Can Innovative Software Reduce Hospital Admissions?

April 6, 2013
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ImageAs a software professional, I tend to be skeptical about silver bullets, smoke and mirrors that many healthcare software companies try to tout.

But, sometimes software can actually deliver the goods.

ImageAs a software professional, I tend to be skeptical about silver bullets, smoke and mirrors that many healthcare software companies try to tout.

But, sometimes software can actually deliver the goods.

We had my sister-in-law and husband over for dinner last night. Jon is a retired CEO of a large insurance agency and he is considered somewhat of a management science guru in the local Israeli insurance industry. I was relating some of my war stories with our healthcare clients over after dinner and Jon said, “You know, maybe you should think of using balanced score card software to help those healthcare practice managers improve their operation.”

I said, “How do you think balanced score cards can improve a healthcare practice?”

He said, “I bet that the business requirements for effective management in a big healthcare practice are not too different from the insurance business I used to run.”

He suggested these requirements:

  • Identify customers (patients) at-risk
  • Audit current operational (clinical) practices
  • Investigate data quality issues
  • Explore inequalities in customer (patient) care

 

I thought, “Maybe Jon is onto something there,” and filed that thought away before going back to our wine and cigars.

Information technology is often driven by political agenda and enterprise business requirements. The healthcare system is no exception to this rule.

Large scale EHR systems are priority projects for a healthcare provider because they help improve operational efficiency, by reducing time to bill and collect, reducing the amount of resources required to process a prescription, reducing the amount of paper, just to name a few.

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But what about making it easier for the patients? Can information technology and modern software help a physician identify patients at-risk by providing him with comparative information like the balanced score cards that my brother-in-law mentioned?

Software that helps reduce patient risk, improve quality of care and reduce inequality

Researchers from the University of Manchester have developed a software system that analyzes how many patients in a practice have suffered from different conditions over a particular time period and identifies those who might require hospital treatment in the future.

Motivated by a drive by the UK NHS to improve efficiency of treatment and reduce hospitalization costs, the researchers believe the software will help physicians identify patterns earlier and reduce the number of costly hospital admissions for conditions like strokes by providing early intervention treatments.

The system, which is running in a beta program at a North West hospital, is one of a number of health innovations that were showcased at the European Healthcare Innovation Expo 2013, which took place in London in March 2013.

So what does it do exactly?

The University of Manchester Collaborative Online Care Pathway Investigation Tool (COCPIT) enables medical professionals to track a patient’s progress through the healthcare system and identify where care diverges from guidelines.

“Our researchers have created an innovative software tool that enables health professionals to better understand the provision of healthcare services and opportunities for quality improvement,” says Manchester’s John Ainsworth.

“This system will improve healthcare planning by identifying inconsistencies and inequalities in healthcare provision and allow healthcare professionals to specifically focus on illuminating social inequalities in care. The tool will aid assessment of the clinical outcomes and economic impacts of intervention strategies and potential changes to care pathways intended to improve patient care and public health.”

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Using the tool GPs, health professionals and commissioning organizations explore and analyze electronic health records. The tool allows physicians to:

  • Identify patients at-risk
  • Audit current clinical practice
  • Investigate data quality issues
  • Explore inequalities in care

Mr. Ainsworth said: “By making it easier to explore electronic health records, COCPIT helps clinicians and managers to understand patient populations, target service delivery, reduce work repetition and improve patient care.”

image: health records/shutterstock