and connected care.  The Center, which has over 300 employees, cares for patients at home and in beds across 38 hospitals in seven states.

While the virtual hospital may not rely on a single, central campus, physical care locations will still matter – they’ll just be distributed differently. According to Tas, the connected health network will work best if care is provided as needed through retail-type outlets near where people live, specialist hubs, inpatient facilities and outpatient clinics. Yes, of course, we already have all of these things in place, but in the new connected world, they’ll all be on a single network.

Ultimately, even if brick-and-mortar hospitals never disappear, virtual care should make it possible to cut down dramatically on hospital admissions, he suggests.  For example, Tas notes that Philips partner Banner Health has slashed hospital admissions almost 50% by using telehealth and advanced analytics for patients with multiple chronic conditions. (We’ve also reported on a related pilot by Partners HealthCare Brigham and Women’s Hospital, the “Home Hospital,” which sends patients home with remote monitoring devices as an alternative to admissions.)

Of course, the broad connected care outline Tas offers can only take us so far. It’s all well and good to have a vision, but there are still some major problems we’ll have to solve before connected care becomes practical as a backbone for healthcare delivery.

After all, to cite one major challenge, community-wide connected health won’t be very practical until interoperable data sharing becomes easier – and we really don’t know when that will happen. Also, until big data analytics tools are widely accessible (rather than the province of the biggest, best-funded institutions) it will be hard for providers to manage the data generated by millions of virtual care endpoints.

Still, if Tas’s piece is any indication, consensus is building on what next-gen care networks can and should be, and there’s certainly plenty of ways to lay the groundwork for the future. Even small-scale, preliminary connected health efforts seem to be fostering meaningful changes in how care is delivered. And there’s little doubt that over time, connected health will turn many brick-and-mortar care models on their heads, becoming a large – or even dominant – part of care delivery.

Getting there may be tricky, but if providers keep working at connected care, it should offer an immense payoff.

Bringing EHR Data to Radiologists

Posted on December 2, 2016 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

One of the most interesting things I saw at RSNA 2016 in Chicago this week was Philips’ Illumeo. Beside being a really slick radiology interface that they’ve been doing forever, they created a kind of “war room” like dashboard for the patient that included a bunch of data that is brought in from the EHR using FHIR.

When I talked with Yair Briman, General Manager for Healthcare Informatics Solutions and Services at Philips, he talked about the various algorithms and machine learning that goes into the interface that a radiologist sees in Illumeo. As has become an issue in much of healthcare IT, the amount of health data that’s available for a patient is overwhelming. In Illumeo, Philips is working to only present the information that’s needed for the patient at the time that it’s needed.

For example, if I’m working on a head injury, do I want to see the old X-ray from a knee issue you had 20 years ago? Probably not, so that information can be hidden. I may be interested in the problem list from the EHR, but do I really need to know about a cold that happened 10 years ago? Probably not. Notice the probably. The radiologist can still drill down into that other medical history if they want, but this type of smart interface that understands context and hides irrelevant info is something we’re seeing across all of healthcare IT. It’s great to see Philips working on it for radiologists.

While creating a relevant, adaptive interface for radiologists is great, I was fascinated by Philips work pulling in EHR data for the radiologist to see in their native interface. Far too often we only talk about the exchange happening in the other direction. It’s great to see third party applications utilizing data from the EHR.

In my discussion with Yair Briman, he pointed out some interesting data. He commented that Philips manages 135 billion images. For those keeping track at home, that amounts to more than 25 petabytes of data. I don’t think most reading this understand how large a petabyte of data really is. Check out this article to get an idea. Long story short: that’s a lot of data.

How much data is in every EHR? Maybe one petabyte? This is just a guess, but it’s significantly smaller than imaging since most EHR data is text. Ok, so the EHR data is probably 100 terabytes of text and 900 terabytes of scanned faxes. (Sorry, I couldn’t help but take a swipe at faxes) Regardless, this pales in comparison to the size of radiology data. With this difference in mind, should we stop thinking about trying to pull the radiology data into the EHR and start spending more time on how to pull the EHR data into a PACS viewer?

What was also great about the Philips product I saw was that it had a really slick browser based HTML 5 viewer for radiology images. Certainly this is a great way to send radiology images to a referring physician, but it also pointed to the opportunity to link all of these radiology images from the EHR. The reality is that most doctors don’t need all the radiology images in the EHR. However, if they had an easy link to access the radiology images in a browser when they did need it, that would be a powerful thing. In fact, I think many of the advanced EHR implementations have or are working on this type of integration.

Of course, we shouldn’t just stop with physicians. How about linking all your radiology images from the patient portal as well? It’s nice when they hand you a DVD of your radiology images. It would be much nicer to be able to easily access them anytime and from anywhere through the patient portal. The great part is, the technology to make this happen is there. Now we just need to implement it and open the kimono to patients.

All in all, I love that Philips is bringing the EHR data to the radiologists. That context can really improve healthcare. I also love that they’re working to make the interface smarter by removing data that’s irrelevant to the specific context being worked on. I also can’t wait until they make all of this imaging data available to patients.

Creating Alliances with Large Health IT Vendors – Benefits and Challenges

Posted on June 13, 2016 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

Healthcare Scene recently sat down with Nancy Hannan, Philips Relationship Director at Augusta University Health System (formerly known as Georgia Regents) to talk about their alliance with Philips Healthcare and the impact it’s had on their healthcare organization.

Along with talking about the benefits and challenges of creating a long term contract with a healthcare IT vendor, we also dive into the details of how medical device standardization has impacted their organization. Not to be left out, we also talk about how this relationship has impacted patients and doctors. If your organization is looking at how to standardize your medical equipment, this interview will give you some insight into creating a long term alliance with your vendor.

In the second part of my interview with Nancy Hannan, Philips Relationship Director at Augusta University Health System (formerly known as Georgia Regents) we discuss how they’re taking the lessons learned from the Philips alliance and applying them to their agreement with Cerner. We also talk about how cybersecurity is better having a vendor representative on site like they have with Philips.

Medical Device Vendors Will Inevitably Build Wearables

Posted on May 21, 2015 I Written By

Anne Zieger is veteran healthcare branding and communications expert with more than 25 years of industry experience. and her commentaries have appeared in dozens of international business publications, including Forbes, Business Week and Information Week. She has also worked extensively healthcare and health IT organizations, including several Fortune 500 companies. She can be reached at @ziegerhealth or www.ziegerhealthcare.com.

As we’ve reported in the past, hospitals are throwing their weight behind the use of wearables at a growing clip. Perhaps the most recent major deal connecting hospital EMRs with wearables data came late last month, when Cedars-Sinai Medical Center announced that it would be running Apple’s HealthKit platform. Cedars-Sinai, one of many leading hospitals piloting this technology, is building an architecture that will ultimately tie 80,000 patients to its Epic system via HealthKit.

But it’s not just software vendors that are jumping into the wearables data market with both feet. No, as important as the marriage of Epic and HealthKit will be to the future of wearables data, the increasing participation of medical device giants in this market is perhaps even more so.

Sure, when fitness bands and health tracking smartphone apps first came onto the market, they were created by smaller firms with a vision, such as the inventors who scored so impressively when they crowdfunded the Pebble smartwatch.  (As is now legendary, Pebble scooped up more than $20M in Kickstarter funding despite shooting for only $500,000.)

The time is coming rapidly, however, when hospitals and doctors will want medical-grade data from monitoring devices. Fairly or not, I’ve heard many a clinician dismiss the current generation of wearables — smartwatches, health apps and fitness monitoring bands alike — as little more than toys.  In other words, while many hospitals are willing to pilot-test HealthKit and other tools that gather wearables data, eventually that data will have to be gathered by sophisticated tools to meet the clinical demands over the long-term.

Thus, it’s no surprise that medical device manufacturing giants like Philips are positioning themselves to leapfrog over existing wearables makers. Why else would Jeroen Tas, CEO of Philips’ healthcare informatics solutions, make a big point of citing the healthcare benefits of wearables over time?

In a recent interview, Tas told the Times of India that the use of wearables combined with cloud-based monitoring approaches are cutting hospital admissions and care costs sharply. In one case, Tas noted, digital monitoring of heart failure patients by six Dutch hospitals over a four-year period led to a 57% cut in the number of nursing days, 52% decrease in hospital admissions and an average 26% savings in cost of care per patient.

In an effort to foster similar results for other hospitals, Philips is building an open digital platform capable of linking to a wide range of wearables, feeds doctors information on their patients, connects patients, relatives and doctors and enables high-end analytics.  That puts it in competition, to one degree or another, with Microsoft, Qualcomm, Samsung, Google and Apple, just for starters.

But that’s not the fun part.  When things will get really interesting  is when Philips, and fellow giants GE Healthcare and Siemens, start creating devices that doctors and hospitals will see as delivering medical grade data, offering secure data transmission and integrating intelligently with data produced by other hospital medical devices.

While it’s hard to imagine Apple moving in that direction, Siemens must do so, and it will, without a doubt. I look forward to the transformation of the whole wearables “thing” from some high-end experimentation to a firmly-welded approach built by medical device leaders. When Siemens and its colleagues admit that they have to own this market, everything about digital health and remote monitoring will change.